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Posts Tagged ‘Shoegazing’

Dead Leaf Echo’s Fire Is Anything But Pale

Posted by Scotio on February 19, 2009

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It’s been a while. I seem to get bombarded by real life and not enough time to actually do what I want. What I want to do is write. So, I’m taking this time out to jot down some words that forms a review for a band I’ve been asked to take a gander at. Dead Leaf Echo is the name of the band, and the album I was offered to review was their EP Pale Fire. I can’t express how much of a joy it is to be able to review such delightful record from an obviously talent trio. So, right off top, I’d like to send thanks to LG(lead singer, guitarist) for giving the opportunity, and apologize for the lengthy delay that passed from the sending to the actual posted review. In all honesty, it was due to procrastination and, then, lengthy listening from surprised enjoyment.

With only six(6) tracks on this EP, it’s not exactly epic in length. But, what it lacks in length, it more than makes up for in content. All the songs on this mini-album are sensational combinations of Post-Rock, Indie Rock & Shoegazing. Needless to say, I’m a well-rounded fan of the three(3) mentioned genres(or subgenres if you’re that much of a stickler). Almost every song here is atmospheric and sweeping. But, none moreso than the title track “Pale Fire.” Mixed by the unsung legend Ulrich Schnauss, the brooklyn band delivers something so true to the staple of shoegazing that you’re tempted to see if they are American relatives of the Shoegazing posterband My Bloody Valentine. It’s not only the best track, but also the lengthiest. Which, due to it’s captivating sound, works in its favor. LG croons on the track like he was Kevin Shield’s star pupil. But, there is no imitation or duplication involved in this performance. It’s such an inspiring display that if someone told you it was a tribute to the band, you’d be hard to contest it. What’s brilliant is that Liza(Keyboardist) sings background right along with LG. It adds to the sensation of the track. That, coupled with the air-like echoed effect on LG’s vocals, is just enough to do you in and take you under. The only one that could have done an equally impressive mixing job that Schnauss performed would be the remarkable Alan Moulder.

“Warm Body” is a great way to introduce the EP. It plays only for under two(2) minutes. But, it leads perfectly into “Thought Talk.” Now, this song stands out strongly. It’s not so much as shoegazing as it is stuck somewhere between New Wave & Dream Pop with just a soft hint of Psychedelia. But, wherever that actual location is, you’re right there with it like its sidekick while you listen. The drum work done on this is sex. The cadence that it keeps is damn near orgasmic. Easily, this should be a crowd favorite at live performances. The wicked part is for about fifty(50) seconds, the tempo kicks up and you can hear the band members lose themselves in their performance. When played in homes, it should come with a warning to not ignite your lighters for an encore . . . just press repeat/rewind.

Another strong nod to 80’s rock is “Reflex Motion.” It isn’t necessarily pop, and it isn’t completely gothic/gloomy. But, it’s equal parts of both. Back in a time when Robert Smith lead the goth army, this track would have caught the attention of every single soldier in said army. Outside of the not-so subtle The Cure comparison, there’s also a similar taste of Bauhaus resting inside the song. There isn’t tons of complexity in this track, but there is a large degree of effects pedal knobbing going on while the guitars are being strummed. Mike’s bass work for this track is flat-out awesome. It’s a simple and slow hypnotic groove that keeps you enveloped from the first second to the last. Being the final track on the record, I’m left to utter out “this is how you close a record! take heed people!” And, I meant every syllable said while in that room by my lonesome.

“Tears” and “Cry The Sea” seem to work hand in hand. Played back to back from one another, they go together like siblings. On “Cry The Sea,” LG sings like master of ceremony of your dying day. Interestingly enough, when the verse aren’t in play, the track is very much uptempo enough to have the audience swinging their raven-black hair. On “Tears,” they unleash another Loveless moment, but with easier to decipher lyrics. This time, Mic Controller LG sounds like a strange blend of Thom Yorke singing Shoegazing. Yeah, it works. Odd, I know, but it does. No, his voice isn’t something a dead ringer for Mr. Yorke, but his rhythm & harmony is similar to some work that you’ve heard from Radiohead.

This Brooklyn band is one for the books. They don’t disturb or diminish those whom have influenced their style. They live it. They breathe it. And, all they’re asking for is for you to take a few moments out of your life and take a ride with them. Me, personally, I greatly enjoyed the journey, and I can’t wait for their next release to hop back in that car. This three piece group(four if you include their live guitarist Ann B.) balance each other out better than most. Only two other three piece bands created after the new millenium offer such great chemistry: Yeah Yeah Yeahs & Autolux. And, like those other two, it wouldn’t be hard to find out that Dead Leaf Echo obtains a strong cult fan following in a few years. Hell, this record I’m reviewing is currently out of print for the second time, outside of a few copies left on two specific sites. So, that says something in terms of people enjoying their work(it is, however, easily available digitally). After spending a great deal of time listening to their work, I’m proud to say that they’ve obtain a new member of that cult. So, LG, if you’re reading this, I’d be more than pleased to get my fingers around a physical pressing of your releases. My collection looks incomplete without it. Fans of the aforementioned bands(or just fans of the Goth & Shoegazing movement of the 80’s), mark my words, you have some new Leuteniants to lead you through these troubled times.

P.S. They have a new album titled Truth set to be released April 4th.

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Robotanists Are Ready To Set New Assembly Standards

Posted by Scotio on October 11, 2008

I’ve never seen the movie Blood And Chocolate. I know, I know. But, I didn’t want to spend money on going to see it in the theaters. Then, it hasn’t come on a Premium Cable channel, yet. I mean, after the sadness that was The Covenant, I didn’t trust any movies which tried to gain promotion from the lovely occult series that is titled Underworld(a personal favorite of mine). I know you’re wondering what that has to do with anything. Well, it has everything to do with this review. See, the movie might be visually unknown to me, but I’ve heard the soundtrack. And, I will say that I was impressed by the covers that were featured on that album. One of the standout tracks from it was “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by the band known as Philistine. Well, Philistine never released an album. What they did was change their name to Robotanists(yeah, now you’re getting it). And, Robotanists have finally released their studio debut, Close Down The Woods. It’s an EP, but it’s enough to get the mouth wet with flavor.

Only seven (7) songs/almost thirty-seven (37) minutes long, it’s not something of grand proportions. But, it is filled with stuff that can tickle your fancy like you’re trying to get a Tickle Me Doll modeled after you. The opener track is “Wait A Minute Here.” This was the second song that I’ve heard from this act(first being the Joy Division cover). I’ve heard this song many months ago. Still, it brings such a strong longing sense that it’s hard to properly compare it to something else. The simplicity of it adds such an epic feeling to the song. You might ask how is such possible. It’s simple, really, the fact that it feels so bare bones is how it fuels the “just out of reach” sensation of the song that the lyrics bring. Vocally, Sarah(lead vocalist) is amazing. The first half of the song, it sounds like she’s singing in the shower with the water off. Alone. Thinking about the muse of the song. Either that, or inside of an empty building strolling the halls while you listen to her from the other end. I can’t tell you how many music video ideas I had swimming around in my head when I heard this song(and still do every time I hear it). Daniel(lead guitarist)’s finger work is nothing to downplay in the least bit. He’s not merely strumming an acoustic guitar, he’s plucking at you’re heart’s attention while Sarah holds your head in a submission maneuver. If you’re not captivated by this song, then I don’t know how you can ever claim to have been in love and possess a heart.

The next song is “Subtlety Is Underrated”. Now, I’ll admit, I was not expecting this as a follow-up after the majesty that is “Wait A Minute Here.” It’s not like it’s bad. No, it’s not. It’s just completely unexpected. The band seem to call on their inner Beatles meets Beach Boys. The song harbors all the same sense of bliss and joy with lyrics that run deeper than it’s easily accessible pop soundscape leaves you to believe as the aforementioned bands. Again, on this song, Sarah’s voice soars. She could have played it safe and merely sang in cadence over the beat, but what would that have done? Nothing but made it another cheesy pop tune. Her timeless voice is the venom that takes you under after you’ve let your guard down from the music underneath it. She sings from a place that isn’t just lost in most singers of today, it’s become completely uncharted and only the brave dare to venture there. Granted, it’s good, but I would have liked to have a full LP so that it could have a better bridge that closes the gap between Tracks 1 & 2.

Following that is the title track of this release “Close Down The Woods.” This song contains more jazz than any other. It sounds like something that you’d end up listening to in the car of your older uncle that thinks he’s still too cool, but sometimes he does offer a speck of coolness from time to time. Though you’d never tell him that, you do acknowledge that to yourself. This would be one of those moments if he pulled this song out. It’s mellow, soothing, smooth, and melodic. Again, they go back to a more minimal approach, and again it works. Robotanists use Sarah’s special weapon(her voice) in every amazing way imaginable. It becomes it’s own instrument at one part of the song. Where other vocalists would just move on through or over the music, she moves with it . . . sometimes propelling it. When the bridge at the end comes in, it’s beyond breathtaking how she has a few different layers of her voice going off at once and they never clash. It all goes together like finely tuned instruments in the San Francisco Symphony. But, all the glory isn’t Sarah’s alone, the music the band provides makes her voice that much more intoxicating . . . that much more alluring . . . and that much more enticing.

Switching gears, again, the band moves into the song “Slow Motion.” No, there isn’t anything slow about this. They mix up the feeling of Six Pence None The Richer and The Cranberries to create a much more rich and flavoring offering on this song. It would be a shame to group this band with another Teen Movie, be it gothic or outright romance. But, truth be told, this does sound like it would be the lead single of a new romantic movie. Young lovers, if you want to find that perfect song to cap off your date with and pretty much seal the deal . . . this is it. This is the song you play. The band pulls out more soundscape for this one. Preston(drummer) shows us what he’s been hiding almost for the whole disc. His timing is perfect. His tempo is excellent. His execution is one for the books, here. It’s not like there’s something new or inventive that he’s doing with his drumset. It’s that it provides the perfect backbone for the whole song. That’s what is needed of the drummer for most times. And, that is what Mr. Phillips does. Yes, Sarah is mesmerizing, here. But, that’s nothing new. Not to downplay her at all. She leaps to heights that you don’t hear female vocalists aim in either Indie Rock or even R&B much in today’s music.

On “Tasteless,” Daniel, Preston & Keith(bassist) set the tone for what appears to be a missing James Bond theme song. Primarily with Daniel showing off all the tricks of the guitar trade that he was sure to have learned watching those movies. Any fans of the highly famous Agent 007 know that the theme songs are usually just as monumental as the movies they are theming. And the music of this track is big. Broadway big, baby. With such a high standard set by the band, you know that Ms. Sarah Ellquist has to match their magic. Matches it she does. To be fair and honest, I haven’t heard a female belt out such powerful blasts on a studio song since the mid-90’s. Yes, I know that some of the current artists can sing with such passion and intensity, but you rarely seem them performing such on their studio records. This band doesn’t play for the radio, they play for the love of the music. And, all music lovers should shun themselves if they read this article and don’t rush to this band immediately. The band also has a cover of Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is” featured as a bonus track on their EP. Closing it in as the Seventh and final track. They, humorously title their version “I Don’t Want To Know What Love Is.” It’s a good cover. Is it as good as their Joy Division cover . . . hard to compare. I would say no, but Daniel’s brilliant guitar performance allows it to leap up a few notches.

This band is brilliant. This EP is awesome. Seriously, it is. The ONLY problem I have with it is the lack of tracks and length. I know, it’s an EP, but I’d really love for it to have been an LP. That way, I could hear them drift in their range from song to song. The EP properly demonstrates what this group is capable of. But, you get the feeling that they are holding back, like a boxer stunning you with his speed and has yet to show you the true power they have in their punch. With the fact that this EP hits you hard, that simile in the previous sentence speaks volumes. Trust me. It’s been a long time coming for this band’s studio debut. I’m sure it’s going to be a long time running for their musical career if they continue to move from this point forward.

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Van She Tries To Tickle Your V-Spot

Posted by Scotio on August 8, 2008

Van She is an Australian band that I’ve been eager to hear an LP from since last year when I came across their self-titled EP debut. Granted, it didn’t come out last year, but that’s when I heard it. And, it was such a great sunny album. It was fully of the right pop influences from the 80’s that blended things together wonderfully. I know, I talk about how great some recent bands are with their imitation of 80’s sound, but this was different. This didn’t “remind” me of something from the 80’s, this FELT like something that was teleported directly from the vault of lost 80’s should-have-been hits. So, with my chance to actually review this album, I began salivating with eagerness.

I’ll state this right off the bat: This album is so not what I was expecting from this band. From the very first song(“Memory Man”), you’re hit with the realization that this band not only grew since their 2005 release, but also had the concept to almost reinvent themselves. I am always a fan of growth . . . if done in a proper and constructive way, of course. With that said, the band went from a sunny vacation spot anthemic band to a more Dance-Punk styled band that seem to add little pieces of Dream Pop to styles created by bands like LCD Soundsystem(Typically with the song “Strangers”), and even go so far as to throw in Shoegazing for the mix(Especially with the track “The Sea”). It just seems like they wanted more out of themselves than just synthesizer manipulations.

On the song “Talkin’,” they combine two things that you wouldn’t have expected, A digitalized Voice-Box & Radio Pop. Though you might think that you heard something like that before, just imagine someone like the iconic group Daft Punk teaming up with a more poppier David Lee Roth(California Girls style). Then, you could get a glimpse of how the song should sound. For a brief moment in the song(after the 2nd chorus), the beat turns completely digital and the vocals are uneffected. But, as I said, the moment is brief, so don’t think that you’ll start to hear what you heard on the EP. It’s over before it even starts.

Before you go and start having a little hissy fit over the change of style, you will find a revamped version of their song “Kelly” on this album. It sounds like the Older Brother of the original. The production is slightly tighter. The instrumentation has new little subtle additions to make it pop out to you more. It’s almost like they did a cover of their own track. The best way to compare it is like the changes that Mgmt. did to their song “Kids” between their Time To Pretend EP and their Oracular Spectacular LP. This track has always been their standout piece for me. It was the song that I based them on. That one track that just shone brighter amongst all the others.

Tracks like “So High”(which just screams to be used if there’s ever a Flashdance remake) and “Virgin Suicide” is where they add in the pieces of their original outting with the style that they’ve picked up for this piece. The latter sounds like it would make a wonderful B-side for “Kelly” or even a good follow-up single, and the former is a display of their synthesizer arsenal attack(Though not as completely electronic as on “Temps Mort”). Then, a track like “A Sharp Knife” or “Cat And The Eye” is similar to that, but shows more comfort with them being in their Van She skin. Both songs seem like they stand firmly between where they wanted to reach for and where they originally started at. Those types of songs on the album shows them at their best and most dynamic.

Is the album brilliant? No. Let’s just be honest here. But, is the album fun, catchy, and wonderful? Hell yes, it is. Should you go out and buy this album immediately? Not without listening to, at least, half of it first. Make sure it’s your type of fun. Make sure it’s not too catchy to where when you play it everyone will want a copy and piss you of when they walk around chanting the lyrics. And, last, make sure that you have enough wonderful moments going on to where the tunes will feel right at home for your personal soundtrack. Standouts are “Kelly,” “Strangers,” “The Sea,” and “A Sharp Knife.”

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Ulterior Has Fiendish Motives

Posted by Scotio on June 9, 2008

I’ve just recently found out about this band Ulterior. I was browsing around and came across their name and a picture of the band(the one listed above). So, I decided to see if I could find anything out about them. Well, the only thing I could find that contained samples of their music was their myspace page. So, I sighed, and clicked away. Usually, when I have to do this, I’m treated to a bunch of rubbish and foolishness that makes me wish I saved the last 1 min and 42 seconds of my life that it took me to visit their page. Surprise Surprise. I was in store for something altogether different than whatever I was expecting. The band is just mind melting. It’s music that’s hard to place inside of one category. They blend electronics, with shoegazing and 70’s styled Punk music. It’s like one big giant WTF. What’s odd is that, the music isn’t really that hard to perform. It’s quite repetitive in it’s nature. Yet, for some strange reason, it’s highly addictive and infectious. For me, out of all the music I listed that it combines, I think the spirit of it is closer to that of 70’s punk. With it’s no holds barred style, coupled with the cocky yet drugged out uncertainty. It’s just so dirty, rugged, and unshaped that it’s almost beautiful. I literally used profanity out loud when I first heard their music. Which was their song “Weapons.” What followed that was their more structured, if you could call it that, song “15.” But, what sealed the deal and made me stare into my monitor as if it was going to nod up and down and say or flash the words “Yes, I know. I feel the same way as you. I’m just as blown away.” was the track titled “Dream Dream.” I mean, I’ve heard a lot of retro music, recently. Most I like, not all, but a good bit. THIS, though, this is something completely and totally different. It’s strange enough for me to request that the water from their well in the UK be checked for some sort of contaminant or something. And, if there is anything found inside of the water, it should be bought and sold to the stupid recording artists hogging the radio and TV airwaves with their slapstick joke-for-talent music. I feel like writing/emailing all the major acts that are going to be touring my area in the next few months and demand that they add these guys as opening acts. Seriously, it’s like their music is some sort of hypnotizing rhythm that should be treated as a possible controlled substance, or even something that could contain subliminal messaging demanding your full attention. I can’t go on about them enough. I’m just really hoping that this British 4-piece band comes together and pushes out an album sometime between the end of this article and 76 mins til my death. Which should be just long enough for me to hear it twice. Then, I can brag about hearing it at whatever is next after this life. Do check them out, and tell them to push out an album IMMEDIATELY if you enjoy it.

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Velveteen’s Fortunate Mishap

Posted by Scotio on April 9, 2008

For an underground/up-and-coming band, it’s a wonderful thing when someone mistags your album for one of a band that is in heavy rotation in the USA or around the whole world. The band Velveteen(not to be confused with the American band, Velvet Teen), were the recent blessed recipients of such a wonderful mishap when someone falsely uploaded their album as Death Cab For Cutie’s Narrow Stairs album. Lucky for them, their album, Home Waters, is wonderful from start to finish. Though you’ll find no Ben Gibbard songwriting(well, almost), nor will you hear Chris Walla production/guitar work. But, like I said, that is nothing to fret over. The first piece of proof of that is the second track, first full song of the album, “After The K.M. Tapes.” I can’t tell you who K.M. is, or if it stands for a particular object, but it doesn’t diminish the awesomeness of this song. With subtle Shoegazing influences, Indie Rock singing, and Sunny Day Real Estate(one of DCFC’s influenced) styled songwriting. The melancholy vibe from “The Drummer Goes Berserk,” is hard to miss. With the keyboard keys chiming along like a morbid bedtime melody, you’re treated with the steady flow of a drum machine instead of an actual drummer losing his marbles during recording. True to Indie fashion, the title leaves you wondering what exactly does it have to do with the song(could the drummer have spazzed out prior to recording forcing them to use the drum machine in his place?). No matter the reason, all the sounds are in perfect marriage with the almost-emo tone of the singer. On “The Getaway,” it’s not hard to see the comparison between Velv & Death Cab. Sounding like something missing from between the Transatlanticism and Plans period of DCFC, Velveteen hits all the right notes at exactly the right time. If Zach Braff is listening to them, then you can expect them to be featured on whatever new movie he has in the works. “Come `Round Here No More” has to be one of the most peculiar songs on the album. As the band brings up an obstructing wall of sound while the singer keeps softly belting out lyrics as if he’s oblivious to the noise that’s drowning him out in every sense. On “Interlude: The DJ Affair,” a moderate listener of Death Cab would have to double check(maybe even triple), to make sure that Carsten Schrauff didn’t magically turn into Ben Gibbard in the middle of the album. “Firework Special” brings the bass-heavy side of Indie music. With fast alternate picking, you get the feeling that the guitar is sparkling like a crystal instrument in the back ground(Think Nick Zinner’s playing for Yeah Yeah Yeah’s song “Maps”). Filling up with intensity during the climax, Schrauff sings in a distorted microphone that makes him sound like he’s standing six feet behind the band and yelling in hopes that the mic will pick up his voice. A very dynamic effect for such a beautifully driven song. With aggressive bridge performances and a runaway train drum track, “The Big Lay Off” offers more than your typical moaning and groaning. The song is more in line with a coming to terms, revelation, or even an epiphanic moment that has finally made itself known. Tying everything up is “Epilogue: Night Swimming.” Another similar album cut to one that sounds like it could be featured on an album by the band that they were intentionally mislabeled as. With what sounds like a spaceship running idle in the background, they play the piano and strum their guitars in near perfect unison. Followed by nothing but the sound of this Solar Aquatic noise lulling you into the end of an album that was lucky enough to be well deserving of the unintentional attention that they have received. Is this album going to change the world? No. But, it’s still an astonishing piece of musicmanship that most acts can’t seem to muster up in this day and age.

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