ALBUM REVIEW: “The Beauty Of Destruction” by Devil You Know

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The debut album from DEVIL YOU KNOW is a fantastic display of how powerful, melodic, intelligent and emotional modern metal can be. The album is aptly titled “The Beauty Of Destruction” and is an incredibly dark journey through the tortured and complicated mind of Vocalist Howard Jones who soundtracks these rather technical metal landscapes with his unique and rather dynamic vocal performance. The music side of things was composed and conceived by the legendary John Sankey (Drums) and Francesco Artusato (guitar) who prove that after years of dominating the heavy metal underground they are ready to crossover in a big way.

Already known for his work as lead vocalist with Killswitch Engage and Blood Has Been Shed, “The Beauty Of Destruction” has Howard Jones sounding refreshed and delivering a career defining performance. The instrumental side of things on this album and the technicality and riffage are flawless from a composition standpoint but it really is the vocals that create the unique flavour for DEVIL YOU KNOW and in the process helps to separate them from other modern metal bands. The way Howard can rush from a whisper to a scream and then to a delicate croon followed by a tortured aggressive howl is more impressive and more confident on this album than his previous work with Killswitch Engage. It is to the point where he almost sounds more comfortable and more challenged by the material he was presented by Sankey and Artusato which is a sign that DEVIL YOU KNOW has the potential to grow and evolve certain aesthetics showcased across this album.

There is a real side one / side two feel to this record and it is best consumed as one whole piece. Individual songs can give you a glimpse of what to expect but out of context they don’t relay the whole emotional journey that “The Beauty of Destruction” presents. The album has many highlights but the song I continually put forth as my favourite is the second track “My Own” which blends the aggression, darkness and divine melodies of DEVIL YOU KNOW perfectly. As mentioned though, this only tells part of the story because the band uses so many of the established metal aesthetics with the kind of intelligence that comes from humans who see the success of a good metal song being not just its ability to be heavy and technical but also its ability to be catchy, groovy and downright infectious. The fact that the band manages this but makes things so dark and twisted really is the crowning achievement of this debut movement of songs. The production of Logan Mader really deserves mentioning because he has managed to keep things raw whilst still providing a gloss that makes for maximum high definition enjoyment.

Any seasoned appreciator of heavy metal will no doubt find extreme pleasure with DEVIL YOU KNOW who prove that sometimes the most revolutionary step forward for the genre is great songwriting. I know this record ultimately marries the sounds its creators are renowned for but it is the confidence and the sincerity of it that makes it a refreshing and exciting listen. It has an infectious ability to haunt you long after you’ve listened to it and sets up DEVIL YOU KNOW for a very fruitful and successful career of melodic metal.

By: Dan Newton

Useful Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Devilyouknowofficial
Twitter – http://twitter.com/DevilYouKnow
YouTube – http://youtube.com/DevilYouKnowOfficial
Instagram – http://instagram.com/devilyouknowofficial

SHOW ME YOUR RIFFS – Volume Ten – Bianca Valentino

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When I started Heavy and Weird there were a few different people who inspired me to do so. One of the main humans responsible was a local writer by the name of Bianca Valentino. I had been a fan of her writing for a good number of years and I admired deeply the way the way she would conduct her interviews, especially the ones contained in her Conversations with Punx series. The joy of Bianca’s work stems from the fact that she is a true communicator who understands the value of listening to her subjects. When Bianca interviews someone she not only illustrates a great degree of respect by doing a heavy amount of research but she also goes out of her way to construct a series of questions that boycott the laziness of copy and paste journalism. Bianca is a fearless leader who uses love and light mixed with her own vulnerability and darkness to chase her own passion in order to bring to the world some of the greatest writing ever. Further to this she is an incredible mentor to many, myself included and I’m constantly on a journey to be as powerful and as effective as Bianca but in the process to nurture my own individual voice.

I was lucky enough to interview Bianca for my Show Me Your Riffs series and I’m incredibly excited to share this with you as it is a brilliant insight into Bianca as a person and a true master class for anyone wanting to be a writer:

 

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H&W: For those who don’t know who you are, introduce yourself:

BV: Hi! I’m Bianca Valentino. I live on the Gold Coast. I create zines, enjoy writing, love interviewing people and have a lot of fun doing art stuff, especially screen printing shirts with my favourite person ever, Jhonny (Mystery School). I adore hanging out with my mini foxie dog friend, Vincent and I Love listening to records, reading biographies, watching documentaries and thrifting. I’m the creator of the blog, conversationswithbianca.com and have had my work published in Rolling Stone, art and design magazine No Cure, on Everett True’s Collapse Board and I’m a staff writer for Tavi Gevinson’s teen girls’ mag, Rookie. I do collaborative projects with awesome LA-based publication Sound Colour Vibration too. Very soon I will be writing for a couple of other outlets: a collective of kick ass female creatives from around the world and the other is a fashion collective. I believe in self-empowerment and betterment through self-knowledge, DIY, Magick and PMA.

H&W: How did your journey with journalism start?

BV: I started out making my own independent publications – zines – when I was 15-years-old and it grew from there. I started writing for (now defunct) Brisbane street press Rave Magazine in 1997, reviewing live shows, music and interviewing musicians (I did around 200 live reviews and 400 interviews for them). The editor gave me the green light to write for them after I had a meeting with him and showed him my zines. I contributed to the publication for around 15 years mostly doing all the punk stuff.


H&W: Your resume is full of a lot of really engaging interviews where your subjects really go deep and open up to you. What is your process when it comes to conducting a meaningful interview with an artist and what level of discipline does it require?

BV: Thank you Dan. I’m glad you enjoy my work, it means a lot. What you’re doing with Heavy & Weird is pretty cool too. It’s nice to read thoughtful, lengthy features online. I like that you don’t follow formulas or rules and that you don’t just copy and paste press releases and content from other sites. Both you and your writers exercise your own opinions and write from the heart.

As for conducting meaningful interviews, I believe that the following is important: curiosity, lots of research, genuine interest in the person you’re interviewing and their work, solid questions that haven’t been asked of them before, listening is very important and using your intuition. I was watching an interview with journalist/media personality Larry King the other day and he said, “I never learnt anything while I was talking.” I think that’s a great thing to remember, I feel the same way. I’m also really good at tuning into people’s energy. I seem to find people to interview at really interesting, challenging times, often when they’re at turning points in their lives.

Knowing as much as you can about your subject is important. The more you know, the easier it is for you to go wherever the conversation takes you. A lot of books on interviewing that I’ve read have said that the journalist should be in control of the conversation, I don’t believe in that totally though. In my mind we’re both artists and it’s as if we’re working on a collaboration together. I’m not into fulfilling the artist’s publicist, labels or management’s agenda. I am mindful of what the artist is promoting and working on, but there is so much more to an artist than what they’re selling. As you’ve observed, I like to go deeper. I find the best conversations happen when you don’t have a rigid agenda. Depending on which publication I’m writing for, it can also influence the way I do the interview. I’m lucky that I get to write for a variety of publications that have different tones and personalities that enjoy and value my work.

When it comes to my work I’m pretty much always on, always absorbing stuff, always keeping notes. I am constantly working on my craft. Reading and watching lots of interviews helps you to get to know what works and what might not, question-wise, in interviews. I always keep a note book and pen with me too, because I’ve found that inspiration strikes often when you least expect it.

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Bianca with Tavi Gevinson

H&W: As an artist yourself, do you find that it is easier to connect to the people you are interviewing because you understand and respect the unique process involved with creative communication – regardless of whether the subjects medium is art, music, fashion etc – and how do you as a writer gain that respect from the artists you speak to?

BV: I think one of the biggest reasons I connect with people I’m interviewing is the fact that I care and my questions show that. As I’m sure you’re aware, sometimes bigger artists do days of pretty much nothing but interviews, so the same stock standard questions most mainstream publications and media outlets ask, get tiresome. When they get to someone like me with fresh, thoughtful questions that show I’m knowledgeable about their body of work and career they get excited and are more than happy to open up. I want to talk about what the artist wants to talk about. An interested interview subject will engage with you. I don’t shy away from asking tough questions either. I have a lot of creative friends and I like to interview them, so if you have a pre-existing relationship with someone that can also produce an engaging interview. Same goes for interviewing someone repeatedly throughout their career, you build trust and connection. Over time I’ve become friends with many people I’ve interviewed, which is nice.

 

H&W: I’ve been a big fan of your writing for quite a while and one of your most engaging pieces of writing has been your Conversations with Punx project. How did this project come about?

BV: I’ve always been inclined to lean towards mysticism, ancient knowledge, the esoteric and the spiritual. As a kid I had a lot of books on myths, ancient civilizations, witchcraft, and stuff like that. I am incredibly fascinated by history and documenting things. When I started the project I was diagnosed with severe depression. I was questioning a lot of things, like people and situations in my life, most of all myself. I had some bad people in my life that didn’t have my best interests at heart, when people show you who they really are you should believe them. I have a tendency to see the best in people and focus on the positive which sometimes can get you in a not so great place; I’ve learnt to find a nice balance these days. At the time I started to search for something more, something better than where I was at. I decided to explore that through the medium I knew best—punk rock. I did my first interview for the project in 2003 and now in 2014 I’m pretty sure I’ve done my last interview…I did it only a few weeks back and it was really powerful, revealing and made me face stuff that I’d been pushing down deep inside myself and that was blocking me to finishing the project. That conversation kicked my ass you could say.

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Copies of Bianca’s Conversation With Punx Series

H&W: With the rise of the digital age, we’ve seen the dumbing down of engaging and meaningful communication. How do you keep your message full of light and love in an era that no longer favours depth and intensity?

BV: Well, what’s the alternative to having a message of light and love? I have no interest in the opposite of that…I’ve experienced too much pain and negativity in my life that I have consciously chosen to fill my life with love and light and to promote that. Have you ever read the book, The Four Agreements? One of the agreements is to be impeccable with your word meaning, “Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.” There’s already too much negativity in this world, I will not add to that. I will do what I do regardless of trends and what everyone else is doing. You know, I have bad days just like everyone else but everyone doesn’t need to know my problems, they have enough of their own. I’m a pretty private person and I get conflicted about how much of myself to share, especially online. I have a hard time being in the spotlight, I like my work to speak for itself.

 

H&W: In 2011 you were the Zine maker of the year. How important has fanzine culture been to your creative evolution and in the digital age, how important is it to keep the underground music scenes alive through this vehicle of communication?

BV: Most of the time I feel like an outsider amongst outsiders…to be honest I’ve never felt part of the zine culture so much. I started working on remedying that and trying to get involved more with other zine makers by starting the zine collective, Paper Cuts Collective with zine dudes I know, Staples and Matt Limmer. I really love Justin George’s zine, Wasted Opportunities and I love fellow Rookie contributors Suzy X’s stuff and Brodie Lancaster’s Filmme Fatales.

 

H&W: What connects you so deeply to the art that you write about and why is art so important to your existence?

BV: Art needs to move me in some way, if it doesn’t I’m wasting my time. I get things pitched to me all day long by PR people, management and labels. It’s very rare I connect with what they’re selling. I’m online every day actively seeking out new music and art. I love mixtapes and mix-CDs too. If someone has taken time to lovingly curate a mix, more often than not it’s going to rule.

As far as my own art, I’ve been exploring what I can do creatively. It’s not even always about the final product of the art, it’s about the process and the connection that comes with sharing. Until now I’ve always been kind of scared to share my own art. My whole life I’ve been surrounded by such talented people who I always saw as true artists and well…I didn’t think of me as one at all. I just make stuff. I’m getting better at owning what I do. I had a really interesting conversation with my friend Ian from Japanther about this last week, you can read it here: http://conversationswithbianca.com/2014/06/07/japanther-interview/

 

H&W: Who has been the most influential person in your life when it comes to your writing?

BV: There’s a few. Anthony Bozza, if I could write half as well as him, I’d be happy. Everett True has helped me a lot to be more confident in what I’m doing; I joke with him too that I usually do the opposite of what he suggests, or how he does things…his passion for music and championing of female artists is incredibly inspiring. Tavi and the contributors at Rookie are just the greatest extended family a gal could ask for; each one of them is crazy talented and inspire me every day with their work. I cry reading Rookie all the time because it resonates so much with me. My homie, Erik Otis from Sound Colour Vibration has one of the most inspiring work ethics ever and his words are poetry—he really cares about what he does! I’m also inspired by songwriters like Matt Caughthran from The Bronx, Jesse Michaels, Jennifer Charles from Elysian Fields, Elisabeth Esselink aka Solex…I could go on for days here. I love word play and poetic licence. The rhythm of words fascinates me too. In life in general my Jhonny inspires me more than any other person ever has, he’s the most phenomenal soul I’ve ever known.

 

H&W: You’d had the opportunity to interview some of the most influential figures in Punk Rock, how has that helped change and evolve your understanding of what Punk Rock is and circa 2014, what does Punk Rock mean to you?

BV: Punk to me is about: individuality, creativity, posi energy, fearlessness, community and togetherness. I’ve picked up little bits and pieces along the way, there’s too much to explain it all here. When you read my project’s book you’ll get a much better understanding.

 

H&W: If you engage the various music publications, both physical and digital, you find a lot of lazy and clichéd forms of journalism and a lot of negative reporting. What do you think is the main influence of the laziness that can exist in the mainstream music media?

BV: For the most part, I don’t really care what other people are doing. I like to focus on my own work. To answer your question, maybe stuff like writers and journalists not truly caring about what they’re doing, treating it just like any other job…being enamoured by celebrities etc., free perks etc. rather than the actual work and craft. I make my own media and teach others to make their own media through workshops.

 

H&W: How would you describe your dedication to Spirituality and how does this influence your writing?

BV: My writing and interviewing is part of my spiritual practice. I am dedicated to it for life. It is my life. Spirituality is life.

 

H&W: What is your definition of bad music?

BV: As I’ve said before, I like to concentrate on, and promote positive things I enjoy. Bad music is subjective to people’s taste. People can listen to whatever they want. There’s room for everything, except (in my eyes) racist, sexist…you get the picture, kind of stuff. That being said, raises the idea of freedom of speech and free will; should people be allowed to say and think what they want? It’s a complex issue.

 

H&W: What is your definition of bad journalism?

BV: Pretty much the same as what I’ve said for bad music. Getting specific I would add though: cutting and pasting press releases; journalist not asking researched questions; reviews written to a formula, ripping apart something to get attention; misleading headlines…those are a few things that come to mind right now.

 

H&W: What is your definition of bad art?

BV: I don’t like labelling something that has come from a fellow Creatives heart as bad. It might be very important to them or cathartic for them dealing with stuff in life. You have no idea what battles most people face in their daily lives, art is something that can offer relief from that. I encourage as many people as I can to create, especially the ones that don’t believe they are creative. I believe we’re all creative in some way. We’re creations our self after all. I even support my friends that do art whose work I might not personally be into, it’s important to nurture that creative spirit in people and to encourage art. Being an artist has helped me navigate life without killing myself.

 

H&W: With such a rich dedication to the history of music, who are some of your favourite musical acts?

BV: I love people that do interesting things and that are always challenging themselves. I like people that help foster community too. Some favourites off the top of my head are Japanther, Regurgitator, Monsterheart, Mystery School, Le Butcherettes and Bosnian Rainbows, CSS, Nightmare Air, Against Me, The Units, Del The Funky Homospaien, Pyyramids, Little Trouble Kids, Millionaire, Arcane of Souls, Santigold, Quintron and Miss Pussycat, Secret Chiefs 3, 13th Floor Elevators, Mark Lanegan, Gogol Bordello, Chad VanGaalen, Gary Numan, Designer Imposter, PJ Harvey…

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Bianca with Gary Numan

H&W: What projects do you have coming up?

BV: My new Conversations With Punx zine #9 “Magick” will be out by the end of this month. It features chats with OFF!’s Keith Morris, ex-Blondie bassist and esoteric writer Gary Lachman, Wade Youman from Unwritten Law, Ian from Japanther and Don Foose from the Spudmonsters. I also have like 16 interviews in the works for my site. I’m putting the book version on CWP together. I’m shooting to have that out next year.

 

H&W: I believe that an artist’s role within society is to tell the truth. I see all the work you do as not only some of the most vital pieces of communication I’ve ever read but as a work of art itself. To my eyes when I read it, it comes together like a song and is full of different emotional dynamics that help it connect to the reader. In a world that values censorship and fevered egos your existence within the reporting of the art world is a treasured one. How important is it to stay true to your morals and belief systems in an industry that generally favours shallowness and fear? What is your advice to young artists and writers who are trying to make a difference and find an audience whilst staying true to their own truth and moral codes?

BV: It’s everything. Truth is the ultimate. It’s the highest. You can’t escape yourself. You need to be able to put your head on the pillow at night and know you’re living your truth and that you’ve done your best. If you’re not being truthful you’re not being your best. My first CWP zine was called “Truth” because that is super important to me. As far as advice, just do you. Don’t try to be someone else or fit into what you think others want you to be. Write and create from your heart, that’s what will make your work special and yours because no one else can do you. Don’t be swayed by others, think for yourself.

Thanks for this interview Dan. It’s weird for me being the interview subject…ha! Thanks for the work you do at H&W, glad you guys exist.

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Useful Links:

Conversations With Bianca Website: http://conversationswithbianca.com/

 

Interview Conducted by: Dan Newton

 

 

 

 

 

ALBUM REVIEW: “Chipper” by Tape / Off

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I was faced with a choice this week, to sit down and review either the brand new debut self-titled album by Stoner Pop humans Dune Rats or the brand new (and debut) album from Tape/Off called “Chipper” both of which were released in the last fortnight. As I sat down to listen to the brand new Dune Rats record I was reminded of a moment I witnessed happening to Thurston Moore in Dave Markey’s 1991 film “The Year Punk Broke” – in this particular scene, towards the end of the film, Thurston Moore is having breakfast and discussing how punk rock has now broken through to the mainstream in new and even more disgusting ways. He speaks about his disillusionment with this new movement of “style over substance” and references that even a band like Motley Crue are singing “Anarchy in the UK” to stadiums of people who just don’t care. The disappointment in Thurston’s body language really describes how crippling it would have been to witness lesser humans, humans with no understanding or respect for culture or history claiming the saving graces of punk rock. This scene accurately describes how I felt when I listen to the brand new album from Dune Rats and it makes me feel sorry for anyone who thinks that this music and this band are in anyway punk rock.

Considering that modern youth culture and Triple J support Dune Rats says a lot about the music world in Australia circa 2014. I think of Skid Row, Motley Crue and Warrant more than I do punk rock. Too much party and not enough arty and I’m sure that I’m just a lone voice with this one but I just get nothing out of this music. The songs are a little bit too squeaky clean to be punk rock or lo-fi and it has more in common with early era Green Day and Blink 182 than something cool like The Stooges or The Ramones or The Saints or even Sebadoh.  Clean neat music for clean neat people, the perfect formula for Triple J airplay and pointless hype. When you look throughout history you can always review the music of specific eras to get a feel for the climate of where a culture was at. When we look back at 2014 20 years from now and see bands of Dune Rat’s ilk we’ll be reminded of just how meaningless the pursuit of self-expression became and how designed chaos and brand awareness was the only way to resonate with an apathetic group consciousness that liked their music to be outrageously unoriginal and ready to soundtrack a night of drunken fun. Equality cannot be achieved whilst music like this exists.

It was a bad decision for me to sit down and review Dune Rats so I didn’t – then I switched over and turned on “Chipper” by Tape/Off and instantly fell into a state of relaxed bliss knowing full well that I had entered an environment that was a lot more accommodating to what I desire from music which is a bit of heart, a bit of soul and a whole bunch of sincerity.

From the opening notes of “Chipper” everything is perfect and a little bit bent out of shape with a hiss of lo-fi dust suffocating the ache and swoon of boredom and post-20 year old angst that has graduated to the real bummerhood of adult life. There is a clear difference between the modern pretenders of slacker rock (see above) and those humans who lived through it and have learnt how to harness its style and use it to communicate in a way that is unique to them. It is the sincerity of each individual member of Tape / Off that drives the emotion of “Chipper” and delivers such an instant classic.

The production has the wonderful claustrophobic feel of all those Fugazi records with enough noise to challenge and excite but also enough space and silence to embrace you like a warm hug. It is that Brisbane warmth that radiates and it is a tribute to the healing power of a band like Screamfeeder that we now have something as right on as Tape/Off existing in our town. These songs are very then but still with a potency of now with the dialogue of 1990’s sophisticated guitar rock informing every moment. I still believe that Tape/Off are bigger than there influences and that you can tell that this is a band who seriously respect a lot of different movements of music with the collective sound of the band reflecting that every time they express themselves.

The real joy of this record is the final track “Another Year” which unfolds like a beautiful ode to the graduation all humans make from 29 to 30 and in doing so ceases to give a shit about the world around them. It is a New Year’s Prayer to all the nonsense that frames our existence and that consumes all of the low ego dwellers who like to put their hands in the air like they just don’t care. It is the perfect full stop on what is a fantastic debut album.

In the 2014 and 2015 financial years we’re going to hear a lot of bands claim to be lo-fi slacker independent rock and there are lot of children running around screaming hell fuck yeah and doing their best to be a rock band. The industry will froth and book all sorts of BigSound showcases for the young, the beautiful and the pointless nu-lo-fi guitar rock bands and Triple J will follow suite like the smug slugs that they are. That’s cool and all that but it won’t mean anything if it doesn’t lead people to find bands like Tape/Off who were making interesting guitar music long before this new batch of designed anarchy.

All of those logistics doesn’t really matter because when all is said and done Tape/Off have made the perfect debut album. It is fractured and has that promise that you desire from a band you love. It has managed to deliver but also managed to boycott directions you thought they may have tapped into. It is an album that requires time to digest and it has the warmth of a band that plan to do this for a very long time. After being stained by professional responsibility and having to sit through lesser rock bands this past month it was refreshing to sit through “Chipper” and to hear a band do it right and to deliver a fantastic piece of modern rock music that is a vital edition to the Brisbane underground movement.

Good music is good communication and Tape/Off communicates incredibly well and with “Chipper” they prove just how important they are to stopping the rise of lesser rock bands in this modern climate of brand building.

God bless the fucking lot of them

By: Dan Newton

Useful Links:

Bandcamp For Album Via Sonic Masala – http://sonicmasalarecords.bandcamp.com/album/chipper
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/tapeoff
Soundcloud – http://soundcloud.com/tape-off
Official Website – www.tapeoff.net
Bandcamp – http://tapeoff.bandcamp.com/

Album Review: ‘Do To The Beast’ by The Afghan Whigs

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The Afghan Whigs have always made soul music sound contemporary and revitalised.  From ‘Up In It’, the punk/grunge record, with just a hint of 60′s Motown, to ’1965′, a classic black soul album full of heavy guitars and danceable grooves that could stand alongside classics from Marvin Gaye or The Supremes and not look out of place.  ‘Do To The Beast’ continues that tradition.  This is a modern soul album, wrapped in layers of Twilight Singers atmosphere, with just a hint of their 90′s alternia roots.

The first chords of ‘Do To The Beast’ are a dark, heavy blanket of tortured soul falling across the vapid wasteland of 2014′s disaffected indie pop.  By the time Greg Dulli opens his mouth to wail, rather than sing the first lines of ‘Parked Outside’ – “If time can incinerate what I was to you / Allow me to illustrate how the hand becomes the fuse“, you know two things for certain: Firstly, ‘Do To The Beast’ is not going to sound like any other Afghan Whigs album.  Secondly, this is a record that will have you hooked from start to finish.

First single ‘Algiers’ feels like the soundtrack to the nastiest, most brutally realistic spaghetti western you’ve ever seen, something the band obviously noticed as well, if the video is anything to go by:

While sonically it may be more Twilight Singers than classic Whigs, it’s Dulli through and through.  Every song has a way of reeling you in, whether it be the menacing smoothness of ‘Algiers’, or the fragile stark piano of ‘Lost In The Woods’, before delivering an emotional punch to the guts.  It’s difficult to determine whether ‘The Beast’ in the title is an external entity that Dulli is battling, or whether it’s Dulli himself.  Either way it makes for an enthralling listen.

‘Do To The Beast’ should be your new favourite album.

 

By: Clint Morrow

Useful Links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheAfghanWhigsOfficial?ref=br_tf
Official Website: www.TheAfghanWhigs.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/theafghanwhigs
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/AfghanWhigsOfficial
Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Afghan_Whigs
All Music Guide: http://www.allmusic.com/artist/p3509
Itunes: http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/the-afghan-whigs/id483354
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Afghan-Whigs/e/B000APYKM4
Soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/theafghanwhigs
LastFM” http://www.last.fm/music/Afghan+Whigs
Spotify: http://open.spotify.com/artist/5MZc2eVUWhuJh6L6Eyc0M6?ref=atw
Rdio: http://www.rdio.com/#/artist/The_Afghan_Whigs/
MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/theafghanwhigs
Summer’s Kiss: http://www.summerskiss.com/

ALBUM REVIEW: “Self-Titled” by The Unsemble

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The self-titled debut album from The Unsemble is a beautiful masterpiece full of heavy atmospheres and intricate guitar passages with an overall sound that communicates itself in an incredibly unique manner. For those who aren’t aware, The Unsemble is an instrumental trio that is made up of members from The Jesus Lizard, Tomahawk, Einstürzende Neubaten and the Silver Jews. The main ringleader is legendary guitarist Duane Denison whose spooky guitar playing dominates each track of The Unsemble’s debut.

This album feels like the logical sequel to the haunting sounds found on Angelo Badalamenti’s Twin Peaks soundtrack. In the same way that Badalamenti was able to create strange landscapes with his spaciously smooth jazz sounds so do The Unsemble with their percussion heavy largely improvised songs. Each piece of music presented by The Unsemble is drenched with a cinematic ache that can force your imagination to escape to a state of pure terror or a numb kind of blissed relaxation. The whole experience is beautifully unsettling and as the album unfolds you are drawn deeper and deeper into the horror. It is perfect late night music for the insomniac haunted by the perils of paranoia but also infatuated with the beauty of dazed escapism.

With their debut album The Unsemble have avoided the cliché’s of instrumental music and have released a focused movement of music that will outlive all that is fashionable and modern. This is a timeless set of songs, the kind of treasured record that you’re happy to keep as your own special little secret. This is the kind of record you hope to find buried deep in a record store. There is risk and there is danger to this music but there is also a sophistication that gives the overall mood such a lasting effect. The music of The Unsemble will resonate with you not because it has an agenda but because it was created to be consumed as a piece of art. This is a very special and extremely powerful album that has haunted me ever since it came out. I have attempted to put into words for so long just how important this record is and although I can lean on all the typical metaphors I think the simplest way to describe it is the age old explanation of “The Unsemble’s self-titled album is achingly beautiful” because it honestly communicates how I feel.

You may have to look harder to find a band like The Unsemble under all the noise and hype given to all of the “style over substance” music being written about but that is a good thing I reckon because when you lose hope in music a band like The Unsemble have the power to restore it and make you fall in love with the power of sound all over again.

By: Dan Newton

 

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Useful Links:

http://ipecac.com/artists/unsemble

 

TUESDAY EDITORIAL: Why Amaya Laucirica Is One Of Australia’s Most Important Artists

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I recently had a discussion with a group of friends about the difference between an artist and a musician. The discussion itself stemmed from an argument about Yoko Ono with the room divided on her relevancy in terms of the music she’s created. I’ve always maintained that Yoko Ono is one of the most important artists of both the 20th and 21st Century. A true pioneer who has pushed the boundaries of what both visual and audio art can be. To quote Thurston Moore, she is the Queen of Noise and is responsible for cutting a path for those who choose to sprinkle their pop music with the dynamics of avant garde composition. Her music is still relevant, potent and forever forward thinking providing some of the most unique movements of music ever. She is the epitome of what a true artist is and her music is head and shoulders above everything because she approaches it like an artist as opposed to a musician. Her work is timeless and her influence is felt through all forms of self-expression.

Great music is always shaped by artists. The musician interprets the art whereas the artist breaks the rules set in place for the musician to follow. In the modern landscape we see a world littered with musicians and to lean on Mike Patton’s philosophy that is what remains to be the problem with music, it’s played by musicians. The artist has no time for the rules or the science of music. For the artist it is about pushing the idea of sound to new and interesting places and to avoid formula and clichéd rules. An artist will always harvest their deepest most intense emotional landscapes in order deliver to the world a unique sonic dialogue that is built out of pure imagination as opposed to meaningless corporate agendas. The artist wrestles with extremes and pushes their understanding of both the darkness and the light to new levels of discovery. There is no quest for popularity inside the artist’s agenda and although it may not be an instant connection the artist will always ensure long term commitment. The essence of an artist is that they avoid being a hit and run lover, they stay with you for the long term and forever challenge you. An artist’s success lays in their ability to consistently release interesting and timeless material that accurately represents individuality and will live on forever because of its unique level of communication.

I’m extremely confident in saying that Amaya Laucirica is an artist with music being the main vehicle for her creative dialogue. Since 2008 Amaya Laucirica has built a career out of being a forward thinking artist desperate to soak everything she does with a unique take on what pop music in the 21st Century should be. On her earlier releases Amaya demonstrated through her music that she was a restless emotional romantic who had a knack for crafting slow dream pop dirges that stylistically remained linked to artists like Mazzy Star and Cowboy Junkies with the ethereal flourishes and heavy ambient atmosphere of Cocteau Twins. It was quite clear from the beginning that she had an original voice and a unique imagination that was both open and mysterious. There was a heavy ache at the centre of each song communicated which is what allowed for her music to resonate so deeply with everyone who heard it. Like all great artists Amaya Laucirica has built a career and with each new release she’s pushed herself to deeper and more intense places allowing for the listener to grow and evolve with her and to learn more about the pulse of the universe. Being invited into Amaya Laucirica’s world is a journey of both relaxation and dislocation that can be simply described as pure escapism.

On her new album “Sway” Amaya Laucirica has reached an intense new level. Having the pleasure of listening to this album over the past seven days has been a true life changing experience. When I was preparing this week’s Heavy and Weird edition I had about 20 or so reviews along with 3 or 4 other articles that I had written ready to be published. After I heard “Sway” by Amaya Laucirica I had to put a hold on publishing these reviews and articles because Amaya Laucirica deserves a whole edition of Heavy and Weird dedicated to her. After months of being sent music that simply mimic’s the pioneering sounds of forward thinking artists – you know, music made by musicians – it was refreshing to hear something that was created with a degree of care, depth and intensity. It finally felt great to have my whole world changed by an album because that is why I love music and that is what I live for. I’ve been in a daze of happiness as a result of the music made by Amaya Laucirica on “Sway” and I’ve been doing my best to talk about my passion for this album to anyone and everyone.

In 2014 the rise of apathy and the big corporate agenda of the indie music machine have caused music made my musicians to be the focus. The landscape is littered by brand aware humans who favour style over substance. These brand aware teams have caused so much noise that it is hard to find the true art underneath it all because for some reason people are under the illusion that these humans are the voice of the underground. Unfortunately, those of us who are well adjusted enough and in touch with our emotional intelligence know that this version of indie music is simply mainstream dreams manufactured for fame and TV commercial syndication in the hope of going viral. Underneath all of that there are the artists who these aforementioned musicians replicate and dilute in order to achieve success. It is so refreshing hearing Amaya Laucirica because she is in a class all of her own. She is above all of this because she makes art as opposed to music. A lot of pointless hype is lumped upon hip nothing music that is just empty calories in your emotional diet. What Amaya Laucirica is, is something beyond that and for that I thank her. It is a brave move in 2014 to be this honest and truthful with your music. To choose depth over fashion and to make art as opposed to music.

In 2014 Amaya Laucirica is the only artist you need to watch because she has made one of the best – if not the best – album of the year. If you like to think of yourself as a patron of the arts then you will do yourself a massive favour and go out and buy and support the healing power of Amaya Laucirica’s music. I only hope it changes your life the way it has changed mine.

Big Love

Dan Newton xo

Useful Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/amaya.laucirica
Official Website – www.amayalaucirica.com
Bandcamp – http://amayalaucirica.bandcamp.com/
Soundcloud – https://soundcloud.com/amayalaucirica

Upcoming Tour Dates:

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The New Album “Sway” On Sale Friday April 18th

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ALBUM OF THE WEEK (15th April 2014): “Sway” by Amaya Laucirica

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Over the course of the past week I’ve had two very particular hits of nostalgia. One of my favourite television shows of all time “The Wonder Years” has started to be repeated on ABC from 10:00am to 11:00am from Monday to Friday. The depth of this comedy drama has reminded me just how complex this show was and how it used a strong use of character and story in order to relate so deeply to your own existence. The second hit of nostalgia has been the echoes of “Twin Peaks” on the DVD player as my brother successfully watched the entire show from start to finish. The spooky shivers of the theme song howled through the house at all hours of the day connecting me directly to the warped yet beautiful landscapes that only David Lynch can create. What makes both of these experiences so emotionally effecting is the way in which both of these television shows avoided being limited to any particular place and time. They are timeless pieces of art that continue to offer comfort and emotional release every time you interact with them. These shows were both incredibly original vehicles of self-expression and as a result they remain relevant and effecting no matter what decade you find yourself navigating. The quest to be timeless is what drives all great artists to create and very few manage to arrive but for those that do, it will ensure that longevity and their long term influence remains.

The brand new album from Amaya Laucirica is called “Sway” and it is a timeless piece of art carefully crafted and communicated to ensure that all of your emotions are beautifully serenaded to a place of extreme relaxation and dislocation. Each song is a personal and very warm invitation into the world that Amaya creates for you and although the album is awash with personal and very relatable experiences it is the stylistic swoon of the dream pop genre that allows you to engage with her landscape but to also instil your own imagination and to arrive at a place of pure escapism. This movement of music is very open and as a result it provides you the ability to become tangled in your own ache stained sighs for the one you love / loved with the only logical resolve to hit repeat on your stereo in order to sail deeper into the beautifully delicate yet emotionally raw sound of Amaya’s music. It is no secret to those that love Amaya’s music that this album will not just become the most trusted pain reliever but also the early morning rush of a sunrise after spending an evening of discovery in the arms of someone you hope will learn to love you back.

Considering the amount of empty hype that is placed on lesser artists it surprises me that Amaya Laucirica isn’t higher up on the lists of so called “tastemakers” because on “Sway” it is clear that Amaya has made one of the best albums of 2014. The power of “Sway” lays in its ability to move like a full album, which in 2014 is a glorious thing to behold. I don’t like using the word “concept” but in the context of explaining the emotional dialogue of “Sway” I think it’s important to lean on this word because there are certain themes of loss and despair framed within the total blissed out relaxation of each song. On the surface it may not appear to be music that would be defined as typically raw but there is heartache injury all over this album. It is Amaya’s ability to be so direct and poetic with a storyteller pace that allows for the concept of “Sway” to jump out at those of us who have ached and shaked inside the embarrassment of feeling too much in a world that favours apathy over empathy. The way in which Amaya’s openness weaves and interacts with a haze of mystery is also what draws you deep into each song. There is this sense that you are aimlessly following this feeling the whole time the album is playing, the kind of feeling that you are unable to muster the courage to describe because you prefer to wrestle with all of the joy and pain it is providing you. It is a very powerful experience as you are led down a path of memory stained atmosphere with the unsettling nature of it giving you multiple reasons to feel haunted and wonderfully reborn.

The most life affirming moments of “Sway” occurs during the last three tracks “This Morning’s Blue,” “Ocean Wide” and “Falling Out Of Time” which gallop home with the slow breeze of resolve and wonder never really settling but edging closer to the desired rhythm of a satisfied mind. These three songs act as the end credits to a saga traced and soaked in a cinematic kind of swooned blue with all the fear, rage and pain evaporating into the ether and then trickling down like some kind of divine shiver designed to accurately infect and hypnotise your understanding of time and space. It opens your heart and soul up in a way where you just want to hug strangers and although these songs are just as damaged and emotionally frail as the rest of the music on “Sway” there is a degree of bravery that comes alive and provides you with a million hits of light that allows for maximum reflections on all the important things in life and the ultimate components of love, distance and sacrifice. The simple repeated phrase of “I’m falling out time, I’m falling out of time – with you” in the final track “Falling Out Of Time” gives meaning to the album’s title “Sway” and the overall theme of the album as well as providing the most effective description of what happens when human relationships breakdown. The fact that it is done with such raw elegance is what makes it so powerful and the perfect ending to a flawless piece of art.

There is a very famous lecture that Nick Cave gave about the importance of the love song that I’d like to quote in order to conclude this review. The following quotes are important to understanding what Amaya Laucirica communicates as an artist and what makes “Sway” so important:

“Though the love song comes in many guises – songs of exultation and praise, songs of rage and of despair, erotic songs, songs of abandonment and loss – they all address God, for it is the haunted premises of longing that the true love song inhabits. It is a howl in the void, for Love and for comfort and it lives on the lips of the child crying for his mother. It is the song of the lover in need of her loved one, the raving of the lunatic supplicant petitioning his God. It is the cry of one chained to the earth, to the ordinary and to the mundane, craving flight; a flight into inspiration and imagination and divinity. The love song is the sound of our endeavours to become God-like, to rise up and above the earthbound and the mediocre”

“We each have a need to create and sorrow is a creative act. The love song is a sad song; it is the sound of sorrow itself. We all experience within us what the Portuguese call Suadade, which translates as an inexplicable sense of longing, an unnamed and enigmatic yearning of the soul and it is this feeling that lives in the realms of imagination and inspiration and is the breeding ground for the sad song, for the Love song is the light of God, deep down, blasting through our wounds.”

“The love song must be born into the realm of the irrational, absurd, the distracted, the melancholic, the obsessive, the insane for the love song is the noise of love itself and love is, of course, a form of madness. Whether it be the love of God, or romantic, erotic love – these are manifestations of our need to be torn away from the rational, to take leave of our senses, so to speak. Love songs come in many guises and are seemingly written for many reasons – as declarations or to wound – I have written songs for all of these reasons – but ultimately the love songs exist to fill, with language, the silence between ourselves and God, to decrease the distance between the temporal and the divine.”

This accurately describes what Amaya Laucirica has done with each piece of music she’s released. On her new album “Sway” she takes a deeper plunge into the abyss of her hurt shaped experiences in order to clean her wounds and create an incredibly divine movement of music. The safety of pop music is not on the agenda here and whilst this music has hooks it is the overall atmosphere of loss and despair that lets it hang inside your heart and soul. You carry this music with you and it buries itself deep inside of you long after you’ve listened to it. The songs of “Sway” haunt you and wrap themselves around you like a warm blanket. It is a diverse trick to be able to make great pop music that sticks for all the right reasons and this is exactly what happens when you are invited to the world of Amaya Laucirica. Like all great pieces of art it is not an instant or easy communication to digest but this is not music designed purely for the beat of major label consumerism. This is music created by someone who has loved and who has been damaged by the madness of it but who also uses heavy optimism to communicate just how much joy she gets from the rush of rejection and connection.

On “Sway” Amaya Laucirica proves that depth, intensity and atmosphere are more important to the successful communication of pop music than the emptiness of one hit wonder world domination. I feel privileged to be able to review this album because it provided me with so much personal comfort and I’ve only lived with it for seven days. I look forward to what long term listening will do and how “Sway” will soundtrack the many more adventures I plan to take into the landscape of broken hearted disco dancing and new romancing. This is a flawless album from a true artist who has successfully entered the realm of being one of the few modern contributors to the timeless dialogue of beauty, honesty and truth.

By: Dan Newton

Useful Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/amaya.laucirica
Official Website – www.amayalaucirica.com
Bandcamp – http://amayalaucirica.bandcamp.com/
Soundcloud – https://soundcloud.com/amayalaucirica

Upcoming Tour Dates:

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The New Album “Sway” On Sale Friday April 18th

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SINGLE OF THE WEEK (15th April 2014): “Running Out Of Time” by Amaya Laucirica –

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The new single from Amaya Laucirica’s new album “Sway” is called “Running Out Of Time” and it is a wonderful excursion into the swoon of all that is on offer inside the sonic dialogue of Amaya’s new album. I love when pop music is moody and atmospheric as opposed to being sticky and obvious. That’s exactly what “Running Out Of Time” is, a moody masterpiece that connects due to its darkness as opposed to its sunshine. It takes an artist to be able to be this direct and deep. What “Running Out Of Time” illustrates is the importance of a solid and consistent groove in order to build the atmosphere and mood of a song. The simple drone of the bass and drums give “Running Out Of Time” the direction it needs to unfold with the array of keys and synths flowing over this with a Twin Peaks spookiness with the guitar erupting enough Cocteau Twins via Sonic Youth orchestral tone to provide the ethereal frame. This is a pure dream pop masterpiece and the kind of song that belongs on a mixtape for someone you are secretly crushing on.

The vocal performance and lyrical direction of “Running Out Of Time”is a simple ode to the desperate pulse of loss and I know it’s a typical thing for me to search for in most music but I think it is a musing on the power and turmoil of death. It may be masked inside the rhythm of a break-up song but I think at the core of the song lyrically is an ode to the angst of loss and the claustrophobic fear of aging in a world that prefers to move quickly as opposed to being a slow cheetah. Regardless of the muse it is clear that Amaya is yearning for escape from the crippling sting of routine and for an extreme new experience to help her feel comfort and satisfaction with the moment as opposed to the dense haze of being stuck in the fear drenched cycle of feeling powerless and unable to stop the motion of time.

This theme is repeated on “Sway” with the word “Time” creeping in and out of each song and on “Running Out Of Time” it is clear that Amaya is feeling the pleasure and pain of all that is good and bad about this existence. The real joy is the way it connects and relates with your own personal experiences and provides the ultimate pain relief from your own life dilemmas.

As a song “Running Out Of Time” is perfect poetry and a wonderful piece of pop music.

By: Dan Newton

Watch The Film Clip For “Running Out Of Time” Right Here:

Useful Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/amaya.laucirica
Official Website – www.amayalaucirica.com
Bandcamp – http://amayalaucirica.bandcamp.com/
Soundcloud – https://soundcloud.com/amayalaucirica

Upcoming Tour Dates:

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The New Album “Sway” On Sale Friday April 18th

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ALBUM OF THE WEEK (1st April 2014): “The Future’s Void” by EMA

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I’ve been waiting for the third album from EMA for quite a while now, ever since I had my life changed by her amazing second record “Past Life Martyred Saints” which was one of the first real classics of the new decade. Like her previous work, EMA’s new album “The Future’s Void” continues her commitment to avoid genre and to simply communicate a vast range of influences with her music. Depending on which glimpse of “The Future’s Void” you’ve heard first, it can be hard to describe exactly what kind of music EMA makes beyond labelling it some of the best pop music of the modern era.

Like so many forward thinking artists that came before her EMA demonstrates on “The Future’s Void” that she is poised to make her big leap onto the world stage. My first listen propelled me to picture a 2014 where EMA will dominate the world of pop music. The music of “The Future’s Void” is more focussed but still loose and flawed and it tangles itself in enough polish to shed its lo-fi dust but it never becomes a victim of the big pop sheen payoff. There is a synergy of emotion and humour sprinkled inside each song with enough nostalgia to satisfy those who thirst for the old via the new. It is this humour that makes these rather emotional songs so poignant and it is what sets EMA apart from her peers. Add to this EMA’s ability to go deep and parade an intensity that is equally as poetic as it is full of nonsense. The little reflective moments on both her own personal life and the world around her give an accurate snapshot of the complexities of living in the warmth of old world yearnings in the digital age.

I’m reluctant to steer you to a particular song because the journey of “The Future’s Void” lays within its diversity stylistically but the swoony pulse of “3Jane” is a fine example of when EMA does the melancholy singer / songwriter storyteller with a degree of modern fragility that it’s hard not to be sucked into the sway of it. You can then listen to a song like “So Blonde” and hear the humour and playfulness mixed with the serious and the sublime to paint a unique picture of what EMA communicates as an artist. The lazy lo-fi vocal strum of “So Blonde” has an almost rehearsed sleaze that plays into the stereotype of the subject matter and this is what makes this song such a middle finger to all that is glorified in the modern pop world whilst also embracing it.

I think EMA is fucking brilliant, she is pure class and has a million levels of talent and outshines everyone and everything happening at the moment. I’m confident that this will be a very important record for not only me but a lot of other people in 2014 and although I’m reluctant to let what I’ve felt was my own “best kept secret” out to the wider listening public, I’m also excited that EMA will finally start to get the praise she deserves.

The new album from EMA is called “The Future’s Void” and it is a truly flawless musical odyssey.

By: Dan Newton

Useful Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/cameouttanowhere
Official Website – http://emathefuturesvoid.net/

EP OF THE WEEK (1st April 2014): “On For You” by Michelle Xen

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I’m disappointed I didn’t feature this back when it was released in November 2013 but no time like the motherfucking present to direct you to the healing power of Michelle Xen’s music via her newish EP “On For You” which is a celebration of all that is glorious about music. Beyond the incredible discipline on display with the overall arrangements it is the emotional journey of “On For You” that draws you in and takes you deep into the imagination of Michelle Xen. There is an incredible ache that swirls in and around the mechanical pulse of each track.

I think it’s worth mentioning that this is a truly original sound and one of the most soul connecting experiences I’ve had with a local artist in a very long time. This connection heightened the joy of my interaction with the music. I fell deeper in love with it as each listen hypnotised me with its emotional dialogue. Despite the theatre and wonderful visual aesthetic that Michelle Xen puts out there with her music, it’s quite clear that underneath that there is a deep sigh she is tapping into and wrestling with in order to deliver the music she has. Lyrically, “On For You” illustrates a very personal side to Michelle Xen and for all the futurism it strives for the simple rhythm of heartache and general disengagement with the ordinary and mediocre is blushed by pure imagination and fictional space flight yearnings to escape herself and the cruelty of the world around her. This music is about discovery and although it remains open to your own interpretation you get the feeling that Michelle didn’t want to make this music, she had to. It was vital to her overall existence that she communicates all of this swoony angst in order to build a new vehicle of survival and in the process finds a new safe place to land.

There is warmth to this largely electronic affair and it borrows dynamics from influences as diverse as modern hip hop and artists as timeless as Bjork. These are merely reference points however because Michelle Xen is a true original and people would be foolish to ignore the intense level of energy she puts into her art. This is a shiver pop classic designed for the loneliness and dilemma of modern disconnection where artists quite often struggle with the choice between art and pure commerce. With her EP “On For You” Michelle Xen illustrates that she is not only a master of making very viable modern pop music but she also can use the many stylistic influences of a wide range of art movements to communicate what an intelligent and vital artist she is.

I’ve long lived by the ethos that there is a big difference between being a musician and being an artist – Michelle Xen is an artist and her music may not be the instant hit of commerce you need to style your existence with but she is the warm hug that lasts long into the night and takes you on an adventure full of imagination and shivers.

By: Dan Newton

Useful Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/michellexen
Soundcloud – https://soundcloud.com/michellexen
Official Website – http://www.michellexen.tv

SINGLE OF THE WEEK (1st April 2014): “Prettier Than Sound” by Amaya Laucirica

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The moment the chords open up on Amaya Laucirica’s new single “Prettier Than Sound” you relax into the groove of this amazing little heartbreaker. It swoons and aches like a late afternoon connecting directly to that part of your eternal sigh for a better place. This song is pure perfection and beautifully ethereal, I just fall deep inside of it every time I hear it and it becomes a glorious explosion of escapism that is heightened ever so magically when those “ooohhs” weave in and out like a cool breeze. It’s like being caught in a divine shiver and it just takes over your body and you get fucking elevated to some truly righteous places.

This is the greatest single of 2014 so far and I’m pretty confident that Amaya will release one of if not the best album of 2014.

By: Dan Newton

Useful Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/amaya.laucirica
Official Website – www.amayalaucirica.com

ALBUM REVIEWS (1st April 2014) – Featuring – Wolfmother and Neil Finn

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Wolfmother – Album – “New Crown”

It’s painful to watch a band trying to remain relevant when clearly they were only meant to last a short distance. It’s not a new critique of the band but it’s one that has been leveled at them since their second album and for the third time round Wolfmother prove that their creative vehicle is running on the smell of an oily rag. Considering all of the money that has been wasted on promoting the disgusting music of Wolfmother for the past decade, it really wears thin that this band are still trying to push an agenda of revolution when all they represent is nostalgia and redundant rock n roll dynamics.

For their third album, Wolfmother have decided to cash in on the guerilla album launch campaign in order to garner some kind of hype. It certainly worked from the angle that it sent certain parts of the music world in a social media spin. I wouldn’t say it made the dint that artists like Radiohead, My Bloody Valentine or Beyoncé did but it was still enough to grab headlines for a rather slow news day culturally. The promotional campaign itself has had about as much thought put into it as the albums front cover and I could describe the blandness in which Wolfmother communicates on album number three by simply pointing to the front cover. If this album does anything, it tears away just how much studio trickery was used on previous albums to push the band to epic proportions.

On “New Crown” we get to witness just how amateur this band really is and how underdeveloped Andrew Stockdale is as a songwriter. It was always fairly evident that he lacked any kind of originality but in this bold yet predictable attempt to return to his “roots” we see sloppiness and a creative fatigue pepper fairly standard rock n roll songs. Even Andrew Stockdale seems tired of this formula but he remains committed to pushing brand Wolfmother and fails miserably with every song presented here.

An artist like Andrew Stockdale is not only careless but incredibly irresponsible considering the amount of success and fame he garnered from Wolfmother’s debut album. Even though that album was terrible it provided him a launch pad to explore and evolve what he established but instead of finding new ways to communicate the rock n roll language he chose to keep harvesting all of the dynamics and creative ideas of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones and Jack White in order to deliver the same sound over and over again. To have that kind of power and to waste it on being a formula writer is no new thing but considering how famous he was there for a while, it disappoints me to think that so many people believe that what he communicated with Wolfmother is what Australian Music is all about, pure artistic plagiarism. For the most part people would be right to assume that because a lot of our modern and most popular bands are simple clones of more popular American or European artists but overall Australia has some brilliant music underneath all that and Wolfmother have damaged the reputation of that.

I’d be very disappointed if Wolfmother make it to album number four because after listening to “New Crown” it’s quite clear that Andrew Stockdale never had a voice or an original idea worth expressing and I’ve always felt he’d be more successful and comfortable being in a Led Zeppelin / Black Sabbath tribute band that could tour the RSL and local Pub circuit across Australia. That is where a band like Wolfmother would at least be believable because once again they have proved just what an epic waste of time their input to the global creative dialogue has been.

Useful Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/wolfmother

 

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Neil Finn – Album – “Dizzy Heights”

On his third solo album, Neil Finn illustrates that he has now managed to supersede Lennon and McCartney in terms of his extreme knack for writing some of the best pop music ever. Already known for his radio anthems courtesy of his days with Split Enz and Crowded House, on “Dizzy Heights” we get to witness Finn’s commitment to experimentation and for those who have stuck with him through “Try Whistling This,” “One Nil” and the recent Crowded House reunion albums “Time On Earth” and “Intriguer” you will once again be rewarded with a movement of music that is a timeless take on modern dynamics.

The one thing that stands out with “Dizzy Heights” is the production of Dave Fridmann who is most famous for his work with The Flaming Lips and Tame Impala. When Fridmann’s production is applied to Finn’s songwriting you get to hear a darker and rawer sounding version of the Neil Finn pop standards. There is a funk and ferocity to how this record is communicated and as is the case with an artist this deep into their career, there are the obvious reflections on mortality. For that reason alone this album contains some of Finn’s darkest songs. The sound of Finn’s voice and his ethereal melodies always connect to that deepest sigh in all of us and there a lot of spine tingling moments across “Dizzy Heights” were we are reminded why Neil Finn is so supremely regarded as a pioneering force in the pop music world.

I love the mood of this record; it is so fuzzed out yet soaked in bliss with a heavy dose of deep funk inspired grooves that push each song into psychedelic territory. It was bound to happen that if you paired Finn with Fridmann that you’d get music this deliciously infectious yet bizarre. Each song links into the next with a warm degree of still consistency allowing for a world of Finn soaked imagination to spread out and allow for maximum connection. There is a real mystery in the way that Finn can sing to your deepest wounds but also elevate your most beloved and joyous memories of existence. I imagine it is why so many people are fans of his music because it is hard not to make a deep connection to what he communicates as an artist.

From start to finish “Dizzy Heights” reminds the world of the relevance of an artist like Neil Finn and how he still has the ability to evolve his already strong creative dialogue by immersing himself into the modern landscape as an observer and then coming out the other side as a revised revolutionary who has once again re-invented a sound he helped shape. This album is a flawless illustration of experimental pop music from an artist who has nothing left to prove. The very fact that Neil Finn still pushes his sound this deep into experimental territory signals that his best work is still lingering in the atmosphere somewhere, waiting for him to patiently summons it through his muse. For now, just having “Dizzy Heights” is a gift that is soaked in pure divinity and an education on how to communicate music successfully.

Useful Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/neilmullanefinn

All Reviews By: Dan Newton

EP REVIEWS (1st April 2014) – Featuring – Nana Vigilante, Smoking Martha and Ultrafeedy

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Nana Vigilante – EP – “Foreign Land”

I recently had the pleasure of sharing the stage with Nana Vigilante and I have to admit it was one of the most refreshing experiences I’ve had playing live in recent times. It just felt like everything that Nana Vigilante was communicating was coming from a fresh new place and that punk rock had found a new place to shoot from. Yes on the surface Nana Vigilante creates hip hop laced electronica that balances a fine line between the experimental and the accessibility of pop music but if you dig deeper you’ll hear so much more than the limitations of genre tags on a piece of paper.

In 2013 Nana Vigilante released the beautifully lo-fi glitch EP titled “Foreign Land” and perhaps it is my extreme love of M.I.A. but fuck godamn this EP moved me. It was great to hear something so different to the usual “Hey Dan, I play lo-fi guitar music” shtick that I usually get sent to me. The production is moody and the rhymes are delivered with a hushed malaise never really raising to a scream and never really staying still inside the whisper. There is so much for Nana Vigilante to explore as an artist and on “Foreign Land” she’s only glimpsed the genius and talent that she possesses. I know that Lindsay is a creatively diverse individual who has many creative outlets but I think that Nana Vigilante is her strongest example of self-expression.

Nana Vigilante is the first real underground hero of 2014.

Useful Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Nana-Vigilante/472677446096192

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Smoking Martha – EP – “Self-Titled”

The debut self-titled EP from Smoking Martha is all about rock n roll. The album was produced by Ian Haug whose production skills provide an even balance of raw yet slick tones to give life to the songs presented here. I imagine this band sound great live when there are a bunch of beer soaked punters in the palm of their hands but the recorded material sounds like a simple yet wonderful tribute to all of the aesthetics provided to us over the years by rock n roll. It’s not everyone’s intention to re-invent the wheel creatively and this clearly isn’t the agenda of Smoking Martha so what they lack in substance they make up for with their style.

The strongest part of Smoking Martha’s sound is the vocals of lead singer Tasha D who manages to weave flourishes of intense emotion across proceedings. It bears repeating that it is Tasha’s sincerity that makes her performance and her band feel authentic and like you want to believe it. The clash of colour and pop skills is only fleeting however as the distortion pedals drown out what are some very strong melodies. The band are tight musically and being a tight band is important but it also brings with it certain restrictions and rules that make the emotion and feelings of the music get lost amid the solid clichéd song structures. This tightness can distract you from enjoyment as it can descend into feeling like the music is way too scripted as opposed to an exciting and fresh new idea. Even the most recycled ideas musically can sound exciting when played with a looseness and fragility that connects purely on the soul power of what’s being communicated.

The strongest song here is without a doubt the lead single “Sweet As Honey” which sums up Smoking Martha in just less than four minutes. This song swings with a stadium swagger bringing to mind the good time anthems of Motley Crue and Warrant with pepperings of 1980’s era Ozzy Osbourne. These nostalgic qualities of “Sweet As Honey” are linked to a very now look stylistically linking the band to the recent boom in all things guitar rock.

The appeal of Smoking Martha’s debut self-titled EP all comes down to what kind of rock fan you are. If you like a real good time where you get to dance and drink a lot of beer and just take on the night like you own it, then yes Smoking Martha is for you. If you require a little bit more art, intensity and depth to your rock music then Smoking Martha probably isn’t for you. Either outcome, Smoking Martha prove they are the perfect house band for any mindless good time and will no doubt win over a lot of punters with this infectious sound.

Useful Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/smokingmartha

 

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Ultrafeedy – EP – “Self-Titled”

You’ve probably heard me go on a lot about the idea that sincerity is the key to authenticity and in the case of Ultrafeedy’s debt self-titled EP this is quite true. What the band lacks in originality they make up for with their earnest and taunt ode to 1990′s guitar driven rock n roll. I believe this band and you can hear that the songwriters involved are fans of a wide range of music. An obvious textural love of Queens of the Stone Age guitar tones mixes with tense post-punk rhythms to build exciting but very traditional Big FM radio rock.

I’m a phenomenally massive fan of the Kyuss family tree and it sounds like Ultrafeedy are as well but it is the flourishes of the golden era of post-hardcore (think Jawbox and Sunny Day Real Estate) that really excites me when I listen to this EP. So many of the songs ease into a surprisingly different journey only to return to that straight up Homme riff chug which is always going to be more rewarding than a Wes Borland “fuck yeah” riff. This is music that hasn’t been accurately captured in the studio because I feel these songs would explode and really change lives in the live arena.

A band like Ultrafeedy has the ability to escape the standard dynamics involved with traditional rock n roll. This is evident all over this EP but you can also hear the struggle of wrestling with so many genres in order to create simple pastiches of punk infused rock. That confusion stained desire is what I find myself connecting with here because Ultrafeedy’s EP carries with it the typical sound of a band who through that exploration of diversity and influence will one day stumble across their unique voice.

Overall I think that Ultrafeedy are a band to watch because they have illustrated enough interesting ideas dynamically on this EP to suggest that they could just make an impact on the rising 1990’s rock revival scene happening in Brisbane at the moment.

Useful Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Ultrafeedy

 

All Reviews By: Dan Newton

LIVE REVIEW: Alithia, Balloons Kill Babies, Charlie Fingers and Alpha Omega (March 7th At The Beetle Bar)

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I did the typical reviewer thing and arrived late so I missed Alpha Omega’s set – from what I’ve heard online and from what the other “punters” told me, it seemed like they played a traditional psyche rock set. I’m sure I’ll catch them next time.

The first band I did manage to witness was Charlie Fingers who are rooted in the industrial metal vein. They are a one trick pony who do their trick quite well. A lovely cliché of a band that use all of the stylistic tricks of the industrial metal trade in order to communicate their sound. What this band lacks in creativity they make up for with enthusiasm and that is what makes them entertaining to watch. All in All Charlie Fingers are more of a tribute act to the Marilyn Manson, NIN and Ministry Shtick. It all becomes like watching theatre after a while that makes me laugh in a “fuck yeah” kind of way more than it makes me want to connect to the (sigh) pain these guys are trying to prove they feel. The posing for the photographer snapping shots during their set shows just how far goth rock industrialists have come since the days of Einstürzende Neubauten and shows that in the social media age, being fucked up and misunderstood means having great photos on facebook. The best part of the set was the Mark Of Cain cover and the guitarist, bassist and drummer rocking the fuck out at the end of set on that big payoff riff. This was the least clichéd part of their set and excited me quite a bit. In five years time at least two members of this band won’t be playing industrial metal music anymore.

Main headliner Alithia are a Melbourne based band who describe themselves as ASTRAL SPACE CORE which reflects a philosophy to embrace the exploration of the unlimited possibilities of the mind. This philosophy sounds amazing when your trying to find clever ways to sell albums and describe why your lemonade is more unique than everyone else’s but in the scheme of truth and your ability to connect to people I think it falls a little short considering my experience with Alithia tonight.  The most exciting part of Alithia’s sound is the instrumentation. That is when I connected with this band the most, when they were just locking in and sourcing an array of crazed psychedelic sounds and rhythmic fusion to showcase what talented songwriters they are. It is fucking bombastic and explosive but is then unfortunately let down by the vocals which sound way to “hillsong” for me. It was the vocals that had the capacity to ruin the instrumental passages which were so strong and so dynamic. There were passages that reminded me of …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead with heavy lathering’s of The Mars Volta but then the vocals would take me back to Christian Rock and it was disappointing because I reckon as an instrumental band Alithia would be fucking amazing to watch. I spent the morning listing to the bands album and the same problem jumps out, incredible songs in the prog rock vein but those damn vocals just seem to be funded by the healing power of Jesus Christ more than the exploration of the unlimited possibilities of the mind. All in all I think that Alithia are a pretty fucking awesome band who are hella tight.

The final band of the night were Balloons Kill Babies who played an amazing set of prog inspired post-metal. By far the most exciting band of the night and the most engaging which is an amazing feat considering they don’t have a singer. Perhaps it was the weak display of vocal skills leading up to their set that caused me to be suffering from vocalist fatigue or the fact that Balloons Kill Babies music were supremely better than the other bands. This is all a matter of opinion really, but there was something instantly refreshing about this band after the previous onslaught of vocalist driven guitar rock.  Live, Balloons Kill Babies channels the crunch of Isis and mixes it with the divinity of Mogwai providing an incredibly cinematic experience. This is the kind of music that allows you to drift away and is an experience in total escapism. My only small criticism of the set is the stopping in between songs. I reckon this band should just plug in and play for 45 minutes and not stop. That would be the ultimate Balloons Kill Babies experience. I think this band will go on to be one of the best bands you’ve never heard of.

All in all it was a great night of progressive music that proved that interesting and forward thinking music is alive and well. If there is one victory to be taken way from this evenings gig it is that there are bands still willing to push the boundaries of what rock n roll music can be.

By: Dan Newton

Useful Links:

Alithia – https://www.facebook.com/alithiaband
Balloons Kill Babies – https://www.facebook.com/BalloonsKillBabies
Charlie Fingers – https://www.facebook.com/CHARLIEFINGERSMUSIC
Alpha Omega – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Alpha-Omega-Australia/106021259495295

ALBUM REVIEW: “Self-Titled” by +++ (Crosses)

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It’s no secret that there was a girl who stole my heart long ago and whose shape remains inside the soul of every yearning filled encounter I have with other female humans. Sometimes the fantasy is more pure than the reality and it is because of this that my mind remains her hostage with no real ransom available to dull the ache and set me free. It may be ridiculous to the non-believers but a muse can be murder especially when you search for the face of your yearning and some kind of remedy for sleepless Sundays. When love disappears, every brand new day is yours to fear with a grief so strong your eyes can’t hide it and as a result you build many walls around you to shield yourself from it all. Regardless of how much life I live in the meantime, she’ll hang in my heart forever. This yearning has a language that is heard only by the spirits with total belief that all this pity frames a scar and that in the end it will always remain as faith for the man and a kiss for the friend.

When I listen to any album with Chino Moreno as the vocalist I tend to slip into that place where her face and that memory of love lost comes rushing back to me. The moment I put +++ (Crosses) debut album on the stereo and plugged in my headphones I felt the sweet embrace of her undertow once again with the music presented providing the ultimate soundtrack to the chaotic emotional journey that is the sting of distant heartache  memories. I flirt with a heaven when this girl comes and visits me, I taste the meaning and I understand all of my believing. The music of +++ (Crosses) provides the perfect soundtrack to this ache soaked journey.

This music is purely nocturnal and will always communicate more clearly between the hours of 9pm and 4am. Like the shadowy pulse of ex-lovers whispering into your ear there are memories of yearning (past, present and future) hiding inside the songs on +++ (Crosses) debut album. The darkness of it all allows you to trade your fetish for fiction and replace it with new kinds of motion and sequence. As the cover art suggests, this music will have you remembering the time she removed her clothes to reveal a graveyard underneath ensuring that desire remains the theme. You’ll find yourself musing on the lifelong debate of flesh versus the spirit and as you try ever so hard to attach yourself to some innocence. No matter how hard you try that funeral march will continue to trickle down your belly.

The mystery present on songs like “This Is A Trick,” “Bitches Brew,” “Nineteen Ninety Four” and “Option” pushes you to explore that shiver and all of that spooked out bliss she uses to suffocate your mind. You simply have to read the lyrics to see that Moreno is once again using very specific metaphors to illustrate his feelings and to allow your imagination to swoon and swing between joy and heartache. In the heat of the summer night, a band like +++ (Crosses) use their unique sonic language to penetrate all your angst as you hang spacious from the clutter of your hurt and safely drift away.

One of the real treats of this record is the albums final track “Death Bell” which presents a scene of catastrophe with a mood that balances what a monumental picture of hurt existence can be. Although peppered with a dense dark mood, “Death Bell” still has a bright spark weaving in and out of it. The joy that is the satellite in your heart is what connects to this song, especially the line “I’ll Follow You, Into the Light” – that line gives meaning to the constant quest to transmit to all of those secret faces.

When you’re looking at life through innocent eyes it seems love and desire are quite simple, but sometimes she wounds and it’s so very smooth. That is when an album like +++ (Crosses) self-titled debut album sounds best, when you are wounded yet optimistic. This is the kind of album that fires up your romantic imagination making you feel like that somewhere out there she waits and that 84 will be worth living for.

By: Dan Newton

Useful Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/CrossesMusic
Official Website – http://www.crossesmusic.com/

ALBUM REVIEW: “Dream Reverb” by aheadphonehome (Dan Newton’s Review)

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The title of the brand new album from aheadphonehome is “Dream Reverb” and it accurately describes what kind of world you’ll descend into when you hear it. This is music soaked in the kind of lo-fi heat that could only belong to a Brisbane band birthed from the lofly label. At the heart of all of these dreamscapes is one our towns finest Singer Songwriters Phil Laidlaw who uses his talents for constructing amazingly spacious melody lines to infect the rather minimal sounds with a degree of hushed explosion that leaves you totally immersed in blue sunshine.

The strength of this album is the way in which underneath all of the sonic experimentation there lays very simple pop songs. Without directing you to far from what this album sounds like I think it is important for me to highlight that I’m confident that you could strip away all of the sonic’s and you’d still have a wonderful collection of strummed acoustic folk songs that could stand alone on their own as examples of how music should be communicated directly to your soul.

This isn’t a collection of folk songs however; this is a movement of blissed out shiver pop rooted in the sonic mechanics established by genres like post-rock, electronica and of course shoegaze. It’s easy for anyone juggling these genres to slip into cliché but with “Dream Reverb” aheadphonehome have escaped cliché and let their own unique dialogue spill into the genre dynamics they are influenced by. This is a band without an agenda and who play because they have an intense emotional desire to communicate to the external world about all of their complex internal emotions.

An album like “Dream Reverb” is a rare commodity in 2014 in the sense that it borrows so heavily from the past but pushes sound and the idea of weird pop music deep into the future, it truly does go beyond fashion. This music sounds like it should be everywhere and inside everyone’s music players and distributed worldwide as an example of what we should broadcast to the aliens when they finally visit us. We can debate about the relevance of who is making the boldest and most forward thinking statements in our town and if you visit Lambda on a Thursday night you’ll probably be tricked into thinking that the young and the beautiful souls with their manicured sounds and vision are doing their best to push music into radical directions. Unfortunately they are doing nothing more than taking up space and becoming the face of the future “Who?” and for that we should be grateful because in the future people will remember a band like aheadphonehome more than what is current and modern.

The listening experience of “Dream Reverb” took me back the simple revolution of an “In Rainbows” era Radiohead or Tortoise when they informed us that millions of us living will never die. It is a place where the darkness of it all consumes but also leaves a satisfied smile on your face. I believe that aheadphonehome are good enough to take on the world and in 2014 I think it is important that we have more bands like aheadphonehome who are willing to bathe in mainstream obscurity in order to allow for their future legacy to be imprinted on the cultural lexicon.

No matter kind of future you find yourself stuck in or pining for, “Dream Reverb” is a perfect record and a true and pure listening experience. In 2014 that is the rare glimpse of hope that the true believers get, that maybe all of these underground heroes are our future saviours and the key to peace being restored to the galaxy.

Listen to the album here -  https://aheadphonehome.bandcamp.com/album/dream-reverb

By: Dan Newton

Useful Links:

Bandcamp: https://aheadphonehome.bandcamp.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aheadphonehome
Tumblr: http://aheadphonehome.tumblr.com/

ALBUM REVIEW: “Collider” by Roku Music

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The debut album from Roku Music is called “Collider” and it is a fantastic movement of music. I’ve enjoyed every inch of the listening experience and rejoiced at the wonderful escapism it provided.  The hazy fuzz and washed out production instantly produces a diverse array of beautiful melancholy related feelings. This is a band who understand the power of navigating darkness in order to produce dramatic blissed out rock music. It’s the kind of album that just allows you to float deep inside yourself with an equal mix of hurt and heartache bouncing round and round your still existence.

I found the best listening experience to be while I was either lying flat on my back in a dark room with a good pair of headphones or late at night while I was driving my automobile. This is how I always choose to consume my music and it takes a great band and only the best music to be able to make me soothe and swoon. Regardless of your genre, music should be an exercise in an artist showing you their soul and with “Collider” despite the occasional obvious dynamic and stylistic tribute to all things Shoegaze, Roku Music are a band who mean it and whose sincerity allows for them to be beautifully authentic.

This brings me to the music contained within “Collider” – those who read this blog know I’m not a big fan of giving you the standard “song by song” review experience. I’ll leave that to the more “sponsored” types to bore you with. I’m much more interested in illustrating to you what this music made me feel.

So here I go – if I was to describe and review “Collider” by Roku Music to an alien who has just learnt about the complicated emotional intelligence attached to the unrequited frame attached to yearning and that “ache” that I talk about so frequently then my review would be as follows.

Sleep will always translate those female friends into lovers, the kind of mysterious hurt that is reserved for the secret unspoken love that cuts deeper than any sort of physical pain. These thoughts and that face, I wish I could sell or trade or just transplant the memory, but when I’m asleep I can translate all of those complicated secret entanglements and forays into a silent affair. These are the celebrated thoughts disguised in the noise of all the music that resonates with me. A beautiful release of music that mirrors that deep burning ache will always make me shiver even deeper in that hurt. The music will explode inside me and wrestle with and finally serenade all of the angst to a place of pure imagined relaxation. This kind of escape is reserved purely for the collections of fools who choose to devour the extreme sound experience and who reject music’s entertainment value. All of the music and sound that goes beyond being just fashion allows for your survival and provides you new ways to cope with daily oxygen consumption.

All the way down, that is where this music goes – right to the core of all that is tender and beautiful about your invisible wounds.

I can’t speak of Roku Music’s goals or agenda as a band, I can only speak of my own personal resonance and upon multiple listens of “Collider” this album has hit me directly in the “feels” as all those cutesy modern fashion fucks would say.

The album is called “Collider” and the band is Roku Music and they are releasing this album on the 3rd March 2014 (via Sonic Masala) and I reckon you’d be rather foolish to ignore this record – the first vital Brisbane record to be released this year.

By: Dan Newton

Useful Links:

Facebook – www.facebook.com/rokumusic
Official Website – www.rokumusic.com

Roku Music are touring throughout Australia in March and April 2014 (see their website for details)

SINGLE REVIEW: “Collider” by Roku Music

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The brand new single from Roku Music is called “Collider” and it is a beautiful breeze of all that is lovely about emotionally charged guitar music. With heartbreak swoons and a delicate level of smooth blissed out angst, “Collider” rewards you with each new listen transporting you further away from the dull cruelty of existence. Escapism is essential to all great music and Roku Music lay down some sensationally picturesque landscapes for you to nestle into allowing you to just drift deeper and closer to some kind of blue soaked divinity.

This song definitely pays tribute to all that is golden about shoegaze and to those that respect music you’ll be yearning to know where this song takes you in the context of an album. That is what I felt during the course of listening to “Collider” – that this a small part of a bigger sonic story that will no doubt unfold all kinds of emotions (known and unknown) and will cement Roku Music as one of the best bands happening in the world.

It is the heavenly scent sprinkled within those vocals that win me over. The guitars and drums and bass are all playing within the mechanics of the genre but it is the vocals that give this song colour and a true ache that brings me back for repeated listens. There is a mystery to the melody and I want to dive deep inside the fuzz to chase it and find out everything about it and try to locate the meaning of why there is so much joy yet so much pain spilling out of the speakers.  It makes me want to fall in love but it also makes me want to spend some time alone thinking about those two or three girls that you meet in your life time that shape your understanding of heartbreak and all things unrequited.

A song like “Collider” rings out with a nocturnal loneliness that reminds me of the sting of endless Friday nights spent staring at the ceiling trying to find ways to reform my desire to disconnect from the real world modes of fun and living but finding myself stupidly sinking inside a brand new sound that sums up the ache pounding deep inside me. If it wasn’t for finding new sonic examples of that ache and that yearning I’d probably a very happily married man doing very dull things like buying houses and caring about the bottom line. Instead I live for that feeling of isolation with new pieces of sound that best capture that god shaped hole in my soul and my desire to be a totally failed romantic cynic.

In short, support the fuck out of Roku Music – they are beautiful and pure.

By: Dan Newton

Listen to “Collider” by Roku Music on the following link:

http://soundcloud.com/sonic-masala/collider

Useful Links:

rokumusic.com,
rokumusic.bandcamp.com,
rokumusic.tumblr.com,
twitter.com/Rokumusicband
https://www.facebook.com/Rokumusic

 

SINGLE REVIEW: “Bull At A Gate” by Hawkmoon

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If Hawkmoon were a band from the Seattle Grunge Movement they’d be The Posies for sure. What this basically equates to is that instead of the angst, punk rock, heavy metal, psychedelia, Minor Threat / Black Flag infused hardcore and classic / hard rock hat tips that the big seven illustrated (Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden, The Melvins, Mudhoney, Alice In Chains and Screaming Trees), Hawkmoon favour power pop. That’s not to say that Hawkmoon sound or have pop skills like The Posies but it does give you a good starting point as to the spirit that is alive in their music.

The band has just released a new single called “Bull at a Gate” and it is a straightforward slab of Australiana flavoured power pop. The sound and mood of this track harks back to the mid to late 90’s and early 00’s where bands like Powderfinger, Custard and You Am I dominated that youth demographic of 18 to 24 and served as the soundtrack to a summer spent doing wonderfully pointless things in New Farm Park whilst fighting a “three bottles of wine” hangover and trying ever so hard to impress girls named Emily and Jill and Beth who are more interested in ecstasy culture as opposed to rock guitars now that they have returned from London.

That’s not to say that “Bull at a Gate” is totally suffocated by Nostalgia; there are modern flourishes in the dynamics that inch themselves towards bands like The Black Keys and Kings of Leon with textures and tones that show a heavy amount of hero worship towards anything and everything Homme. This is indeed a song in its more traditional sense with adequate verses, chorus’, bridges and appropriate reprises that is kept together with a rhythmic swagger and healthy yet all too familiar melody.

As a song it works but in terms of sonic evolution for the history of music and Hawkmoon themselves (compared to their first EP) it falls short but as I always maintain, sincerity is the key to authenticity and Hawkmoon communicate with an excited sense of glee allowing for the overall vibe of “Bull at a Gate” to sound convincing. It is that conviction that allows those thirsty for nostalgia and meat and potatoes to eat this song up.

My tastes are more geared towards weirdness within the pop music and rock n roll formats so it can be hard for me to get overwhelmed by “Bull at a Gate” as a song but I think that as previously mentioned, it is its sincerity that makes me believe that with time Hawkmoon will find their way to that weirdness and find their own unique way to communicate pop music to the world.

The new single by Hawkmoon is called “Bull at a Gate” and it is a power pop adventure with a rhythm and blues swagger framed nicely with a pure Brisbane melody. All in All a solid illustration of songwriting and 1990’s rock n roll fury.

By: Dan Newton

Listen To “Bull at a Gate” via the following video:

Useful Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Hawkmoon.music
Soundcloud – https://soundcloud.com/hawkmoon-1
Triple J Unearthed – http://www.triplejunearthed.com/Artists/View.aspx?artistid=47803

 

EP REVIEW: “Red Bridge” by Slow Riots

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There is a quote from an amazing article I read about the heavy music scene earlier this week (click on this link to read it http://www.invisibleoranges.com/2013/12/dont-listen-to-everything/ ) that best describes how I feel about Slow Riots and their new EP “Red Bridge” and it goes like this:

“There is too much music and too many musicians, and the amateurs are often good enough for the public. This is healthy for culture, not so much for aesthetics, and shit for musicians. Musicians in the early ’90s were already feeling the pressure of competition from CD reissues of old stuff; here in the future, you can get almost anything that has ever been digitised for free and listener time is the precious commodity.”

There was also something I wrote in my Tape / Off review (you can read that here: http://heavyandwierd.wordpress.com/2014/01/07/single-review-pedestal-fan-by-tape-off/) which also applies here and it is as follows:

“There are a lot of really nice human beings making fucking terrible music in the Brisbane Music Scene at the moment. As a reviewer it is hard because you want to like these bands / artists purely on the merit of how great the humans in the bands are but you can’t because they make shite music that has no artistic value. Sure they may be the triple j darlings or the underground heroes but bad music is bad music and friends should never let other friends make bad music, but I’m always just a loose acquaintance so I guess I can shit on that carpet.”

In this instance I’m a loose acquaintance for sure but I know that a lot of the friends / family / fans of Slow Riots will hate me for what I’m about to write, but you can’t adjust how something resonates with you, you either feel it or you don’t and in the case of “Red Bridge” by Slow Riots I just don’t feel a thing, but heavy and weird were asked to review it so here we go.

The most positive thing about the brand new Slow Riots EP “Red Bridge” is that it is made by humans and is all original material. Full marks will always be awarded to any human being attempting to create original music. I must admit though, that is where the positives begin and end for me and despite attaching all the right genre tags to their music in order to reel me in, the music just failed to impress.

Where Slow Riots win is that they have indeed evolved from their first EP. There is more confidence in the playing and they sound a lot more comfortable in their own skin allowing for the songs to sound well put together. Dynamically and aesthetically these songs are flawed in so many ways and whilst you could dismiss these flaws as a simple exercise in the lo-fi DIY shtick, there is not enough dust or dirt in these songs to lean on that excuse. The songs sound way too structured for the genres and bands Slow Riots are attempting to align themselves with and it sounds more Nu-Metal than it does 90’s Alternative, Math Rock or Shoegaze.

I must commend the rhythm section because they sound incredibly tight and they deliver a very inspired performance. There is something a little Nu-Metal about the way bass and drums of Slow Riots lock in; in that Incubus / Karnivool kind of way but there are distant peppering’s of Helmet for sure. The rhythm section have set a solid foundation here and show an intense discipline is at play but a little bit more looseness may have allowed for these songs to sound more emotional and alive, overall though – a killer rhythm section.

The guitar lines are intricate and well-structured but they lack emotion and meaning and sound re-hashed. There is nothing original about the execution of the guitar riffs and whilst they demonstrate that James Hilan has great technique and skill it says very little about his creativity and if anything showcases a lack of it. I rarely comment on this type of thing in my reviews, but the overall tone of the guitars suffer from that disgusting “frogstomp” or “battle of the bands” curse where they sound incredibly dull and lifeless. Adjusting the tones and experimenting with different guitar textures may have helped save some of these songs but unfortunately they remain flat lined and uninspiring. Even in a lo-fi DIY setting you can still make your guitars shine with divinity (80’s Sonic Youth, 80’s Dinosaur Jr., Early Helmet, Shellac and Sebadoh).

Vocally James is attempting something he is unable to pull off and it is a bummer because he has the right idea but just lacks the skills melodically to make it work. Even with the style of vocal delivery James is attempting it is important to understand how the melody of it all fits in with the structure of the song because if it isn’t applied with care then it sounds clumsy and lacks impact. It all sounds like a rushed after thought with all of the lyrics sounding like they are trying way too hard to be clever and art school casual. The words in these songs are way too calculated to be clever or art school casual.

The most inspiring part of this EP is how it is pieced together like one long song, yes each song has the same basic dynamics but as a whole piece it works together if you imagine it as one very long song. Perhaps that is how the band intended it to be communicated and big marks to them for attempting such a progressive challenge. With a better producer the band could have really taken these songs to some “out of this world” places, instead we get a good demonstration of what great mathematicians Slow Riots are.

I totally understand what kind of band Slow Riots are attempting to be and I really hope they reach that place eventually but on “Red Bridge” they fail to capture the excitement, energy and emotion of the genres they claim to be influenced by. This is great music for the young and the beautiful and will no doubt have them exploding with joyful bliss but for the old and the ugly it just sounds like a poor attempt at genre flattery.

By: Dan Newton

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