REVIEW: Orations – “Incantation”

orationsincantation

I love hearing modern bands play classic genre music. Orations are a prime example of how good it can sound. What they’ve done on Incantation is an interesting bit of songwriting, and certainly not easy. They live in a middle ground of goth inspired post-punk/new wave and driving, mid-tempo punk rock. They never sound like just a punk rock band trying to fuck with post-punk and new wave, and that is what makes this whole thing work so well.

The four songs on Incantation seem to be split into two styles. “Curses” and “Strangely Safe” bookend the EP with a style that calls to mind the poppier side of Siouxsie And The Banshees or The Cure. Mostly thanks to that classic post-punk/new wave guitar tone. Great use of reverb and great melodics. Those songs have a gothy kind of sound, but never fall into the droney and brooding genre traps. The middle two songs, “Circus of Currents” and “Nosedive,” have a much more straight forward punk rock sound. They definitely match the tone of the other songs, but maybe don’t rely so much on the overall atmospherics as much.

The band is great at tying everything together. Jason Draper (bass) and Paul Morin (guitar) absolutely nail the kind of interplay needed to make this sound work. Steve Sojka (drums) is very versatile in his own right, switching styles depending on what the songs call for. A lot of band would sort of fuck up the post-punk to punk rock shift, but Orations have it covered. But, in my mind, the strongest selling point of the record has to be Jess Collins’ vocals. She has a very commanding voice. It’s strong enough to stand out on the more driving songs, but versatile enough to weave in and out of the more atmospheric one.

This is skilled band walking a very tight rope. They’re making music that borrows from a classic sound, but they’re adding enough life and energy to keep it from being mindless throwback bullshit. A lesser band might not be able to do it, and that alone makes this one worth a listen.

Orations
Sheets Of Tens Records / Buy It
Bandcamp / Buy It

REVIEW: Middle Part – “Middle Part”

mpmp

Middle Part is pop and noise. They are where those two sensibilities intersect. It’s weird, it’s abrasive, and it’s not for everyone. It’s really fucking good though. Let’s not bullshit around with some long write up. Middle Part is making aggressive, lo-fi music. There is a lot of noise, a lot of yelling, and a whole lot of muscle. This two piece from Harrisonburg, VA isn’t holding anything back this EP. They have a drum and a bass, but are way more than the sum of their parts.

There are a number of things this band excels at, not the least of which is the ability to make a hard left turn out of nowhere. Songs like “Dip Dip” and “Like Before” pull you in with an almost dancey, post-punk sound. The former shifts back and forth between that and a killer hardcore/noise combination. It’s disjointed and jagged, but it works. The latter is probably the most accessible song on the record, but even it plays around with time changes and styles. It’s shift is almost a pop to dirge to pop thing.

“Fight Song” is all aggression. Musically, vocally, whatever. In fact, Judy Hong’s vocals are what makes this record work for me. They can range anywhere from melodic and halting (“Like Before”) to just fucking shredded (“Fight Song” and “Dip Dip”). The vocals work so well with the distorted bass and pounding drum. The production work from Tristan O’Shea, who is the other half of the band, absolutely nails the mood of this record too.

There isn’t a whole lot more that needs to be said. If you want a record that will keep you on your toes, this is absolutely it. Check it out.

Middle Part
Too Far Gone Records
Bandcamp
Buy It

 

REVIEW: Parachute For Gordo – “Ten Metres Per Second Per Second”

pfgParachute For Gordo did a lot of things on Ten Metres Per Second Per Second that a lot of other bands of their ilk probably wouldn’t. Recorded live over just three hours, it is a record that has a very strong sense of urgency and power behind it. This is a band that, much like their labelmates in twothirtytwo, have carved out an interesting niche for themselves.

Parachutes For Gordo are, in the end, an art band. They also have a knack for making disjointed songwriting work. They primarily exist in the middle ground of post-punk and indie rock. They are a band that shifts everything within their songs. Tempos, styles, overall structure. Things can go anywhere at anytime. Ten Metres Per Second Per Second is a record built on experimentation.

This experimentation shows strongly on songs like “I Offered You A Small Dog In The Kitchen“ and “The Labrasaga – Part I: Labrador Deciever, Part II: LabraDoodlebug.” The former is one of the most straight forward songs on the record. It has an excellent rise/fall/rise dynamic to it. The latter is a song that, clocking in at around 16 minutes, shows exactly where this band succeeds. It is a song that is standard indie fare for the first half of it. At almost seven minutes in, goddamn, it gets heavy. It goes from a clean guitar that is kind of noodling about to a distorted riffing that is raw power. It then cycles back around.

While the loud/quiet/loud dynamic isn’t anything new, especially in indie and post-punk, Parachute for Gordo make it work. Ten Metres Per Second Per Second in energetic, raucous, and raw. It definitely stands out.

Parachute For Gordo
Rose Coloured Records
BandCamp
Buy It

REVIEW: Skull Practitioners – “ST1” (Tape)

ST1Skull Practitioners are a band that really show how pointless the genre splintering of music is. You could call them post-punk, psychedelic, garage rock, or straight up punk rock. Any designation you give them would work, but it wouldn’t be a fair representation of what’s going on. Their self titled cassette is very hard to classify. And, to a point, it feels like the classification would cheapen it.

Musically, this is a band who plays hard. There is a lot of muscle behind the guitar. The drums are fantastic. But, honestly, that might be the most cohesive thing on ST1. With the band having the influences they do, it makes the tape a touch disjointed. It fluctuates from arty noise to more traditional guitar rock. There might even be some New York no wave in there too? There is a lot going on.

The sheer amount of things happening is pretty clearly the point. Skull Practitioners seem to be taking a kitchen sink approach. They are throwing every influence in, and seeing what works. The good thing is that all the songs work. Maybe not as a single piece of music, but definitely as individual songs. But, still, a song like “Nelson D” doesn’t seem to belong on the same thing as “Another Sicko.” It doesn’t matter much though. ST1 is brooding, it’s distorted, and it’s just has a lot of bite to it. It’s definitely worth a listen. Even if it’s only to hear a band jump from a more garage rock sound to an almost James Chance type sound.

Skull Practitioners is a band made up of music veterans. Jason Victor, Alex Baker, and Ken Levine are definitely more than the sum of their parts. Nothing on here was done by accident, and nothing on here isn’t meant to be here. It’s a challenging listen, for sure. But, that said, I Skull Practitioners is a project that continues for more releases. I’d love to see what else they can do.

Skull Practioners
BandCamp / Buy It

REVIEW: twothirtytwo – “The Hope We Had”

twotirtytwoI hate indie rock. No, that’s not true. I hate how “indie rock” has become shorthand for some really generic, boring bullshit. There are a million “indie rock” bands in the world, and it is so hit or miss. My immediate opinion of twothirtytwo was that, honestly, they could have gone either way. To lazily classify the band as one thing or another, twothirtytwo are an indie/alternative band who are pulling some moves from post-punk. The good news is that they are pulling the right ones.

The Hope We Had is the latest in a series of singles and EPs the band has put out. Having done a bit of a crash course of their older releases, I can say confidently that It is also probably their best work to date. The music sounds better. The production is better. While they may have lost some of the “punk” from the post-punk, it still works beautifully. This is an EP, and band, that would fit into a Venn diagram of bands like Joy Division, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Interpol, and The Killers. While those comparisons would work for the music as well, they are especially true for the vocals. Andrew Clift has a voice that is deeper than the genre standard. It has a more baritone timbre to it. His vocal delivery plays perfectly for this.

As an overall record, The Hope We Had is accessible enough to play for fans of music played on alternative radio. It also has enough interesting things happening to appeal to your standard, snobby indie fan. It is very much a column A, Column B type record. The first three songs cruise along, and a pretty standard genre fare. Things really get interesting on titular track, “The Hope We Had.” That song really allows the entire band to flex their musical muscle. The guitar interplay is perfect, the rhythm section holds steady. There is even a pretty sweet solo in there. It is a song that shows how much the band is capable of.

There was a lot being stacked up against twothirtytwo. They are in a pretty packed genre, and needed to make something really great to stand out from the pack. They pretty much nailed it.

twothirtytwo
Rose Coloured Records
BandCamp
Buy It

**Record will be out on September 8, 2014**

REVIEW: Late Bloomer – “Things Change”

latebloomerthingschangeShit, so Late Bloomer. There is a lot going on with them. They’ve taken influence from a wide array of places, and they have compressed it down to a cohesive sound that is theirs. Their sophomore full length, Things Change, find them squarely rooted in that indie/punk sweet spot that bands like Dinosaur Jr. or Hüsker Dü were doing in the late 80s/early 90s. Maybe some grunge thrown in there too. But, they have managed to do it in a way that avoids being some shitty throwback band. It is them playing with those influences, not ripping them off.

Things Change is a great record that plays pretty loose with genre rules. It’s clear that Late Bloomer isn’t concerned with making one thing or another, they are concerned with doing what works for them. They fucking nailed that. You can label and genre this band a million different ways, but you’d be wrong. It’s too punk to be indie, it’s too poppy to be post-hardcore, it’s to grunge to be punk. The beauty of it is that they’re really all those thing. It’s definitely a column A, column b situation. The seamless transitions from genre to genre make this record special.

On paper, this record should be a disjointed mess. In practice, goddamn it works. A song like “Children” goes right into “Mirror” without any issues. All three band members can sing. All the songs can carry a different flavor. It is all works because this is a very skilled band. This is a cohesive album, not a collection of songs. It wouldn’t work if Late Bloomer didn’t have the skills to adeptly mix it all together into one of the strongest full lengths I’ve heard this year.

Late Bloomer
Tor Johnson Records (Buy It)
Self Aware Records (Buy It)
BandCamp

REVIEW: King Woman – “Dove/Fond Affections” (cassette single)

kingwomanKristina Esfandiari has been responsible for some of my favorite music this year. She just released an EP earlier this year, Halloween Dream, as Miserable. Now, as King Woman, we have the Dove / Fond Affections cassette single. It’s her second release under the King Woman moniker. It really reinforces the idea that she is a wellspring of creativity. While she is still best known from her days in Whirr, it’s her solo material that is really worth noting. It is going to be interesting, no matter what it’s released as. She is able to conceptualize music in a way that goes beyond most shoegaze/post-punk/post-rock/whatever. If those genres are built around creating moods in a non-conventional way, then she is one of the best out there right now.

There are a lot of similarities between King Woman and Miserable. This isn’t surprising considering the nature of the projects. Both have very drawn out, ethereal vocals. Both deal heavily in effects and non-traditional music. But, and this is very important, the overall way those pieces fit is very different. Miserable took a more traditional shoegaze sound and beefed it up by including some very dense, heavy music. King Woman deals more in ethereal psychedelia, with some post-punk and psych-folk added for flavor.

There are two songs on the new single. One is an original, one is a cover. The A-side, Dove, spans 15 minutes. It adds a new dimension to what King Woman does. It is a drawn out, slow-burn of a song. It feels more similar to her work as Miserable than it does her earlier King Woman songs. It is expansive and atmospheric. It never gets as dense as Miserable did, but it maintains some of the power. It’s a hauntingly beautiful song.

The B-side is a cover of Rema-Rema’s “Fond Affections.” The King Woman version that appears here is closer to the cover This Mortal Coil did than it is to the original (kind of). It’s a hell of a cover though. While remaining pretty true to the post-punk origins of it, this particular cover is has more a drone influence. It’s moody and engaging in all the best ways.

In fact, “engaging in all the best ways” is a great way to sum up this release as a whole. It is a must listen for anyone who likes their music ambient, unconventional, and experimental. Grab this while you can.**

King Woman
The Native Sound
BandCamp
Buy It

**As a result of being out on The Native Sound, this is a very limited release if you want it on a physical format. In this case, it’s a cassette with a limited run of 150. If that is something you’re interesting in, better act fast. Otherwise, you’re going to have to get it digitally.**