Friday, January 19, 2018

Music Review: QWAM "Feed Me"

I was first introduced to the music of QWAM by their single "Doggie Door", which is this over the top fun type of sing-along punk rock song.   It's just... I'm sitting here, typing this review before the release date of this EP and so as it stands right now I can see the five songs listed on the Bandcamp but the only one I can stream is "Doggie Door" and it's just such a great way to introduce yourself to this band.   If this single doesn't immediately make you want to listen to more songs by QWAM then we can't be friends anymore.

Now here is where things get interesting.   I always like to look at life from two different standpoints: before and after certain major life changes.   The last few months of 2017 were particularly tough for me.    An example of one of these life changes would be something like "Life before I was divorced and life after I'm divorced".   So many of these changes hit me all at once though, at the end of 2017.   So I had heard this EP and even fell in love with the song "Doggie Door" prior to moving, which was one of the worst/most stressful events in my life so far.   Listening to this before I moved and now that I have moved are two strangely different yet same things.

When I pressed play on a private stream of this, the first song "Feed Me" reminded me of the song "Belly Please" by Birthing Hips, but I'm not going to let that stop me from enjoying this because the more we promote women eating the better we all shall be.    As we then go further into this EP, really, you have to understand that you've already got two out of these five songs embedded into your brain in a way (Because, really, if I'm in the business of doing "radio singles" or whatever, the titular track is the next one to go to) so now there are only three songs left for you to hear and that small amount does make me sad.

About two weeks before this EP was to debut, "Dirty Feet" was released as a single.   If you haven't heard the song by now, it's this great sing along with big guitar chords.   At my mark, that puts three of these five songs out there as being "singles", even though "Feed Me" was never officially released I still think I spent a lot more time writing about it than I did the Kings of Leon feeling "Dirty Feet" (which it turns out is a compliment)    So, really, there are only two songs you may feel like you haven't heard going into this EP and they are both just as great.   If you've heard the majority of the songs on an EP before it's released though, you know the rest will only fall into place.   Besides, if you know what QWAM stands for, you know this one will be loud and in your face and that's just how I like it.

$5 // //

Cassette Review: Miracle Swill "Capitalism is Dope" (Crass Lips Records)

Miracle Swill has the name of a product you would discover on an infomercial at 2 in the morning.   "Miracle Swill- It will cure all of your household needs!"   But how many times have you felt like that with music?  I feel like I constantly hear people say variations of "This is going to be bigger than The Beatles!" and then I listen to it only to find out it in fact just sounds like a poor rip off of The Beatles.   But music is a sell in that way, and I find it weird.   On one hand, you want people to listen to your music so you should believe in it and think it's the greatest.   At the same time, people who are overly obnoxious about it seem to have less great sounds.  (There is a balance which few find in self-promotion)

If there was a solid way to describe Miracle Swill, a straight and to the point genre to put them in or artist to compare them with then I don't think this cassette would be on Crass Lips.   Miracle Swill does not just defy genres, this music manages to create them.   It is creating so many new genres along the way I'm just trying to keep up.   So what does this sound like?  Well, I can give you a brief idea about it, but please note this is obviously another one of those situations (As all should be) that you simply need to hear it to fully grasp it.

These songs all tend to have beats behind them.   There is singing.   It's kind of got elements of pop to it, but there is also rock, hip hop and electronic.   If something hip hop based combined to form a song with Queen (Which, if Queen was around now I think they'd totally do a crossover with Tyler, The Creator) and then somehow these electronic bits got put in as well, you might have an idea of what this would sound like.   It's trip-hop, electro-pop, chillwave, vaporwave and at times even 8bit.    Drum machines and singing remind me of the band Beans (who I googled and ended up down a rabbithole about because there are *a lot* of bands named Beans, but the one I'm thinking of had an album on Skunk Ape Records called "Young Love Gone Terribly Wrong")

Through synth based pop loops, I hear these back and forth beats on "Engine Oil" which makes me think of that one popular hip hop song which I want to say was "black and gold", but for some reason I also hear "red and yellow" because of Hulkamania.    The song "Animal" has this fun. vibe to it  and could be taken from any sort of musical or broadway type of show I have yet to discover.    "Dog Barking" delivers with fast, distorted beats ala the "Run Lola, Run" soundtrack while a dog barks. 

There is this certain level of pop in these songs.  It's something like Owl City or Cute Is What We Aim For (Who I only really know for two songs, to be fair) but not the same since it has this appeal to it where I don't get sick of it after a few songs.   It has a more grounded approach to that particular style, as if you might not even hear it on the radio because it's not overly bubblegum.    And yet by the last song, we hear an acoustic number belted out in folk punk fashion. 

What I find impressive about Miracle Swill is that their sound might not seem on the surface like it fits together but they make it work.   And if you really think about it, there isn't that far of a stretch between drum machine beats into hip hop, synth keys into guitars, and then you take those into electronics, into video games, etc.   It's all so closely related but rarely ends up heard together.   If someone tried to put it together in the same song it might sound like two different songs and I've heard artists before try and combine styles in that manner and it just feels out of place but Miracle Swill (which is why you're watching this infomercial) just has that flow.

$5 // //

Cassette Review: Tommy Bell "Turkish Delight" (I Heart Noise)

When I was a kid, I feel like I heard a lot about Turkish Delight because it is some form of British candy, is it not?  I mean, the name "Turkish" would imply it's from Turkey, but I feel like watching the old "Chronicles of Narnia" cartoon as a kid, one of the main kids was kidnapped because he was tempted by Turkish Delight.  Is this something that actually happened or just another fever dream of mine?

In any case, this music doesn't really sound British (much like the label, I believe it is from Boston) and when I look at Discogs it says this was originally released on vinyl and CD back in 1996.   So twenty years later and it's back again courtesy of I Heart Noise.   Why bring it back?  Why not?  I'd rather hear something great I didn't know about twenty years ago than something modern and terrible.

Twenty years is a long time.  Twenty years ago I would've been sixteen.   The thing is, back then, music wasn't what it is now in terms of the internet so even though I was living in Connecticut and this was in Boston it makes sense as to why I hadn't heard about it until now.  It wasn't until the later 1990's and early '00's before I started really hearing about music outside of Mtv.   Well, aside from punk rock, but that's another story.

When this cassette begins it is loud and melodic.   Big, crunchy guitars make me think of Trail of Dead and Metz, which makes me believe it would fit in just as well now as it should have back in the mid-90's.    Rock n roll notes blare through as the radio changes stations.   The energy takes on a new level during the song "Spin", which is fairly experimental in terms of rock n roll and declares that the singer would rather be a spinstress. 

Trading back and forth on male and female lead vocals (and sometimes singing together), "Living For Today" comes out in this sound like The Replacements while "Sister Meringue" has a more straight forward rock sound.    "Blue Wing", however, has a definite blues sound combined with that of Black Sabbath and as we go on from there I hear some definite Jimmy Eat World coming out with the highs and lows and just general wild pace of it as well.

Through Side B of "Turkish Delight" the female vocals seem to have taken full control.   Grunge mixed with psych has enough energy to grab you by the balls and be a soundtrack from the 1990's like "10 Things I Hate About You", "Angus" or "Empire Records".   There is a bit of Cheap Trick before "Try Harder" comes on and it goes to a seemingly darker place where I can hear elements of Delta Dart.    We mellow out in an almost Lynyrd Skynyrd sounding song (but it turns into something much different) but then return back to the fog with heavy, metal (note the comma) sludge number. 

Music Review: IUGULA​-​THOR / CRONACA NERA "Abraxas Mortuary" (Signora Ward Records)

While I have been a fan of and listening to the music on Signora Ward Records for quite some time, I do believe this is my first time reviewing anything released by them.  I am trying to make a better initiative to stay up to date with releases from this point going forward, to give them a mention any way that I can if I cannot give them a proper review.   I looked back at all of my reviews from 2017, compared it with the Bandcamp Top 100 and realized how much I write about that no one else does.   Now, I feel going forward, it is time for me to write about even more music than ever before that no one else (probably) is.  Or, you know, at least not the reviews which are oversaturating the market.

IUGULA-THOR begins this split with some deep, lightsaber type of synths.   It drones but can also have this sort of marching rhythm to it.   There are screeches and laser shots fired.   On the third track, "In A Cunt Supermarket", it reminds me of a Stormtrooper death march but then there is still also this screechy feedback.    It could be imagined that we are trudging through the sewers as some bass notes come underneath the heavy layer of distortion.   It becomes haunted and slower, with a metal feel of feedback.   It can even become grinding, rattling, not too much unlike a locomotive and in that sense you can even hear the steam whistle blowing.

CRONACA NERA opens things with static darkness that feels like it is circling the drain.  Compared with the previous side, it feels a bit lighter but on the whole it is no where near being light.   It has a hollow sound to it, as if ghosts were trapped in the wind.    There is talking in the background of this but I cannot understand what is being said-- it's too far back there.    There is a certain level of Ghost In The Machine in these songs as well, since they seem to have talking buried inside of static-- it makes me feel like technology is finally turning against humans. 

As "Natural Porn Polloutions" begins there is this sort of scrambled sound which makes me think there is mumbling going on, but I think it's because of the music and not actual words.   Words can be heard coming out back there and, no, the fact that I'm picking the most fun song titles is not a coincidence.   The audio clip in the background of this song could be pulled straight from a porno.   And, yeah, a lot of these song titles are also rather sexual, which, I mean, if that bothers you at all I don't know how you'll be able to sit through this music.

If nothing else, from the IUGULA-THOR side of this split you should take away that it is dark distortion with screeches.     On the other hand, I don't know if I would call CRONACA NERA the opposite of that as it is not light and fluffy, but it has a different feel to it than IUGULA-THOR while seemingly accomplishing the same level of harsh terror. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Cassette Review: Hey Exit "Inhale EP"

How many times have you heard the music of Hey Exit?  I think it's strange that no matter how many times I press play on a piece of music by Hey Exit, I never know what to expect.   Some would say that maybe Hey Exit doesn't have a defined sound, but why does someone need a defined sound?  It's better than thinking "Oh good, a new album.  Thirteen more songs of synth-pop!"  I feel like I've entered this contract with Hey Exit, as a listener, that says when you press play you might not know what you're going to get but you will like it.    That trust is far more important to me than any tag on Bandcamp.

When "Inhale" begins it's singing gently with the strumming of a guitar.   Drums are added in and it comes into something dreamy, I would almost call it a sleepygaze if such a thing doesn't exist yet.  It becomes dark like something from "The Crow" soundtrack and yet has these angelic choir sounds as well.   This shifts to something screechy, the vocals now gone, and the mood becomes hollow, desolate.   Bell type tones and wavy hues bring us to an end of Side A which is not where I expected it to go but somehow seems all too fitting.

Guitars ring to open Side B and it sounds kind of haunted at the same time.    The guitar sound is big enough to fill a room, every chord strummed deliberately.   Screeches a bit like modems come into play now with the sounds of waves crashing.   I will refrain from making jokes about surfing the web.   As everything but the guitar fades back, thunder cracks.   There is a solemn sound here.   Not sad.   Not even that dark maybe.   But serious.   It could perhaps be the funeral of someone who was generally disliked.   No one wants to cry, but no one wants to say good riddance either.

A bit of jangling comes in the background, like wind chimes though I'm fairly certain it's an acoustic guitar.  How many guitars are on this song?  How far down does this rabbithole go?   It still feels like it's storming out there but I really don't want to go inside just yet.  It quiets down and eventually fades with the slightest of string plucks, which I can only think of as riding out the storm.    This brings in these bass lines which might be a regular guitar but they sound more like a bass guitar to me and it's that sort of thing out of one of those early songs by Bush I always like to use as comparison.

This music is rather contemplative.   It's reflexive.   It's like staring into a mirror and seeing your soul.  It's not an easy thing to imagine- how it makes you feel- but it certainly can be believed once you experience it for yourself.    The screechy, modem-like sounds return and I always wonder if people wish they had recorded modems dialing up more back before there was so much wifi.   This is all spawning into this magical, blissed out place and then it pulls back.    Back into the solo notes I think are a bass guitar.    Sometimes I hear this slight crackle and wonder if it is intended or just a result of the cassette. 

Guitar notes form a rhythm now.   Singing comes in and then the sound gets distorted like Hendrix.    It gets into this place that sounds like Nine Inch Nails going into "The Great Below", only it sounds like some place going up, getting higher, then sinking down.   It fades off like a radio transmission into the night and even with the singing I feel in some ways like I'm being lulled to sleep, which is not a bad thing because as humans we need sleep.   The way this begins and ends with singing really has it coming full circle and if you haven't been keeping up with Hey Exit, I would certainly suggest this as a starting point now.

Music Review: Vessel of Iniquity "Vessel of Iniquity" (Sentient Ruin Laboratories)

Andy Warhol says everyone gets their fifteen minutes of fame but if he was alive to witness the brutality of Vessel of Iniquity, he might say that this is fifteen minutes worth of pain.    I watched this movie once because I was really into horror movies at the time and just the most violent movies I could find and the teaser said it made "Saw" look like "Sesame Street".   I thought that was clever but the movie itself wasn't that brutal.   I would wager a line like that on this album would do well.   Take the heaviest, darkest, most violent piece of music you know and Vessel of Iniquity would make it look like U2.

This thing just powers through.   There are vocals, but for the first two songs they are so deeply ingrained in the flurry of drums and destruction you might not know it.    It's very much in your face and, well, one of my favorite parts of all of this is simply that it is unrelenting.    For the entire time you will listen to these songs, you will feel like you are being punished (or you're watching someone get punished).    It just never lets up and that's amazing to me not just for the fact that others would've needed a break but that Vessel of Iniquity goes full force the entire time.

The final track does seem to slow a little, but not as much as you'd think, but by the end of it you just have the word (the title) "Choronzon" being repeated in a haunting, terrifying way.    This just goes to show you that sometimes even though you feel like it cannot possibly get more harsh than the first two tracks, the reality is things can slow down and be much more disturbing.   It's like the difference between a movie such as "Saw" and one directed by Alfred Hitchcock.   The fact that Vessel of Iniquity has both of those sides covered while trying to keep you locked in the void makes me that much happier when listening to this.

Cassette Review: Blotchouts "Slop The Hogs" (Crass Lips Records)

There comes a time in everyone's life when they hear punk rock for the first time.  Do you even remember what the first punk band you ever heard was?  It's weird to think how mid to late 1990's me was listening to Epitaph, Lookout and Nitro Records and now how far this music has come.   Blotchouts might not be punk rock in a pure sense, but there are elements of it underneath everything else in this music.   It's fast paced.   It's wild.  It's unadulterated.   It's everything punk rock should be.

Yet these jangly guitars make me think this is something closer to garage punk.   It can really explore the psych/trippy sound of music when the bass line reminds me of "Boris the Spider".   You have to imagine someone like Led Zeppelin merging with the Ramones in order to get the slightest idea of what this could sound like.  In some ways, I think of a lot of Daniel Johnston's music as being acoustic (Though I know it's not) and if you took an artist like him, plugged him in and sped him up then this might be the result.

While no direct comparison for this exists, you have to realize that it is even difficult for me to come up with a proper formula to do this justice.   My "Zepplin + Ramones" comparison is a good general, overall type of vibe, but if you really listen to it you'll hear so much more.   So what does this music make me want to do?  It gives me energy, so it makes me feel like you could put these songs on as the soundtrack to skateboarding.    It helps me to clean though, to get through the chore of it without realizing what I'm actually doing because I'm too busy being wrapped up in the songs.

But perhaps most importantly I imagine a certain level of chaos if you were to experience a live Blotchouts performance.    I've read that Blotchouts is a one man gang, but to play live I would assume there would have to be more than just one person on stage playing the various instruments (Though if he played everything all by himself I definitely need to see that) and in that regard someone would likely end up playing guitar on their back on the floor.   Can someone make a live Blotchouts DVD?  Even if it's just on YouTube, send me the links because this stuff is a trip, man.