Along their near two-decade rise in indy music, Brandon Summers and Benjamin Welkel—the duo known in ensemble as The Helio Sequence—haven’t had it entirely easy. Mostly due to Summers’ near career- and band-ending vocal troubles in the mid aughts, the band seemed doomed for a few years. But lifestyle changes, dedication and vocal exercises pushed Summers back into performance in time to record their fourth album, “Keep Your Eyes Ahead.” That same dedication has resulted in a pretty strong sixth effort, their self-titled new album released last month on Sub Pop. The Helio Sequence is on tour across North America now, and stopping tomorrow night in the Larimer Lounge, with Lost Lander and Reuben Hollebon, so you have a chance to catch the chill first hand.
The two compiled the ten songs as part of a game with their Portland friends called the “20-Song Game.” The rules were to record 20 songs in one day, then have a listening party with the other bands and musicians to hear the results. It was also meant to be a creative exercise, to help musicians push through creative blocks, to create in the moment, and to learn to take the good with the bad. According to Sub Pop’s press release, Summers and Welkel didn’t quite stick with the progress as planned, and instead decided they’d stretch the exercise out to a month, make as much music as possible in that time, and apply it to the creation of their next album.
Here’s a sample: “Stoic Resemblance,” from “The Helio Sequence”
“The Helio Sequence” album, though satisfying overall, is surprisingly a little tame itself—even for another chillwave offering. While you can hear a new sense of urgency in the songs—it’s evident that they were moving from one experiment to the next pretty quickly (they actually came up with 26 songs over the course of the month, and kept ten for the record). But there’s also a subtle repetition from beginning to end—maybe the result of moving too quickly.
“Battle Lines” starts the record slowly, with a great summer-psychedelia feel, showing off more of Summers’ guitar work (which, perhaps fittingly, recalls work by the iconic Andy Summers, who, along with Stewart Copeland, formed the strongest portion of great ’80s band The Police, albeit with a little Pixies’ roughness).The next highlight is “Stoic Resemblance,” (listen to the MP3 above) a pretty perfect summer afternoon soundtrack mainstay. Welkel’s drumming across the record remains strong and innovative. “Red Shifting” moves in with an anthemic feel, and leads into maybe the album’s best piece, “Upward Mobility” (see the beautifully animated video below).
By most accounts, though, the duo’s live set is more than strong. Don’t miss the chance to catch this still-climbing Portland Chillwave duo at the Larimer Lounge, Friday, June 5th, and see for yourself.
Twin Peaks joins the latest episode of the UMS-curated Red Bull Sound Select Series this Thursday, May 14, at the Hi-Dive.
It’s inspiring, all the bands buzzing around now that are making rock fun again. Bands like Japandroids, No Age, Fucked Up, Thee Oh Sees – all are about having a blast playing with a sound they love, and that lays the audience flat, under a rockpile of noise. Add Twin Peaks to that list. This four piece veteran band of the Chicago DIY scene is making waves with a live show that’s approaching legend. Their showing at this year’s SXSW in Austin has definitely turned heads, for the better, and probably for a long time.
Maybe it comes from overwhelming familiarity, or the actualization of late night sleepover conversation describing their rock & roll dreams – most of Twin Peaks’ members have known each other since grade school. Frontman Cadien Lake James, bassist Jack Dolan, guitarist Clay Frankel and drummer Connor Brodner have been part of the Chicago scene since high school, in one form or another. James cut his rock biz teeth in Teenage Dream, playing shows in front of single-digit audiences. Whatever the reason, this band has hit on a combination of sound and energy that leaves crowds sweating, frenzied, ecstatic.
Sometimes channeling a misty melodic memory of Oasis with a strong shot of New York Dolls, but more often resembling the Big Star that Paul Westerberg‘s Replacements dreamed of being (give a listen to “Ordinary People,” below, to see for yourself), Twin Peaks builds a sonic wall of reverb-drenched chords, interlaced with perfect Pixies noodling and solid drums. On top of that – in most tunes – James layers a full, round baritone that approaches Jim Morrison’s, with a vocal swagger that likely makes Mick Jagger nostalgic.
Even on record, their sound and energy is contagious. It’s almost creepy how quickly some of the tunes on “Wild Onion,” the band’s latest release, become comfortable beneath skin & muscle, and comfortably wrap themselves around your bones. The wilding freedom of “I Found A New Way,” the complex psychedelia of “Strawberry Smoothy” and “Strange World,” the ’70s theme music of “Telephone” and the Cheap Trick of “Flavor” – this record shows many levels of pop sensibility and creation that belies even the combined ages of all four band members. Wild Onion doesn’t sound like a sophomore piece – it’s closer to a picture of a band who have reached their stride. And that’s why the buzz they’re enjoying about now – having outshone most of SXSW alongside other newly big acts like Courtney Barnett.
Denver is lucky to be welcoming Twin Peaks to the Hi-Dive this coming Thursday, one of three bands playing in the latest episode of the UMS-curated Red Bull Sound Select series. In this small venue, this band promises to blow more than doors down – they’ll likely blow your mind as well. Don’t miss this 18+ show – $3 entry if you RSVP – $15 if you don’t. And if you make it in the door – which seems a little unlikely at this point, considering the band’s popularity right now.
Take a look/listen to their video for “Making Breakfast,” below, and see if that doesn’t make you hungry for this brand of garage rock. See you there, Denver.
Damon McMahon’s musical totem might just be a pair of interlocked, somnambulist ghosts, deeply in love and nonchalant, full of both deep talent and a perfect euphoria. “Love,” McMahon’s latest release under the Amen Dunes project, is their soundtrack to nightly meanderings.
What McMahon started with Amen Dunes in 2006 – a meandering, ultra-solo musical meditation project, mostly recorded by himself (and, apparently, often with no real desire to release any of it beyond maybe a few copies for friends and acquaintances) has blossomed into a unique, and uniquely mesmerising and strong, record.
Fiercely independent, on “Love” McMahon seems to teeter just over the edge of traditional songsmithing, with no care whatsoever that the tempo in one part of a song might slow down a tad, or a guitar chord or lick may sound more like a flub than intentional. In the opening chords of the record’s first track, “White Child,” a second acoustic guitar bangs ariff that’s perfectly off-key and out of register before McMahon’s howl begins – and the rest of the tracks all seem to hesitate, waiting for all of it to mesh. Where other musicians might re-take that one, McMahon doesn’t seem to care. Or, perhaps, it’s just that this type of perfection – somewhat Jandek-ian – is all he cares about.
This record is an expression, more than a collection of songs. Deep, barrelling horns bellow behind marching, reverberating drums, draped by McMahon’s alternately warbling and mumbling vocals. On the record’s most produced track, “Lonely Richard,” McMahon seems to lament what feels like a self-imposed isolation with his unmistakable vocals – approaching the spiraling obsessions of Syd Barrett, but not quite as scarily sad. The late bridge sounds forced – like McMahon intends on making his jaunt away from the initial melody work on the fly, no matter what. Buy, again, it’s perfect, haunting. Other songs seem to meander like a quiet walk through some Japanese gardens, late at night or before Dawn, like the quiet, smiling “I Know Myself,” or a night spent calmly tossing, turning, thinking – insomniatic – in “Lilac In Hand.”
McMahon collaborated with a few noted iconoclasts for “Love,” including members of Iceage and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and the result is a much more full, exciting record than past work.
Amen Dunes will be playing at Lost Lake Tavern (3602 E Colfax Ave, Denver, Colorado 80206) Monday night, July 14, along with Axxa/Abraxas and Prism Waves at 8:30 PM (Tickets – $8 in advance, $10 DOS). Don’t miss a chance to catch what will likely be a bigger scene very soon.
Jack Name’s “Light Show,” released january 21, is some heady psychedelic stuff.
Free this Saturday night (February 1)? Not any more, you’re not.
Time for you to get your Gary Numan-meets-Alice Cooper groove on and go see Jack Name (aka John Webster John – touring as guitarist with White Fence) – opening for Dent May – at the Hi-Dive. Seriously, this Los Angeles psych-soothsayer promises to grab anyone in the audience for his set with some heavy electronic psychedelia, all wrapped in a heady David Lynch mist – guaranteed to leave you with a somewhat uncomfortable, but warm, contact buzz.
Name’s opus, “Light Show,” released January 21, is a journey through a post-apocalyptic city being cleansed by rival gangs, narrated in a type of narcotic stupor by that world’s savior. Ambitious and psychotropic, to be sure, but that’s not the important part right now.
What’s important for you to know, as you will be experiencing name’s journey on the small Hi-Dive stage, is that, musically, this album is brilliant. It may take a listen or two, but the glam-rock-Broadway sound of this epic eats into your brain pretty quickly. On the second or third listen, I couldn’t help but imagine a Brian Eno meth head streaming down Road Warrior highways, one ear constantly wired to a never-ending playlist that includes Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth, Gary Numan, Alice Cooper and Rocky Horror, in an endless shuffle.
Putting Name in the driver’s seat of that imagery, it’s no wonder he might feel he’s that world’s savior. He not only speaks the language of the savage gang, but hums the music of their simultaneous salvation and destruction. How he intends to get this across to an undoubtedly mouthy buzz crowd at the Hi-Dive is challenging – but is it something you want to risk missing?
Beware of Darkness is on the upswing – and just appeared in Denver last week. (Photo: Rebecca Joelson)
LA’s Beware of Darkness played the Larimer Lounge a few days ago, and those of you who were there no doubt saw a hi-energy performance that will likely be relegated to many “Were you there when…” threads of conversation soon enough. If you haven’t heard of them yet, it’s probably just a matter of time before you will. Beware of Darkness is on an upswing – and that’s a good thing.
Their hometown pedigree notwithstanding, this power trio has a lot going for it that actually sets them apart from the usual LA fare. Remember Mother Love Bone – the proto-grunge glam-metal outfit fronted by Andrew Wood that spawned most of Pearl Jam (and arguably the Seattle explosion itself)? Beware follows in those pretty large footsteps, and adds some Black Crowes swagger, and almost Beatles-esque songwriting on their debut record. “Orthodox.” Heavy in guitar, this record is a solid, straight up rock ‘n roll record. Sure, there are debut record shortcomings, but the overall feeling of this one is that it’ll lead to more good stuff from the band.
The first single, “Howl,” bleeds Billy Corgan with it’s central riff, but quickly evolves into a raucus scream, not self-conscious at all. Other tracks like “Sweet Girl” smack of pop, while others wax anthemic – like “Amen Amen” or “All Who Remain” – and don’t carry the swagger through, but the balance of this record makes for a strong debut.
I got the change recently to speak with an erudite and delightful Kyle Nicolaides – frontman/guitarist from – as he re-strung his guitar for the Denver show, and learned a few things about the beautifuyl women in Denver and the power of the Used Record Bin.
Read on, to get a taste, below the link to the strong “Holy Men” (not on the new record):
DenverThread: How’s the tour going?
Kyle Nicolaides: “Great – Denver is one of our favorite places to play…. Everything seems so healthy here – Denver has the most beautiful women in any of the places we’ve played…”
DT: Coming from an LA native, that means a lot.
KN: “But it’s a different kind of beauty – it’s a natural beauty. It feels organic here. It’s nice. Walking down the street, it seems everyone is just leaving their yoga class or something.”
KN: “It has everything to do with it- I got that record at Amoeba. An y’know when I was growing up in Santan Barbara, all the CDs were like $20 – that’s why people are pirating music, by the way – and when I got to LA, I went to Amoeba records, and found the used bins. They’re a musical lifesaver – and when you’re broke, the used record bins are beautiful. You can lay down a few bucks for a cd – or less – and learn about so much music. That’s where I got the record, and it just stayed with me – especially that song. That record really stuck with me – it was like the first one I’d found that actually tried to express someone’s belief system with pop music – tried to make someone’s life a little better.”
KN: “It’s so important – y’know – I remember I was on Wilshire in LA one day when we were thinking of a band name, and I saw the record and the title “Beware of Darkness,” and I thought – hey, that could be a cool name. And it means so much, too – about watching out for negativity & all that.
DT: And George Harrison has always been that way – always so deep, spiritual, and so often so underrated…
KN: “Yeah! And the title of that song is so much like our music, my attitude. I mean, it’s “BE AWARE” of the darkness. Y’know, you can choose not to fall into the darkness. I just feel like there are so many people who don’t realize they have that choice, y’know? Life is like that – you can meet a challenge, or deal with something by choosing to take it on, or you can react in a programmed, reactionary way. Life is like that, and so is our music.”
DT: Does the name get a few heads to turn? It seems like such a typical Doom/Metal/sludge sounding name – which your band decidedly is not.
I like Smashing Pumpkins, but I’m not the biggest fan of Nirvana. I mean, when these bands were playing, I wasn’t even conscious!
KN: “Yeah – everyone always thinks we’re going to be some thrash metal band – and obviously we’re not. Every time we go to the UK, as soon as they hear our name they laugh. And – even now – the sound guy here is blasting metal out there while I’m re-stringing. I had to tell them they had to get this guy to stop playing metal. It’s like he’s warming up the crowd…and we’re not that band.”
KN: “That’s so funny, ‘cause i never listened to them [all those ’90s bands]. I mean, I like Smashing Pumpkins, but I’m not the biggest fan of Nirvana. I mean, when these bands were playing, I wasn’t even conscious! I liked some of the Alice in Chains from then, but just the acoustic stuff, and a little Soundgarden – but everyone hears that sound in us.”
DT: It’s not a bad thing, necessarily – I think it might be your huge guitar sound – and you have an almost Black Crowes or Mick Jagger swagger in your voice and guitar – so there’s a’60s base and a ‘90s cover, maybe.
KN: “When we recorded this album, I was listening to Fiona Apple and David Bowie more than anything else. But we do get the ’90s comparison a lot.”
DT: You sound a lot older than your media kit makes you look – you’re obviously a thoughtful person. How old are you?
KN: “Thanks! I just turned 23, actually.”
DT: Well – you’re a man wise beyond his years – both musically and phiolosophically (as much as I can get from a 10- minute chat, anyway).
KN: “I hope – I believe that’ll serve me well – that it’ll turn out good for me, and help me through a lot of things. I think so. I’m a pretty positive person.”
DT: I do, too. Just keep digging through the used record bins, and you’ll never really get old.
Flume will fill the Fox with some purple bliss during tonight’s SOLD OUT show. (Photo: Flume)
Judging by his electronic wizardry, Flume is definitely a product of the i-generation. Born in 1991, Harley Streten has never known a world without the internet, and might just be one of the poster children of an era that’s (maybe) destined to be the fastest-growing humans ever. Streten’s taken his piece of it (so far) and created a smooth, appealing world of sonic bliss. His world floats above bass-heavy rhythms and soulful vocal samples, approaching the weight of dubstep, but never succumbing (or making you succumb) to the urge to blast beat the fuck out of the entire landscape.
In short, Flume is a well-earned break from dubstep, the music you hear after crawling back into the sunlight from a candy-coated world of wub and thump, still fresh from whichever mindwrench you used to make sense of the beats, sounds, screeches, bodies and grinds of the night before. These afternoons, as you walk back to your dorm room in broad daylight to sleep, everything looks like it was cleaned, dusted, new and exciting – in a calm, easy way. And your mind makes the music of Flume while you acclimate.
In case you don’t know what we’re talking about (and we’re sure you do), check out the video below to get a taste. Streten is wrapping up the western US leg of a world tour Saturday night (9/7) at the Fox Theatre in Boulder (sorry, it’s officially SOLD OUT). Get there to catch the breeze yourself, too (you can hang out on the Hill). RIFYL Youth Lagoon, Washed Out, Com Truise, Darkstar.
Here’s more bio from Flume’s tour PR: “Flume got his first taste for producing at age 13 from the most unlikely of places – a music production program he found in a cereal box. Taking a no-holds-barred attitude to music creation, Flume takes inspiration from a wide variety of sources and scenes distilling his sound into a melodic bass heavy style that is uniquely his own.
Flume … is equally popular in his native Australia, with across the board support from national alternative broadcaster Triple J and taste-making community stations and blogs. His debut EP ‘Sleepless’ was soft released in August 2011 and enjoyed the #1 on the iTunes Australia Electronic Chart for several weeks and was in the top 10 for several months.
Flume’s production ability is matched by his live show, which has come into full effect after touring with the xx, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs and Chet Faker as well as numerous Australian festival performances (including Parklife, Splendour in the Grass), a couple of sold-out Australian tours and eight acclaimed showcases at this year’s CMJ conference.
In response to my (admittedly) short-shrift email interview questions, Buildings drummer Travis Kuhlman returned a few short answers. I deserved it (see the whole thing, below) – lugging around a day job doesn’t bode well for blogs (especially when said job requires enough sleep to warrant missing more of the late night than I’ve been used to for a while). At least his answers came back as quickly as they were quick – and smarter.
The most revealing – or poignant (trust me, not a word I’d ever anticipated using in relation to this trio)? In response to my query: “Bigger influence: Scratch Acid/Jesus Lizard or Big Black? Thoughts? Others?” Kuhlman replied: “They’re all great. Although we sound more like Jesus Lizard, not a terrible band to sound like eh?”
Of course he’s right on all counts – but particularly in his description of Buildings’ sound. They do sound most like The Jesus Lizard (thankfully so), but they also wrap in a pound or so of Pissed Jeans, METZ and some unmistakable Steve Albini noise, to boot. The Minneapolis trio do a wonderful job of not only recharging the sound and chaos of these bands, they also push it just a little further. Not too much yet, but they’re still young – their debut album “Braille Animal” only appeared in 2008, followed in early 2012 with the current “Melt, Cry, Sleep.”
This latest offering (yeah, it’s almost 2 years old – so?) is a consistent, soggy sledgehammer, and it’s a perfect rendition of the play on book/movie titles in its moniker After a listen, I have no doubt that Singer Brian Lake – much like David Yow – is much more prone to follow the record title’s path than to get anywhere near an “Eat, Pray, Love” situation (or anywhere near Julia Roberts, either, though I could be wrong about that).
The latest record – “Melt, Cry, Sleep” – is not a romantic memoir. Not at all.
“Born On A Bomb” slaps you around a little, maybe with a stoneware coffee mug in its large hand, after which “Invocation” solidifies the Jesus Lizard comparison (bass player Sayer Payne – who has since left the band to be replaced by Ryan Harding – is the spittin’ sonic image of David Wm. Sims all over this record, and maybe nowhere as much as here). “Mishaped Head” drives the nail further into your forehead, and then “Night Cop” pours on the concrete.
Buildings will be at the Lost Lake Lounge tonight (Wednesday, August 21), and you may want to wear a hard hat. Based on what we’ve heard, the trio is aptly named – since they tend towards destroying buildings from the inside with a chaotic act. It’s almost a little miracle they are planning to play this show, considering the tour they’ve had. The van was broken into in San Francisco (personal items and more were stolen – you can donate at PayPal using the email@example.com email to help them recoup, if you so desire), Lake somehow damaged his head at the band’s performance at Total Fest in Montana, and tourmates Hawks’ Mike Keenan injured an ankle in Seatlle. Needless to say, the bands feel a little spooked, but more than happy to soldier on.
Travis Kuhlman –They’re all great. Although we sound more like The Jesus Lizard, not a terrible band to sound like eh?
DT – This tour seems to have been a royal pain in the ass – but sometimes these circumstances turn into great epics. Would you say this tour is going in that direction? Or are y’all about ready to crawl into a bed for a week and shut out the world?
TK –It’s been a very rough tour. I honestly think that if Hawks didn’t join us halfway through we might be at home right now. People have been very generous to us and supportive, there’s still people who care about independent bands after all!
DT – Can you give us a quick rundown of tour life this time around?
TK –Hot, very long drives, very nice folk
DT – What happened to Brian’s head, and is it ok?
TK –Something happened at Total Fest in missoula, not quite sure what’s wrong with it but it doesn’t work at all. Just pile it on the “bad let’s blow more money shit pile.”
DT – What’s your assessment – as a band – of the genre in which you find yourselves, related to (maybe annoyingly) Pissed Jeans, METZ and the like? Obviously you make the music that you love – but what are your thoughts on that sludge/punk/noise “genre” that seems to be gaining some traction (and do you agree it is)?
TK –I think its great, sub pop better fucking sign us, like, sooner than later.
DT – What’s on the van cd player on this tour? What’s on your car stereo when you’re home?
TK –We listen to all kinds of stuff. Its best to not listen to loud music all the time in the van, kinda drives you a little mental. At home its the same. It’s good to chill out to some The Band or Neil Young every now and then. There’s been a lot of No Means No and Pygmy Shrews lately.
Hi-Strung are on their way to becoming one of Denver’s best, behind Samantha Doom’s bass and insight.
Concept albums often seem to ride a dangerous road – too easy to marginalize of the story doesn’t carry, or if it’s too sentimental. Too easy to ridicule if the story takes over the music. Too easily misunderstood – and therefore run over roughshod by critics. Which is why it’s pretty refreshing to listen to Denver band Hi-Strung’s brand new effort “Malfunction.” Nine songs – more bits and pieces of lead singer/bassist/songstress Samantha “Doom” Donen’s interpretation of the inevitable effects of romance – strung together to tell a story we’re all way too familiar with.
Doom has a long history in the Denver scene, having played with bands like Overcasters, Hexen, The Blackouts and others since moving here from Canada. Hi-Strung is her first self-driven project, and well-deserved. “Malfunction” is the first of (hopefully) many efforts – also a side effect of Doom’s period of recovery from a major accident a few years ago. The new record’s a fitting tribute to that recovery – solid, strong, haunting and unique.
“Malfunction” is Hi-Strung’s symphonic post-punk new release. Hits the streets March 16, 2013.
Starting with the giddily and appropriately named “Happy,” this record travels down the rabbit hole of a weekend – or a lifetime – as the main character stumbles through what Hi-Strung seems to believe is the inevitability of heartbreak, disarray and finally self-discovery through annihilation – “Kamikaze” style – that comes with love.
It’s a common theme, for sure – one of Rock n’ Roll’s cardinal themes – which makes it easy to relate to, but also opens the band up to overwhelming commonalities – and potential obscurity. Fortunately, Doom and the rest of the band – Danielle Wells on cello Shane Hartman (Black Lamb) on drums, Brian Fausett (Hexen) on guitar and Maia Fortis on electric violin and vox – portray the story with a strong symphonic pop hook and intriguing post-punk flavor. Wells’ cello weaves in and out of the wail of Fortis’ brilliant violin, both of which are accented by Fausett’s solid psychedelic guitar work. The mix is almost cinematic, infectuos and definitely becomes subdural.
Doom’s vocals – sometimes she evokes the more guttural side of Johnette Napolitano, others just a little like Dale Bozio, but always strong, haunting – anchor the band and the tale alongside her heavy, thumping bass and Hartman’s thunderous drums. There are times – in the midst of the frenetically beautiful “Snap,” or the wailing “Malfunction,” for instance, that she leaves the music and becomes the voice in your own head, swirling in the whirlpool of misread intentions and dashed hopes that too often become the trademark of romance. The buildup half of the album – “Happy” (the elation of new prospects, excitement, hope), “Weird” (assimilating the other person) “Big Bang” (the lust session, appropriately) and “Lullaby” mimic the early “salad days” well – with almost Shakespearian progress. When you hit “Snap,” you know where the main character is headed, and Hi-Strung does a fantastic job breaking the whole thing open.
Samantha Doom on thunderstick and heartbreak, in front of Hi-Strung.
Sir Richard Burton’s “George” in Edward Albee‘s brilliant “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff,” one of cinema’s most poignant representations of the drama that envelopes our bleary visions of love in comparison to the realities of our relationships – spoke of “Historical inevitability.” In his case it was the central theme of his life, made real by the constant cuckolding and malformed hell of the relationship he shared with Elizabeth Taylor’s “Martha.” No – I’m not equating “Malfunction” with as long-standing and weighty a masterpiece as “Wolff,” but there’s definitely a sharing of minds between Doom’s and Burton’s vision of the trappings of romance. Both are believers, it seems in the historical inevitability of heartbreak.
In Hi-Strung’s case, though, there’s a light at the end – where the character of this tale emerges from the mess newly aware, after killing herself (romantically speaking) in “Kamikaze.” If this record’s any indication, there seems to also be some bright, exciting light looming for this band as well.
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds announced the February release of their first new record since 2008 – “Push The Sky Away.”
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds are scheduled to release a new record – their 15th overall and first since 2008’s “Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!”“Push The Sky Away” will drop on February 18th (February 19th in the US). They’ve also announced some North American tour dates, including one at the Ogden on April 3rd (tickets on sale Thursday, December 6th at 10:00 am).
About the record, Cave said “… if I were to use that threadbare metaphor of albums being like children, then Push The Sky Away is the ghost-baby in the incubator and Warren’s loops are its tiny, trembling heart-beat.” As evidenced by the mystically intriguing cover and Cave’s remark, it seems we can expect brilliant new offering from the band. But see for yourself. Check out the streaming version of the record’s first single, “We No Who U R,” below, and take a gander at the trailer below that.
The new record was produced by Nick Launay (who also produced “Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!”and the two Grinderman albums) and recorded at La Fabrique, a studio located in a 19th Century mansion in the South of France. Reportedly, the walls of the main studio are lined with an shamefully desirable collection of classical vinyl. And the setting seems to have lent the warm, emotive spirit of all of that vinyl to its performance, if the first single is an accurate portrayal of the rest of the tracks.
Another insight from Cave about the new piece: “I enter the studio with a handful of ideas, unformed and pupal; it’s the Bad Seeds that transform them into things of wonder,” he explained. “Ask anyone who has seen them at work. They are unlike any other band on earth for pure, instinctive inventiveness.”
Take a look, and pre-order “Push The Sky Away.” Talk about a great Christmas idea….
The reason for the separation between release and Dance Party, actually, is mostly the band’s recently (well, actually, consistently) busy schedule. Frontman – and Denver enigma – David Eugene Edwards is not only leading the newly re-formed four piece, but is also an intrinsic part of the re-genesis of legendary Australian band Crime and the City Solution, alongside some other musical heavy hitters like C&CS founder Simon Bonney, Alexander Hacke (most famously of Einstürzende Neubauten – and this latest record’s producer) and his wife, artist & vocalist Danielle de Picciotto, Jim White (of Dirty Three) and more. The Bonney-led rebirth of the band is big news – on the supergroup scale for post punk – and it’s taken an understandable amount or Edwards’ time.
Still – Wovenhand is alive and strong, maybe stronger than ever. After 2010’s The Threshingfloor and some lengthy touring worldwide, longtime bassist – and longtime friend – Pascal Humbert quit to take on his family’s French vineyards and guitarist Peter van Laerhoven left as well, leaving Edwards and drummer Ordy Garrison alone with the keys. For The Laughing Stalk, the group added new bassist Gregory Garcia Jr and additional guitarist Chuck French (of Git Some, Planes Mistaken for Stars and more). The result has been called “… the most heavy incarnation” of Wovenhand, ever (which is saying something, considering the band’s characteristic gravity), but there’s more than a hint of levity in the mix now, too – and much joy.
We talked to Edwards recently about the C&CS project, touring, and some other things – but, most importantly, The Laughing Stalk. He had a lot to say about it, and so do we.
The Laughing Stalk jumps out of the gate immediately, almost joyous, with “Long Horn,” a rousing tune that envisages the beginning of a Western adventure, speeding across wide, sweeping landscapes – atop horses, motorcycles or landspeeders, it doesn’t matter – the feeling is one of conquest, maybe even victory. Wovenhand always combine unique instrumentation with old folk tendencies, and lay them atop strong, driving Native American rhythms – but never more excitingly than with this record.
It sounds live – the whole record does, really, which was by design. About working with Hacke – with whom Edwards became friends out of the C&CS project – the band has nothing but respect.
“Hacke is great – no complaints. Of course he’s brilliant at what he does,” said Edwards. “But he was happy to not have to change much after we recorded it.”
“It was recorded differently than our other records; Hacke didn’t have to change much – which he liked,” he explained. “He added his… ‘special sauce,’ of course – especially in the low end, cause that’s where he lives – but not much more.”
“We recorded this one basically live, because everyone has always asked for a live album,” Edwards added. “The live shows are so much different than the records, they have a different feel – everyone keeps asking for that. And I’ve never liked live recordings – so we put this together that way. We think it’s a good result.”
Edwards with Wovenhand in Greece, July 2012 (Photo: E. Patsialos)
The Native American influence has long been a constant in Edwards’ compositions and performance – a mainstay. Is it born out of lineage, or upbringing, or both? According to Edwards, it’s a little of both; it’s as much a part of his internal makeup as it is a part of the landscape.
“There’s some Native American in my lineage, but more on the peripheral,” he explained. “It was something we grew up with, that was important in my life, in my parents’ lives and in family. It’s always been something they – we – were proud of. There’s no real spiritual significance to it, though. It comes in through the blood … but also from where we are.”
It’s no surprise to Edwards that this record emanates a lighter, more exuberant feel than previous Wovenhand material. It starts at the title.
“It’s [the title] meant to be light, to imply a little comedy,” he explained. “This record… reflects my current situation, where my life is right now. It’s joyful, filled with humor.”
“In The Temple” is a perfect case in point. This piece is anthemic – on a level with what bands like Coldplay might feel like they’re playing (instead of the sentimental and mostly vacuous treacle they really are). It lifts your heart rate from the first squalls of its almost church-organ base, and continues to build – tempting you to begin speaking in tongues in response to Edwards’ witnessing.
The feeling continues to rise with the onset of “King O King,” maybe the only tune on the record that reflects Wovenhand’s 2010 tour with Tool. With its force, this is the record’s most evident victory march – replete with biblical proclamations in its verses, and significant liberation in the chorus.
Chuck French with Wovenhand, Greece, July 2012 (Photo: E. Patsialos)
Wovenhand shares much of its personality with Joy Division – in fact, their ability to cover the legendary Manchester post punk icons without coming across disingenuously or awful (sadly, this is the case with too many other bands that attempt to cover JD’s material) is unmatched – especially live. For a taste on record, look to “Truth” (actually a New Order song – but one written in the shadow of Ian Curtis’s suicide) on The Threshingfloor. For an even more intoxicating example, catch them live to see if they cover “Heart and Soul,” a semi-constant, fantastic piece.
That said, “Closer,” the fifth track on The Laughing Stalk, isn’t meant to relate to Joy Division’s last album of the same name. Rather, this song is a meditation on a Biblical verse: Proverbs 18:24 – “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,/but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
“It’s something I’ve been singing/playing, between songs, for about the last two years,” Edwards pointed out. “We just put it together into a whole song.”
The result is an isolated, private treatise of gratitude, it seems, to someone in his life. Quiet, desperate; the song emotes a powerful mantra, anchored in Garrison’s incongruent drumming and whispy guitar, ending with a nod to early Echo and the Bunnymen, from a Dylan perspective.
“Maize” settles in next – a song that’s in itself a play on its title. Native American-influenced rhythms match feet running through a looping maze, lead by a beautifully creepy piano, while Edwards describes awe of the height and depth of the canyon through which the Philistines pursued Samson – in Judges 15 – before he turned on them and “… Finding a fresh jawbone of a donkey, he grabbed it and struck down a thousand men.” The sound inspires such a clear vision of the pursuit, the massacre, and the rage of the giant hero at the refusal of his Delilah – and the ultimate victory he feels after laying wast to a thousand men.
The official CD Release Dance poster – by Ryan Mowry. 40 of these glorious prints (2 color, 18×24, screen printed on speckletone oatmeal french paper, signed and numbered) will be on sale at the show. (Photo: Sounds Familyre)
And the song sits at the acme of the record – aptly named as the product of such a mirthful stalk.
A close second plateau is the punk/folk “As Wool,” a fun romp that promises to be memorable live. From the drums to the thick, faster chords and guitar lick of the song’s verses, to Edwards’ playful preaching, this one harkens back to a more aggressive, simpler – yet no less purpose-filled – time.
After the release party at The Oriental this Friday night, Wovenhand are off on a West Coast tour, and then get a well-deserved break for the Holidays. It’s been busy for Edwards.
“I just got back – and just had gotten back the last time we left again. I’m busy – unusually busy, for me – which is something I try not to be,” he said. “We’re touring the West coast after Friday night – San Diego, San Francisco, Tucson, Santa Fe, Los Angeles and other places out there.”
After the Holidays, it’s back on the road again for Edwards, along with Crime & the City Solution, followed by the release of the supergroup’s full album, slated to drop in the spring.
About his experience with Bonney and the rest of the Crime crew:
“The experience has been great. I mean, it’s a lot of big stuff, big people – it’s a pretty large project,” he said. “It’s going well – we like how it’s turning out.”
Need some proof? Listen to the album’s the epic “Maize,” below, and then head out to the Oriental Theater Friday night.
Night of Joy, Achille Lauro, Black Postcards (Local); Lee Ranaldo, Willis Earl Beal, Jeffrey Lewis (not local)
Well – This post we’ve got a bucket of sounds, and none too soon (having missed a while – our apologies)…. This one features a slew of locals – two from the same label (Hot Congress) and another totally DIY group that’s almost too new … but has promise. It also features a pile of national acts – a few coming to town soon, but all should be traversing your grey matter between you headphones – if not already, then soon….
Almost forcefully thrust through the 12 songs by a sledgehammered rhythm section laid out by bassist Bree Davies and drummer Fez Garcia, guitarist/vocalist Valerie Franz pulls sounds out of her guitar that make it seem like it’s been yanked into to life – and it’s none too happy. The squealing strings, impossible, hammered chords and purposely sloppy licks compliment her passionate, screeching, perfectly rough vocals.
At first Franz’s ambitious gravel growl could be mistaken for a posturing, Sleater-Kinney-esque anger. Wrong. She’s simply, forcefully passionate about these 12 songs – and it feels like she’s pretty passionate about the life behind them as well – and the vocals match the stringwork perfectly. Hardcore Girls is an ambitious, strong debut – also recalling a just a little Misfits and Minutemen as well as a little Sonic Youth in song construction – and, more than anything, it bleeds with the fun the trio obviously had making it.
Tip: Get a load of Davies’ Kim-Deal-eat-your-heart-out vocals in the twelfth song – a brilliant cover of one of The Breeders’ best. It started a whole week (and running) vinyl & CD revival of the Deal sisters’ work around here…
Check out Night of Joy’s video for the single John Candy below:
Achille Lauro are another band that’s been pretty active in Denver for a while – albiet a little longer than Night of Joy. They’ve built a pretty strong local fan base, too – a result of relentless gig-booking and local activism, no doubt. Well, that, and the fact that their music is imminently danceable, and actually makes you feel good – in an almost this-John-Hughes-tale-is-for-real way. The quartet’s latest record, Flight or Flight, also available from Hot Congress now, is a strong example of sweet, atmospheric rock, and replicates a sound that’s as much based in Sting’s jazz as Bjork and Yeasayer psyche-pop.
Live, the Mossman brothers – Luke on guitar/vocals and Ben on drums/vocals, along with Matt Close (guitar) and Jon Evans (vocals/bass) – make probably Denver’s best party band. That sound – hopeful, fun, careless – is caught pretty well on Flight, as as the songs’ clean, well-formed constructions. “Low Cha Cha” serves as a cautionary tail, the story of a clueless entourage-crasher, that stretches just a little too long – a brilliant echo of the annoying, time-wasting character. “Lightning” is destined to make more than a few party mixes – it evokes the perfect early Spring/Summer feeling of getting out into the quad and soak up the sun and throw around a frisbee. “Goddess an Island” is also a standout, begging for a top-down ride through middle of the city as the lights begin to go out in earnest. The whole record elicits unbidden feelings of relief, a “fuck it all, let’s just enjoy what we have now” feeling – without the impending fear of hangover.
Get your copy on Hot Congress’s website, and take a breather, then catch Achille Lauro at the Larimer Lounge on April 3. Meanwhile, enjoy this clip of “Lightning.”
Black Postcards - Inside the Shadow Box EP
Black Postcards – Inside the Shadow Box EP
The first EP from a local group just getting off the ground, “Inside the Shadow Box” shows a great deal of promise for Black Postcards. It’s definitely a good, somewhat psychedelic, heavily guitar-based work that showcases Candace Horgan’s skill. Horgan seems to wield the guitar like a fountain pen, writing strong, emotional prose in calligraphy, and then pure technical jargon with the same panache.
The single downside to the band’s overall sound is an unfortunately inescapable vocal comparison to Cat Stevens or Steve Winwood – which stand apart from the really strong songwriting and composition. In and of itself, vocalist Justin Newport’s performance is great – solid, strong, confident. But it just doesn’t go with the style of music Horgan and bassist/drummer/guitarist Adam Brinkman have worked together into such an appealing mix.
That said, the three songs ( and a remix) on this CD are inescapably infectious – and can hook you from the first listen. Maybe there’s a method to Newport’s unique pairing with the catchy guitar licks?
But that’s what first EPs are for, right? Listen to the EP opener, “Let Go…” and see what you think.
[wpaudio url=”http://www.denverthread.com/wp-content/themes/mimbo/sounds/Let Go ….mp3″ text=”Black Postcards – Let Go …”]
And now, on to more National releases that stand out about now:
Jeffrey Lewis - A Turn in the Dream - Songs
Jeffrey Lewis – A Turn in the Dream – Songs
(This one’s not so new – having been released last October – but is new to us, and worth a discussion. Sometimes even we have to circle back.)
If you remember Steven Tunney – also known as Dogbowl – with any sort of affection, you’re likely to warm up to Jeffrey Lewis. And, of course, if you’re a fan of Moldy Peaches (they “discovered” Lewis for Rough Trade around 2002), you’re probably already in his living room. Lewis, like Tunney, weaves childlike stories behind folky, singalong instrumentation led by his acoustic guitar that reflect heartbreak, rumination, rights-of-passage and commentary in the vernacular of strict adolescent logic. At least on the surface.
By his own admission, this collection of tunes is Lewis’s first time really wrangling pop songs – and he does the hook musically, it turns out, just about as well as he has lyrically and comically in the past.
Each of these 13 songs are small, poignant and incredibly catchy experiences in themselves, begging to be compared to Daniel Johnston’s brilliant lovesongs – and the comparison is valid. But Lewis comes across just a tad more conceived, rather than just spit out the way Johnston’s come across (perhaps the result of less medication, and an ultra-hip Brooklyn upbringing). Take the brilliant “Time Trades,” “Cult Boyfriend” and “When You’re By Yourself,” for example. These three are typical of the record, and fundamentally easier to swallow (even) than his earlier work – simultaneously more and less Mountain Goats, if you know what I mean. And the destined-for-classic “Krongu Green Slime.” To say too much about this one would be automatic spoiler material.
And – if you’re not familiar with Steven Tunney (Dogbowl, remember?) – but like Lewis, here’s a tip: Trey and find “Tit: An Opera,” or – even more grandiose and ridiculous – the novel Flan, and its accompanying CD of songs about the destruction of one person’s world, from a 6-year-old-in a 30-year-old-body’s perspective.
Here’s Lewis’s “Cult Boyfriend” from the record:
Lee Ranaldo - Between The Times And The Tides
Lee Ranaldo – Between the Time and the Tides
The fact that Lee Ranaldo’s latest solo work opens with the line “Coming in from Colorado” should be enough for the uninitiated – at least here in Denver – to listen to it, and then stay for the characteristic guitar work and solid song writing. After a simple, unassuming noodle, the opener “Waiting On A Dream” almost immediately explodes into something you’d almost expect on the next Sonic Youth record. It’s a perfect way to start this one, though, and it gives way to a truly varied, confident effort for the longtime noise innovator.
And that, actually, brings up a thought I couldn’t stop entertaining as I listened – over and over – to this record: With the uncertain status of Sonic Youth, as a result of Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore’s breakup, and the fact that both Moore and Ranaldo have released strong solo efforts in the past year, how many of these songs would have been on the next SY record? In that light, it could have been difficult to listen to “Between the Times and the Tides” objectively… but the songs stand so well on their own.
The album’s first apex, “Xtina As I Knew Her” is a seven-minute anthem that recounts a story of heady post-adolescent house-partying, reminiscent of the film “The Virgin Suicides,” but more sinister. It also brings back a feel of “Daydream Nation” in its balladry, with a backdrop of wicked, looping guitar licks on what sounds like hundreds of channels. “Angles” carries a slight nod to Dinosaur Jr., with some extra noisy jamming that evokes ‘70s rock, and “Fire Island (phases)” and “Lost (planet Nice)” both add a solid accessibility to the record with their strong, guitar-based pop hooks.
To balance any sign of levity, though, Ranaldo has included two psychedelic, biographic ballads in “Hammer Blows” and “Stranded,” acoustic numbers that – while they won’t likely define this record – show his introspective side, and a shade of Neil Young while he’s at it.
This is a solid, addictive record – whether you’re a Sonic Youth fan or not – and hopefully stands as a hint to what we can see from Ranaldo in the future, regardless of that other band’s status.
Check out the album’s opener, “Waiting On A Dream,” here.
[wpaudio url=”http://www.denverthread.com/wp-content/themes/mimbo/sounds/Waiting On A Dream.mp3″ text=”Lee Ranaldo – Waiting On A Dream”]
Willis Earl Beal - Acousmatic Sorcery
Willis Earl Beal – Acousmatic Sorcery
The spectacle of Willis Earl Beal is on the rise, and deservedly so. Beal recently told Pitchfork that he wants to be “the black Tom Waits,” and if the position’s open, he’s a shoe-in. Add a dash of Jay-Z (if he recorded in a bathroom stall in the back of a dive), and more Jandek than Daniel Johnston, and you have an idea of where Beal is coming from.
He lives with his grandmother in the South side of Chicago, and is locally famous for posting hand-drawn flyers (now replicated on his website) that invite you to call him for a song, or write him to receive a drawing (and the drawings aren’t bad at all, either – look at the video below). His debut record, Acousmatic Sorcery, will drop on April 3, from Hot Charity – an imprint of the Adele-infused XL Records indie label – and it’s one to definitely watch for.
Painfully D.I.Y. (and by “painfully,” I mean something more akin to “brilliantly”), the 11 songs will lead you through a mind and spirit that knows no real reason not to do what he’s doing, and that’s what may give it it’s most endearing power. Acousmatic Sorcery is replete with a tantalizing lack of pretense, and feels real, rough and honest in a way not too many records feel nowadays. “Cosmic Queries” is a meditation that brings to mind both the late Gil-Scott Heron (vocally) and John Coltrane (evangelically). “Evening’s Kiss” is innocent, summer longing, and pairs well with the spiritual backyard soliloquy of “Monotony,” while “Sambo Joe From the Rainbow” evokes a young Nat King Cole, crooning in an afternoon hotel room over a ukelele.
Beal’s music is so easily visceral it’s almost hard not to have very specific visions in response.
Beal will be opening for SBTRKT on April 10, at Boulder’s Fox Theater, on his first tour. Check him out – and take a look at the video below for a teaser.
Kissing Party’s latest record, “Waster’s Wall,” still reflects a little more Belle & Sebastian than it’s probably meant to. And I’m putting that out there right away because of Gregg Dolan’s reported frustration with that comparison. But it’s not mired in the Brit-pop band’s lo-fi jangle. For this record, the four-piece seems to have pulled out a little early New Order to add to a bright pop sound that’s sort of becoming a Denver music trademark (albeit for just one of the many active genres in town). There’s also a nod to the Velvet Underground’s legendary eponymous album – particularly in Dolan’s vocals, and particularly behind the songs “Gold Holes,” as well as a heavy Mercury Rev vibe.
Actually – despite Dolan’s frustration with the first comparison – these are all big names to be pulling some of your musical influence from, and he should be proud. And the whole band should be proud of “Waster’s Wall,” probably one of Denver’s best of 2011 in our opinion. The record also has our vote for one of the best pieces of cover art – ever.