Friday, June 22, 2018

Cassette Review //
The Doll
(Big Sleep Records)

$5 //
Edition of 50 //

Loud, scrambled electronics yet somehow in a minimal way start things off.   Isn't it great that there is a cassette called "Hiss"?   Also, I've previously reviewed the cassette called "Rash" by The Doll so are all of these cassettes going to have one word titles like this?   There are these steady beats behind this as well and for some reason it feels like a field recording.   A droning synth is mixed in with this now as well.    Everything goes numb and there is some rumbling and then it sounds as if bells are being hit though there is also this Jay Peele glass-like quality to it.  

It feels kind of like bells ringing but there is also this sense of a distorted guitar coming through in this wavy manner where it just feels like it's blasting out these killer notes while shaking.    This buzzing comes through next like someone is talking through a drive-thru speaker and it cuts in and out in this pattern like it's this tangible thing that resembles a sheet of paper or a towel and is left out blowing in the wind.   As it kind of beeps and screeches (just ever so slightly) the song comes to an end and with it, Side A ends as well.  

On the flip side there is this sound like someone is opening up a tape deck and putting in a cassette.   This turns into this steady buzzing with whooshes of wind behind it.   It has this feeling like you're riding on a horse but going nowhere.   You know how a treadmill is essentially walking nowhere?  Is there a horse version of that?   Car horns are heard next and this has become a field recording.   It's like someone's car alarm is going off.

Real Talk: Why does it feel like car alarms don't work?  Whenever you hear one, it's usually because the actual owner of the car set it off themselves.   It rarely comes down to someone actually stealing a car, right?  But whenever someone accidentally sets their car alarm off in a parking lot I like to go "Stop! Thief!" and then when other people at Walmart or wherever look at me I'm all "Don't just stand there Dr Dre, operate!"

There are also these clanks and noises like shuffling going on in the background of the car alarm.  I imagine that someone is preparing food in their kitchen, outside some car is left unattended and perhaps is being stolen.   The car alarm stops- as in someone hits the button to make it stop- and now we are in this quieter, almost ambient drone feel but it also just feels like a field recording where someone would be recording a certain level of sound outside.   

A darker sound now, like bass strings coming through in a Phantom of the Opera kind of way.    Banging now like a metal trash can is being abused and this becomes the sole sound on the cassette.   It has a drumming feel to it though, so it could be an actual piece of percussion for all I know.   Some distortion comes in like we're about to really rock and somehow this paces just got so lively and it feels like a death march at the same time somehow as well.    It builds and folds, builds and then just comes to an end.   

It's not easy for me to imagine someone other than The Doll creating these types of sounds- where you can't distinguish what it is and how it feels like two completely different things at the same time, two things which you don't think should maybe go together but somehow when The Doll does it, it just works.   Also, typing about The Doll like this makes me feel like The Doll is like The Rock in that way.  But yes, this is what makes The Doll so special and why you should be listening to this music-- it does what no one else can.  

Cassette Review //
"The Last Straw"
(Eyemyth Records)

Sold Out //
Edition of 15 // //

There is a loud grinding synth to open "The Last Straw" and then this sound as if an electronic ping pong ball is bouncing around the room comes out.   There are waves of echoes before stomps come through in an almost glass-like manner.    A screeching type of sharpness comes through next and this has shifted from electronics to a harsh reality.    This carries with it a feeling of destruction.    What rings through next sound a bit like lightsabers but also can feel like if you took a metal pole and hit it against something else metal, that sort of resonating sound.    A little bit Transformers even, and then it has this steady pace as it grows minimal.

A hollow, mechanical feel makes it feel as if we are on a loading dock but somewhere in space because there are also just these trippy beeps which echo on through.    Through a low key amount of static trembling someone can be heard talking.     Whoever is talking sounds like they are being yelled at now.    Squeals like the tape being through bring this talking point to an end- I feel like it was a field recording- and that also brings us to the end of Side A.

Loud, frequency changes kick off Side B.   There is this synth ringing sound as well, which creates a nice tempo as the banging of beats are behind it.   This is somewhere in between Yves Malone and banging on something unconventional for the purposes of percussion.    Sharper tones breathe in and out like the Return of the Jedi Atari game.   There is a sharpness to this, sure, which makes it higher pitched but there is also this deeper bass underneath it which just creates such a fascinating effect as the two are combined.

Everything fades down now to this minimal clacking.    The next song starts with what could be a car engine but also those robotics noises like Wall-E or Transformers.    The car engine type of sound sort of drones back there while these other sounds come through like robots adding to the fire.   A series of beeps comes through next and really begins to build as well.   Beat skips come through in a rhythm which feels like hip hop at its core but makes me think of some video game and the sound you would make when punching another character, such as in a game like "Street Fighter" for example, but I'm also reminded of that old TMNT arcade game where you beat Foot Soldiers with your weapons, fists, feet, etc.

Slow waves bring about what sound like voices but they are coming through choppy.    We grind down to only the sound of tapping, that Tell-Tale Heart, and then feedback slowly comes in with beeps and other outerspace type of frequencies.   There is a certain, slowed video game sound to this as well.   It has elements of what could be called video game drone.   At some point it also begins to feel like the sound of water dripping.    Then solo tones come through softly.    This series of beeps is how this electronic noise cassette comes to an end and it only seems fitting for this journey we have taken into crossover greatness.

Record Review //
"Rake Kash"
(Gertrude Tapes)

$11 //
Edition of 250 // //

Trippy acoustics and a jazz flute start this record.   The second song begins with dark strings, cello, which are accompanied by a piano.  It has a serious vibe to it underneath the trippy electronic swirls.  It feels like a soap opera or perhaps like Lionel Richie will begin singing "Hello".    This brings about cymbals and a sax.    The blaring makes it feel like jazz but there is also this 1990's feeling to it, something from that era which has since been forgotten about and is making its return.    The pianos really begin to shape life into these songs.   Space whirrs are in the background and this feels like some great mix of "Beverly Hills Cop" and Morris Day and The Time.

What feels like a harmonica comes through with these space whirrs that resonate in another galaxy.   If there is not yet a genre for space jazz we might want to look into putting RAKE KASH into it.   I also believe I hear dogs barking.   This has this perfect blend of Americana/folk/jazz in a traditional sense but then these electronic elements which make it feel like it isn't as grassroots as you could imagine someone picking up an acoustic guitar and playing shows out of their car but rather, you know, flying around in a spaceship to other planets and bringing them this homegrown message. 
Serious guitar strums come through now, like a deserted western feel, but yes, you guessed it, those space sounds continue through as well and it gives this feeling of Bob Seger's "Turn The Page" only in a different universe.   The sax slowly blows through as well.   A typewriter can be heard typing now.   It's still a cross between dreamy and eerie.   The sax continues with this windy feel and the typewriter keeps on typing.   To some extent now, it feels as if we might go into "Riders on the Storm" because I'm also thinking of "The Basketball Diaries" soundtrack. 

As we take a dive into what feels like a carousel ride now, this becomes even more surreal.    This is how we are taken from the first to the second side.    What could be a cello again since there is a lot of bass to it comes through with the sax in a rock n roll way.   This then becomes a bit more like a dance, somewhat like Gogol Bordello and somewhat like something I've never heard before.    This is not the easiest record to describe since it does combine various styles that on their own I have sometimes heard before (but not all of them completely) and when combined they form something the likes of which I have never heard before.

The drumming on this is off the wall good, unlike any I've ever heard before and to have it with these sounds of jazz or a spy movie or being in space it's just... elements like the sax or cello can change the mood of the music so the fact that the drumming can keep up with not just the tempo and pacing of it all but the genre changing is truly impressive.     Bass comes through and with it comes what sounds like traffic.   That sax is still there, setting the mood just so. 

It also can just as easily take on this eerie sound as we approach what feels like something out of "Stranger Things" or "X-Files".    Whirrs slice through like space but it maintains that feeling which also makes me feel more like it's a horror movie such as "Friday the 13th" than "The Thing" or "Alien".    Though, oddly enough, as much as you want to think of it that way the final tones do feel as if they just send you sort of drifting off into space, so that idea that this is both in outerspace and yet on Earth makes this record stand out from others which could be one or the other but not usually both.

Blu Ray Review //
The Return Of Swamp Thing
[Blu-ray + DVD] (BLU-RAY)
(MVD Visual)

$39.95 // //

Swamp Thing is one of my favorite DC characters.   Think about it, here is this monster (who is really just the protector of plants) who has had a television series, movies and even comics written by the great Alan Moore about him.    Within the last two months, I purchased an action figure of Swamp Thing as part of the DC Imaginext line for my son, which is pretty awesome as well.    I also most recently watched this animated film called "Justice League Dark" because it has, you guessed it, Swamp Thing in it (along with John Constantine)

See, the thing with comic books for me is that of the two biggest publishers- Marvel and DC- my favorite characters have always been the lesser known ones.   It's not been Superman, Batman, even The Flash and Justice League characters in general but in a broad sense.   Give me Vigilante.   Give me Question.  Give me Steppenwolf (but in a classic sense, not the 2017 movie version)  And, of course, give me Swamp Thing.

What I like about Swamp Thing in all his forms- television, movies, comic books- is that he's always kind of held up, he's withstood that test of time.   When you watch something like "Man of Steel" and compare it with the original Christopher Reeves versions of "Superman" you can tell the difference technology makes.    It's not that one is better than the other (Though I prefer Christopher Reeves) so much as you can see the movies evolve and in that sense the characters evolve. 

If Swamp Thing was brought back in a live action way in 2018, I don't see how they could really evolve him in a similar way.   That is to say, outside of some of the wardrobe choices this movie still holds up some thirty years later.   The way Swamp Thing looks is still great to me.   And, let's be fair, if Swamp Thing was to return to the big screen any time soon there is a good chance he would be CGI and DC would find a way to ruin it like they ruin most all their live action movies (Justice League (2017) is hands down one of the single worst movies I have ever seen)

There are unintentionally funny moments in this movie- certain lines are overacted ("You're a rude girl!", "I hate California!") and so they stand out in that sense.   In one scene with two children looking at dirty magazines the one kid tells the other to check out an issue of "Big & Busty" and when the kid exclaims how great the woman they're talking about is he's actually holding a magazine called "Young & Easy", but whatever.    In some ways, I'm kind of surprised DC didn't try and throw Swamp Thing into their "Suicide Squad" movie to test the waters with him, if you will, but I guess Killer Croc was enough.

I was hoping in my "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" review that we might see other movies in that series given the MVD Rewind treatment.    I hope that this being the sequel to "Swamp Thing" doesn't prevent that movie from being in the MVD Rewind series and, yes, I would like to see the television series on Blu Ray one day as well.    [Please Note: There is a Blu Ray release for "Swamp Thing" (1982), I realize this, and I think that might prevent it from being in the MVD Rewind series so please don't email me links thanks]

One of if not the truest and best way to tell the quality of a movie is how well it withstands the test of time.   "The Return Of Swamp Thing" is a movie that, watching it again all these years later on this special Blu-Ray as part of the MVD Rewind collection, just makes me feel like it is simply perfect.   You could update the wardrobe, the actors involve, the language to an extent, sure, but outside of that I don't think a modern live action movie needs to be made for Swamp Thing because even if DC was putting out quality movies it would be difficult for them to top this.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

CD/DVD Review //

$20 // //

When I first listened to "Polymer" I thought, "Yeah, I can write five or six paragraphs about this, easy".   Then I watched the DVD that goes with it and thought, "Shit, I can write a book".    If you've never heard Tonedeff before, I want you to go on your phone or laptop right now (or free public computer at the library, I don't judge) and order "Polymer" from that link up there.   Did you do it?  Ok.  I hope you did.   Now let me tell you why it's good that you did.

Tonedeff has created one of those albums where I want to literally dissect every song on it.   I feel like instead of writing a review of "Polymer" I should be writing a review of each song on here.   Luckily, each song is discussed in detail during the DVD.   The last time I remember feeling this way about an album- where I was really this affected by each song- was Polly Scattergood's "Arrows" and, I mean, if you've heard that you know it's not really hip hop.

One thing about "Polymer" is that it is ahead of its time.   This is a concept which is addressed in the DVD and I get it, if you're ahead of your time what does it get you now, but in many ways, I don't think anyone will fully understand how great of an album this is, how groundbreaking it is, until maybe five or ten years from now.   But that also might just be because it takes that long for it to be fully digested.

For me, one of the biggest comparisons (and maybe only in a hip hop sense) that I can make with "Polymer" is with one of my all-time favorite albums which is called "A Healthy Distrust" and is by Sage Francis.    That was released back in 2005 and I think in those thirteen years I'm only beginning to fully appreciate it, like, I thought between then and now others would've ripped it off to the point where I couldn't listen to it without hearing some new emcee on the radio being compared to it, but nah, Sage Francis still remains in a league all his own.

Now, keeping that album in mind, if you told me "A Healthy Distrust" would come with a DVD I'd be like "Hell yeah I want to watch it".   In some ways. I think most albums should come with a DVD talking about the songs and how and why they came to be.   But the thing I realized watching this Tonedeff DVD is that this is my first time watching a DVD that goes with a CD and the reason for that is become Tonedeff is unlike any other artist you will ever hear.

Think about it.  If you got this CD sent to you of 12 songs and maybe one or two were good would you really want to watch a DVD about why that artist wrote this one song that you usually skip over?  So that's one of those weird things to me that in a lot of ways sums up Tonedeff best: it's something that should apply to everyone, in theory, but when you really think about it you realize why it can't and why it does apply to Tonedeff. 

Analyzing each song based on how it sounds and what the lyrical content of it is happens on this DVD, which I am thankful for because then I feel like I don't have to do it as much in this review.   They name drop artists like Nine Inch Nails and Rage Against the Machine as well as shoegaze (see: "Sunrise") and it just really opens it all up where you think this is hip hop but it's not like any hip hop you've ever heard before (and fuck the radio)  I could write a review for every song just as easily as I could write a review based solely on the music and then another based on solely on the lyrics of each song.

"Polymer" opens with "The Things You Don't See Coming" and Tonedeff sings on it.   In many ways, it reminds me of Tony Njoku who is also exploring uncharted territory in the world of music.     "Hunter" feels angrier while "Demon" could be something out of that show "Empire" but don't take to heart too much because I've never actually watched that show I've only seen the ads for it on Hulu.

"Glutton" goes hard, and rightfully so based upon the title and content of the song.   "Use Me" has an electronic sound to it and the song "Filthy" is just as the title describes. (Shout out to the DVD for putting in the "Clerks 2" footage though)    "Control" is the last song on here and even though there is singing it still feels fairly angry.   Picking a favorite or pulling lyrics from one is just... it can't be done.  I love them all and all I want to do is quote them all.

What I've learned from "Polymer" as an album and a DVD is that Tonedeff really does have five sisters.   This was also a collection of four EPs, put together to form one super LP in that sense and so the themes it carries sometimes goes from song to song but it still maintains that overall theme from start to end and, I mean, how can you describe that or compare it when other artists have trouble creating one fluid theme for an album?

Record Review //
"Pan And The Master Pipers"

€12 //
Edition of 300 // //

Magical tones with this deeper drone opens up this record.   It has a feeling to it as if something is being summoned, perhaps from the ocean, and once it does come it will change everything about the world.    There is also this flutter to the music, like someone is very slowly shaking those little cymbals you can wear on your wrists.   Beeping comes through now and it feels computer generated-- slightly modem.   It's still building, still taking us straight into the next century.     Squeals live in here just as much as this drone which is getting slightly higher in pitch.

Buzzing hums come through now like a video game.   There are drums with this as well, high hats I believe, so this feels smooth and yet it also could be something like an electric razor bringing about these higher pitched, feel good swarm of bees type of tones.    These higher pitched tones begin to feel as if they will generate words, as if they are about to sing and that may or may not be influenced by the fact that I recently watched the movie "Joe's Apartment" for the first time in many years.

There is this driving sense to these songs and for some reason they remind me of the Presidents of the United States of America (the band) in the most bizarre way.   Sound manipulation is such a fantastic thing and this feels as if there are small, high pitched people trapped somewhere begging to be saved.    As it begins to drive a whoosh comes through which seems to have picked up the pace and taken us straight into hyperspace.    It fades and returns and just overall has this sense of "Knight Rider" being in space (Is that a thing?  Could that be a thing?)

This quiets down with what could be claps but could also be typewriter keys.   A low drone comes in now.    The drone begins to wind, up and down, in and out, slowly.  There is also a steady drumming behind it all.    It just has this cool, calm feel to it like someone riding into town on a horse in an old western movie where the main character was just so badass no one wanted to fuck with him.   And then the bagpipes hit.   Wow.   Could this get any better?  I almost felt like bagpipes would be the perfect sound to enhance this and they slowly come through until they are undeniable and this is just such a perfect, brooding type of song and yet so refreshing.

Lasers are not shot through this song and it has gone from this classic feel to something set in space perhaps or at the very least the future.    This song also just seems to build in a way that not many others can also build on in similar ways.     That slow clap (or typewriter keys) sound returns to end this track as well. 

Higher notes seem to be laughing at us now as Side B starts.  Bells sound as the lasers seemingly shoot through space in an eerie way.   It could be something out of "Lost in Space", but also a little bit of "Twilight Zone".    Percussion begins to provide the destruction to accompany this and I'm having thoughts of "Mars Attacks!" now.    The drumming gets louder, heavier and it seemingly has taken over the entire piece.    There is a back and forth rattling of notes, electronics, as there are other whooshes coming in softer and then quieter.   It is an electronic symphony, an electronic storm and the pace quickens to where you feel like you must run.

This reminds me a bit of "Trainspotting" and then the bagpipes return.    I suppose the title of this record should have given away the bagpipes but I didn't really look at it and think that from the start.    There is a driving quality to this and it just has so much energy behind it.    The next song builds up a bit of synth in a slower sense.    Drums kick into this and there is a bit of Rush in here, it has that sense of "Tom Sawyer" to it.    There is also the distinct feel of a winding road to this song, as if it's a video game and it's taking us but not through the straight path.

Vocals are coming through now as this swirls around in circles but feels very much like something you might hear out of a trippy rock n roll song.    I'm not sure what the vocals are saying but this certainly has become trippy in a Pink Floyd way but with a faster paced drum beat than most of their songs-- it's almost like Tora Tora Torrance in some ways.   It seems to disappear into the void as the vocals fade out with everything else and this is a rather memorable way to end this record.  

Cassette Review //
"Down Memory Lane"
(Custom Made Music)

$8 // //

This cassette starts off loud, distorted and it sounds a bit like something from the Modern English era of rock.   There are elements of Blue October and as the second song comes out even louder and heavier somehow, you can really hear how the vocals are hidden behind this wall of distortion and that's just something which doesn't happen all the time so when it does I'm happy about it.

While there aren't a lot of bands to compare this with directly I feel a bit of that garage/punk attitude like the Priests coming out.   "Lanterns" has a lighter feel to it where we could be going into a -pop way, not dreampop per se but is there a shoepop genre yet?  Something like Music For Headphones or along those lines.    There is still this texture to these songs though that would put them in the 1980's or early 1990's when cassettes were first invented and as such this is the perfect medium for them.

At times, this has a winding sound even which makes me feel like there are organs coming through but it's just the way the guitars weave in and out of the rhythm created by the bass and drums.     Side B kicks off with a flurry of drums, somewhat it reminds me of David Bowie and the wiry guitar notes come through in that shoegaze way but I still can't compare this with any other artist, which is good.

"Equation of the Dust" really makes me think of Cyndi Lauper while the song named after the band has an anthem type of feel to it.    It has this distinct feel of being somewhere between "You Are My Sunshine" and something you'd hear play at a graduation ceremony.   Fun Fact: I just looked up Seatemples on Discogs and it shows that they have been on TBTCI compilations and that makes sense.

There is this cool vibe to these songs as well.   Like that song that was all "Hey kids, rock n roll... rock on" that I never knew who did the original but listened to soap opera star Michael Damian sing it as a kid (And, yes, I still have that cassette) but also like the song "Come Together" which has been covered how many times now?   I guess the cooler songs in life tend to get covered a lot and as such I wouldn't be surprised to hear Seatemples covered one day.

Dreamy drums which really make me think of fog machines surrounding this band in smoke as they play close out the cassette.    I feel like at one point in time, shoegaze became so popular as a tag on Bandcamp that people began to abuse it.   But to put Seatemples under the general tag of shoegaze wouldn't be wrong, yet at the same time I feel like they have a more specific sound in some ways.   If you like shoegaze as a whole, you will enjoy this cassette for sure, but even if you don't, take a listen and explore the magic.