Sunday, October 14, 2018

Cassette Review //
Swimming in Bengal
"Deeper Deeper"
(Lugubrious Audio)

£5.50 //
Edition of 50 // //

Whether or not it is just me I am not sure, but when I did first see this artist name the idea of "Bengal" went to tigers for me.   Now, you might wonder how someone could swim in an animal to that extent- you know, the idea makes no sense, such as if your name was "Swimming In Jaguars" (Though I might mistake that for the car)- but perhaps it is my fault for watching too much "Magic School Bus" in my youth.

Right away, you can tell that this is not so much about the tigers as there is an Indian feel to it (in the sense that it is from the country India; I don't know why I always feel the need to clarify that but I do) with those snake-charming type guitars and the overall percussion feels.    The rhythm is one which you can dance to and it even feels like it could be a belly dance, which is something I wouldn't mind seeing play out in a music video.

There is a saxophone now.   The horns are just blaring away and it begins to also take on this jazz tone.   At this point it reminds me of Sweep The Leg Johnny, which I feel maybe an outdated reference at this point because I don't feel like enough people are talking about them still (where are their vinyl reissues?)   But as soon as I begin to think that, a new song begins with the tapping of a drum and with the bass it has an influence which reminds me of A Tribe Called Quest.

Somehow, this music also makes me think of the desert and in that sense it feels trippy like The Doors.   I'm not sure what India is like as a country but for some reason I do not imagine it as being like a desert and so this doesn't feel true to the earlier style but it somehow works, especially since that Indian rhythm returns.    Rattling guitars also make me think of a Tarantino film.   As a flute comes in the sax returns and it takes on a little of that Bob Seger feel before Side A comes to an end. 
On the flip side there are windy guitars and drums.   It really begins to intensify.    With whistles, there are also these guitar type notes (which could be a sitar) where they get really frantic, kind of like scraping but they somehow remain so fluent.   There are also bongos rounding out the sound before we get into the second song on Side B which has the feeling of an instrumental Nirvana song to it, "Something In The Way" perhaps.

The strings wind and bend.    Lone, sad horns now.   It becomes like a dance now with the sax and then it's just blaring away.  It's cool and funky now on the next song.  A little jazz and even a little video game influence as the guitar sings.   Ultimately it fades out on that last cool little number and the combination of free jazz and other wordly sounds combined make this something you need to move right along with.

Music Review //
St. Lenox
"Ten Fables of Young Ambition and Passionate Love"
(Anyway Records)

When I first listened to St. Lenox, on this album, my first impression of how the vocals sound is that they remind me a little bit of Barenaked Ladies.   See, there are two sides to this though.   On one hand, the artist behind the name St. Lenox is merely singing in a style which they find comfortable and therefore you can't really say someone sounds exactly like someone else unless they really try to, so Barenaked Ladies just becomes this reference point of something which is well known.   Also, when I worked in a record store in the late 1990's, I listened to Barenaked Ladies full albums and outside of their radio songs they aren't that bad.

So, with that out of the way (because I felt like I had to state it but also explain it) I immediately fell in love with St. Lenox on the first song of this album because it's just so raw.   With that unique voice, the song "Hashtag Brooklyn Karaoke Party" (Which, I'm in, send me the evite) has storytelling lyrics (which remain throughout the album) and it just is so passionate as he pours his heart out in each and every word.   "Heartbroken on the dance floor at the gay bar singing songs about gin and whiskey" is a line that I will never get out of my head and this is catchy in the sense that after a few listens you'll be singing along.

After the first song I want to clap-- I'm confused when I don't hear the applause because it sounds like it was live, right in front of me.   There are a lot of words in these songs as well, but you'll get used to them as they go and slowly sing along with the hooks and then begin to also take them verse for verse, word for word.   In that regard, the lyrics do remind me a bit of Say Anything and how breaking down their lyrics to sing along can be a similar process.

Bell tones begin the song "First Date" and so this isn't just a raw acoustic album, though if it was I think I'd rather like it (If there is anything such as a "live/unplugged" album out there or one in the works please let me be the first to know, thank you)  Pianos now remind me of Billy Joel and even a little bit of Springsteen as those vocals continue to define this album.   One line that sticks out to me is: "You know I always wanted to meet a farmer" since my family is from farmers (My mom's parents and even one of her sisters) but I just as much enjoy the line: "I write poetry to the music in my mind"

"You Have Got To Feel It" has a saxophone and is just smooth while "More Than Romantic Love" just cranks out the soul and tugs at my heartstrings, a particular phrase I thought I would never type, especially about music I enjoy.   Yet somehow, underneath this all, there seems to be a sadness.   I don't know if it's the fact that it is lonely within the music or if it is just the fact that this music can make you feel so many emotions but it makes me want to cry, but in a good way.

Dreamy grooves in "Apparently" brings us line like "I feel like the shock of it has dulled my emotions", but it's easy to pick out a line without the context.   The other lines around it also help to drive home the point and as such you really need to hear the full songs.   It's a story, not a phrase.    "Brooklyn Supredream" has a faster paced electro feel while "The Hungry Years" starts with piano keys and those big beat drums, somewhat like The Rocket Summer, before going into MIDI.

In a strange confession, this album taught me what a troubadour is.   There is a bookstore with that name I've been to, but now, because of St. Lenox, I've finally decided to look up the word.   Still, there was this time in the early '00s where bands like Taking Back Sunday and Brand New came out and were called "emo", but I'd say St. Lenox should be the true definition of "emo" as everything about this album is emotional.   This is not for the faint of heart and after listening to it you feel different. 

Movie Review //
The Cat O' Nine Tails

$34.95 // //

"The Cat O' Nine Tails" is such an interesting film because it has this strange trio of people working together to solve a series of murders.   A blind man, his niece and a reporter somehow become involved in this plot where Big Pharma is basically killing off people in a cover up and what always gets me most about this film is that it was made back in 1971 and yet it feels like a plot that Hollywood couldn't come up with in 2018 even though it somehow feels much more relevant today than it likely did back then.  (It likely was relevant back then as well, but just more so today I'd imagine)

Right away, I need to point out that this version is *only* the Blu-Ray and it came with next to nothing listed in the bonus features in terms of content which is not on the Blu-Ray itself.   A slip cover, poster, lobby cards, script pages... none of these come with this version, as you can see by the photos below.    If you're only into this for the movie itself and then the bonus features which can be viewed (interviews, commentary, etc) then this is the choice for you.   The poster and lobby cards are things you could frame and put up on your wall if you happened to really be into this movie or Dario Argento, so I could see how that is appealing (Plus the added DVD I suppose), but there is only so much wall space out there that if every movie you owned came with a poster there's no way you'd be able to put them all up on display.

The extras which are on the disc (and were included for me) do make this all worthwhile though and I would consider this to be the definitive edition of "The Cat O' Nine Tails", that one version you should own above all else.   I feel like I say this a lot, but back in the late '00's I really explored film like most people shouldn't and I fell in love with a lot of crazy movies and the people who made them, which is something I brought up in my review of "Gore Gore Girls" RE: H.G. Lewis.   Dario Argento is one of those people who I just would like to own all of their movies one day and this is the version of "The Cat O' Nine Tails" everyone should have in their collection.

This is that type of movie everyone should watch at least once in their life because of the way it plays out.   It's not a horror movie in the sense that it has someone in it like Jason Voorhees, but it is kind of scary because people are getting murdered and what they are getting murdered because of even makes it feel like it's more realistic to happen in some way, which makes it scarier.   It's suspenseful, it's a criminal mystery, parts of it are funny and overall it's just so heartfelt that you can't help but love it.   As much as it reminds me of someone such as Alfred Hitchcock, I just think Dario Argento has created his own voice but, yes, this is one for everyone to see at least once and the true fans of film to own forever.

Music Review //
"Endeavor" // //

In my review of "Nothing's Wrong" I remember calling "Endeavor" a hollow sounding song.   It's fitting that it stood out in that way to me as it is now the second single by Elza from the forthcoming full length.     With great harmonies come this building quality to the song and it has a somewhat somber feel to it overall, somewhat like that Metallica song "Until It Sleeps" but only in the verses- not when that song kicks in to the chorus. 

While it reminds me a bit of The Cranberries and the guitar riffs are cool like The Cure, overall there is this sense of the song being something more from that mid to late 1990's rock sound than what you hear in 2018 and of course that is a good thing because I'd listen to bands from the 1990's all day and what's on the radio now is rather bland.  We actually had the "modern rock" radio station on at work the other day and it surprised how few songs I didn't recognize because they're mostly playing bands like Eve 6, Lit, Pearl Jam, STP, Nirvana, Cake, etc. still. 

Like most good songs from the 1990's, "Endeavor" comes with its very own music video which is quite interesting and tells a story you might have seen from a music video back in the days when MTV still mattered.   The story begins with a woman, who we find out is a mother of two young girls, and how she seems to manage caring for them while still maintaining a life of her own.   I think society puts a lot of pressure on women in general to dress and act a certain way and it doesn't even consider how little time mothers have to adhere to all of these so-called standards.

In one of the early scenes the woman is seen walking down the streets and passing a clothing store which is pushing the latest fashion.   Later, she is shown helping her two young daughters put their shoes on.   If that isn't some kind of juxtaposition I don't know what is.   People expect women to look a certain way but most of the time they're more concerned with getting their children dressed than taking the time to look how someone out there thinks they're supposed to look.   It's all so strange and I, sadly, feel like it's rich men who put the most influence on fashion-- which shouldn't be there.

The woman- the star of the video- eventually finds herself in makeup and taking part in a stage show, which if it's a real show someone please tell me because I want to see it.   On the way home she falls asleep on the bus and that's kind of how life is-- it's so difficult and no one gives women enough credit for both raising kids and having a life of their own.   I see so many people in my daily life complain about how bad they have it but they only have to (barely) take care of themselves.    But, of course, as the song says (and I think we all know the answer) "I hope it's worth the endeavor". 

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Cassette Review //
Zachary Schmidt
"Pretty Alright Noise (June 2016 - June 2018)"

$5 //
Edition of 20 // //

This cassette opens with guitar scratches and then it feels as if there is some demon being summoned- which also just might be the guitar strings- and then I can hear crickets.   It takes on this deeper, louder feel as if it was coming from a horror movie now.     The sound then begins to resonate through much more powerfully, shaking my speakers.   This takes us into dreamy guitar notes, which come through like the rays through slightly open blinds on a sunny day.

Guitar notes take on a driving sound now, somewhere between The Cure and Bush.   It also feels quite a bit like Smashing Pumpkins.    We screech on through into some distorted notes which take me back to thinking of Bush once again.    The layers of the guitars is what really makes this work as it comes together like a band sound.    It begins to feel like dramatic strings as well-- really serious now in the tones, coming through as waves.

From a carousel in space to the slow claps of the drum, this one takes on many shapes but stays within the same general realm of guitar noise.    It's chill, even when at its loudest.    Smooth notes come out like Clapton.    It feels broken as well.    A little of that 311 and/or Metallica sound.   Altered words come through- they're really deep like when someone makes a phone call in the movie "Scream".    Maybe even like Jigsaw, since his solo movie is on Hulu and it is approaching Halloween.

Quieter now, the notes seem to have settled.    It's like drifting endlessly through space.   Ultimately, we end up in this darker place where the notes seem to drop off.   The next song comes out with lasers and drones.    Sharp sonar comes through and it begins to grow a bit harsh where the neighbors could complain if you put it through your speakers loudly enough.     Loops come through like a swarm of robotic bees.    A frantic acoustic strumming follows.

The next series of notes remind me of Nirvana, from the "Nevermind" era.      This ends Side A and then we start Side B with a somewhat dramatic sea of drone.     A rattling in an urgent tone is out next and it just feels like it is growing and growing.    It's ringing through in waves now, like a sonic blaster.    We go into some true rock now which almost feels like funk and I can hear a little of that "I Put A Spell On You" song coming through as well, but it seems to fade out as quickly as it came in.

The pace almost completely changes as these upbeat guitar chords come through like some kind of indie rock band- someone like Rusted Root to an extent.   It's not just something that makes you take notice for this cassette- it's something which would have you focus on only this part of the song in general because of its sound.    However, it does eventually go back to that droning glow that we've become familiar with on this cassette.    The guitar notes pick up now and feel more like an indie rock drive.    This takes us into a slightly industrial sound with drums as there continues to be this hue droning on through the entire time as well. 

A sharp burst takes us into lightsaber drone now.    This switches to that sort of hue distortion that I've always associated with Lost Trail.    Eerily we drift into space now and you can hear the bass notes come out with the whirrs.     From haunted to upbeat, desolate to hollow, these songs drone on until some guitar notes come out in a loop which once again takes me back to Metallica.    There is a certain amount of static as well, as it feels like a field recording, perhaps on a street somewhere.   Those rather upbeat guitar notes I compared with Rusted Root earlier have returned now.    Bluesy rock guitar notes bring this cassette to a close and what a ride it has been.   If you've ever wondered how expansive the sound of a guitar could be, this cassette should help you get a better understanding of that.

Music Review //
Brooks Forsyth
"So Much Beyond Us" //

Brooks Forsyth is a great example of the old phrase of not judging a book by its cover, only in terms of music I like to think of it more in terms of a "one hit wonder" idea-- where you shouldn't base the entire feel of an artist on only one song (Though, admittedly, in the 1990's I was buying cassettes based solely on that one song I liked on the radio)   "So Much Beyond Us" opens with the titular track and if that was where your experience of listening to Brooks Forsyth ended you might think of him as a traditional type of country artist.

As the album goes on, it takes on more of a bluesy feeling than one of my initial impression of country.   A little bit of Bob Dylan, a little bit of Tom Petty, the songs can also sound like The Wallflowers and both the second and third songs seem to be about women, at least as far as the names are concerned and, well, who can't appreciate a good love song.  What I have to say about the country aspect of this is that there are undertones throughout but not completely.

See, from what I've heard of music that I'd call "country" and don't like, the artist seems to take on this traditional country sound (like Garth Brooks or Tim McGraw) and then they just kind of repeat that formula song after song to the point where every song on their album sounds nearly the same as the one before it.    That diversity, which Brooks Forsyth has mastered, is what makes this album so special.

By "Don't Come Around No More" I am feeling the comparisons with Johnny Cash and then "Blue Railroad Train" sounds somewhat like you would expect it to since it is a song about a train.    One of the most striking parts of this album is the guitar work, especially on a song such as "Restless at Home, Lonesome of the Road", as it has this sort of rambling feel to it.

What I enjoy most about "So Much Beyond Us" and why I hope you would listen to this album as much as me is that each song seems to tell its own story.   I don't like to confuse fact with fiction (if I can help it) but there is this great movie called "Walk Hard" and this album kind of reminds me of that, though Dewey Cox is really a combination of several real life musicians and in that sense Brooks Forsyth has this character where he is more like a combination of a great blues musician, a great rock n roller and, yes, even a great country artist.   The way these songs can change it up makes me think of the greats and it seems like Brooks Forsyth could be among that conversation one day.  

Music Review //
Rhy Dongju
"Animalistic U / Dystopia"
(Lions'den Records) //

At first, this feels like it's going to be neo classical, which I dig.   All of these strings and such have this classical sound to them.   But then these huge beats come in and other synths which make it feel electronic and if there is some combination of neo classical and electronic music out there, this is definitely pushing its boundaries.  (Electronic classical?)  It's huge like a Michael Bay soundtrack, as it reminds me of something between the soundtrack to "Resident Evil" and "Jurassic Park" (I imagine some combination of the two films)

"Hive" is as big as anything but it takes a moment to slow down and have this classical part still.    The song admittedly reminds me of Rammstein yet at the same time I feel like it could go to a film where we, as humans, are trying to save the bees (which we are/should be) and something goes wrong and the bees become huge- much larger than humans- and the bees start killing people.   "Humans vs Killer Bees" or just "Killer Bees" would be such a fitting movie title.    And the song itself is just so grand that it stomps throughout it.

"Batalion" has pianos and just this driving feel like it's a video game.    "Animalistic Utopia" has more of a dance feel to it and can resemble Duran Duran a bit in that sense-- something from that era of music, such as Human League even.    There is also this great arcade game/Double Dragon type of feel going on here and if you're not in love with this album from the start you're really missing out on something special.    As we hit that slower, brooding stride with vocals in the distance on "Neon" you can feel as if this is taking you to another place.

Smooth sax comes through in the rain on "Electric Dream" and that angelic singing returns.    "Black Market" feels like we're getting into a bit of trouble and "Skyline" has this great drive to it- somewhere between "Knight Rider" and "The X-Files".     This takes us into what sounds like a royal dance with definite classical vibes.    And then when we get into "Landing", there are record scratches and the beat drops.    Sometimes the electronics can even sound like an alarm, as there is this urgent feel to these songs as we get closer to the end of the album.

There is a triumph as we get towards the end as well, a resolution as this entire album has this huge overall feel to it but also it tells a story from the first song to the last.   It reminds me of some kind of stage show- like an opera- but also it has those general ideas of something like the way a band such as Coheed and Cambria would structure their albums to feel more like films than music.    Still, it's something you can pull a single song or two from to listen to and enjoy if you don't have the time to listen to the entire album from start to finish, but yes, you need this in your life in some capacity.