vrijdag 5 maart 2021

Centre. Mt. Mountain

Some more psychedelia this week. Now from Perth in Australia. Meaning that Perth based bands have gone from 0 reviews to 2 within weeks after writing about Psychedelic Porn Crumpets recently*. Mt. Mountain plays a far more relaxed and less pop oriented kind of psychedelic music, that in some spots almost can't be called rock any more. Psychedelic ballads comes closer as the band's music is so incredibly free flowing, like the fluid projection on the wall, ever changing within a determined form.

Mt. Mountain is not a new band, although it is for me. With Centre the band released its fourth album. The band opens with a 7 minute plus outing, 'Tassel'. For a few moments the band fools me into believing I'm listening to the new Maxïmo Park, reviewed two days ago on this blog, but soon a more psychedelic sound sets in and the band starts to work on a giant, hypnotic musical piece of art. Repetition is the word here. The drum pattern, the long held synth notes, the repetitive guitar part, it all brings the listener slowly but surely in a trance. The opening song competes with the best of them. For me that is The Black Angels. 'Tassel' just grows and grows and is a statement of an opening song.

Singer Stephen Bailey nearly drowns in the music around him. This to me sounds intentional. Let's face it, he does not have a great singing voice, like more singers in a psychedelic band don't. He has that kind of voice that becomes a part of the trip. In 'Tassel' his monotonous singing simply fits. It's not conceivable to hear another kind of voice here.

Does it remain this good? That's almost impossible and does not. The record continues with a nice, muted opening riff on the guitar. Again a repetition and long held notes on the keys. 'Hands Together' adds a little mystery to Centre. The song is spacious and definitely another trip to go on. Let yourself go and the song will move you to a higher level of consciousness for sure. I can feel how it hovers in my mind. Next step is to listen to the song on a good stereo with the headphones on and eyes fully closed. I already relish the idea that is bound to happen soon.

On 'Hands Together' the rock element in Mt. Mountain's music has already left the studio. The drive of the song certainly is there and live this can be played at ear-splitting levels, it's not what this song is about. It is about that groove that goes on and on that does something to the brain.

This is the strength of Centre I start noticing. This is not an album for all times of the day. No, it's for those moments when the listener can surrender to the music Centre plays. Allow time and allow attention and this music will come to you at different levels. Only then it has a full effect and believe me I noticed the difference fully.

So is this the rest of the album not as good as 'Tassel'? That fully depends on the circumstances. 'Tassel" can get you in a mood that opens the mind and let the album roam free there. And these ballads I wrote about in the intro become spacious musical adventures to undergo with a peaceful mind. Centre has two faces in the ear of this listener.

Wo.

* It turns out there was a previous Perth band I wrote on, Pond, in 2013. All psychedelic albums It's safe to talk of a Perth scene, I guess.

You can listen to and order Centre here:

https://fuzzclub.bandcamp.com/album/centre


or listen to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

https://open.spotify.com/user/glazu53/playlist/6R9FgPd2btrMuMaIrYeCh6?si=KI6LzLaAS5K-wsez5oSO2g

donderdag 4 maart 2021

10 singles, 2021/9

Weeks fly by as if it is some kind of race and the older I get the faster it seems to go. Do you recognise that? The good side is that I'm certainly never bored, as that are the moments time does not seem to pass (and during extremely exciting sports matches with only a marginal lead for a favourite team of course). Today I present you with ten more singles. Again extremely different in sound. From a hard rocking busker, to electronic pop songs, loud and less loud duos and folk music. Click on the link below and follow what I am writing about song by song.

Unthunk. Otzeki

What is this I'm hearing?, was the first thing I thought when listening to Unthunk for the first time and in a way I still do. Everything on this single comes from a box, but let's face it, the chorus does have a catchy element. The duo, cousins, Joel Roberts and Mike Sharp are inspired by everything from Billy Joel to Throbbing Gristle, so they say, but I'm only hearing modern electronic music. Unthunk definitely has an 80s vibe around it. The vocoder way of singing reminds me of the first experiments. This song is far more modern and patchy. As if swaths of music are glued together. Over it the melody simply works, while the music allows for some modest dancing as well.

Spirit. The Blue Stones

Another guitar - drums duo. Musically closer to Blood Red Shoes, vocally to The Black Keys. A nice mix for a Canadian band. Spirit is an incredibly strong song. The rock riffs fly all over the song, the power is there from the very beginning and the melody is pleasantly familiar as it sticks in my ears without having to think about it twice. Running ahead of the new album 'Hidden Gems', the single gives off a welcome card that hardly could be any better. If Spirit is the standard then 'Hidden Gems' is going to be a great album. The Blue Stones worked with producer Paul Meany. This results in a song that a duo can never play on stage in this way. There are guitar overdubs, some keyboards, all fine to me, as it results in this powerhouse of a song. At the same time Spirit winds down in the right places making the fired up parts even stronger as they stick out. A truly great song and introduction Spirit is.

Hall Of Death. Matt Sweeney, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy

Hall Of Death is a surprising song. Uptempo in a way that I do not liken to the duo. Sweeney plays fast guitar parts, yes multiple, in a weird country fashion, over which Will Oldham sings perhaps his fastest vocal delivery ever. Yes, this is a weird song, but at the same time Sweeney shows what in incredible guitar player he is. The myriad of sounds come from all around, cascading down on my ears. Listening closer I come to the conclusion that Hall Of Death is an electronic version of the fast songs of The Hackensaw Boys. It has the same pace and power and live may present the same fun. The surprise of Hall Of Death comes at the end. The tempo comes down and I expect a comeback of the fast paced song, but no, it's the end. Hall Of Death is great to walk into when presented this way. Surprising or not, this is a very nice song.

Too Cool For School. Electraluxx

Electraluxx plays as if it is 1955 all over again or for sake of argument 1981 when The Straycats or The Violent Femmes got onto the postpunk scene with their fired up version of rockabilly. Too Cool For School is totally anachronistic and total fun. From the drum pickup to the rolling guitar riff in the intro, all hearing this will be transported back to a time where jiving was the thing for teenagers and skirts were flying around and up. Electraluxx was disbanded in the 1990s but is back and where else than on Rum Bar Records, that Boston haven for all (punk)rock and rollers of old. The Garfield, New Jersey, band is able to make everybody forget that 65 years have passed and a new rock and roll song can still be enjoyed, no matter how many years have come and gone since. Too Cool For School in a leather jacket or with a game console in hand, the message remains, perhaps not really smart, but certainly the same.

Lights Of The City. Distant Voices

At the beginning of this song I had a memory crossing my mind. Have you ever heard music in the walking tubes of the underground? Music coming from somewhere, echoing against the walls, without knowing where it's coming from? Sometimes never finding out? That kind of memory. Distant Voices or London based singer-songwriter Valdis Steketis, could be recorded busking at the beginning of Lights Of The City. A man and his acoustic guitar. That is all make believe. Slowly but surely the band adds instruments and comes to a great climax. The only downside is the ever repeat sentence "I'm ready for the lights to the city". Considering the energy the song has at that point, everything is forgiven. There's no stopping the force of Distant Voices once it is let loose. The energy of the busking man, it's definitely there and then already, is picked up by a full band, after a spacey interlude. Man, when this band blows, it blows. What an incredible single.

Along The Hidden Beach / Turtle Dove. Chalk Horse Music

Fairly recently I read a tome called 'Sarum' written by Edward Rutherford. It is a historical novel about living on the chalk from the days of hunter gatherers, subsistence farming, wars and occupation, the building of a great cathedral, up to modern day Salisbury. Full disclosure, two of my ancestors were born west of Wilton, a town that features in 'Sarum'. Chalk Horse Music has the chalk in its name and plays traditional folk songs from that region. Except that the original songwriters may never recognise their songs as they are presented here. The band plays the songs with an 80s jazzy undertone, as could be found with bands like Swing Out Sister and Everything but the Girl. Let me add Sade too. The result is two beautiful songs that have a soft swing. The lack of danger in the larger part of the arrangements, there is a slightly disturbing, relative that is, intro, is more than made up for in the pleasant swing, the horns and the singing of Liz Pearson. Four songs on route to an album, my take is that Chalk Horse Music has a perfect score at this point.

Eat Me, I'm Sad. POM

Eat Me, I'm Sad starts as if it goes for the 100 meter sprint at the Olympics. It isn't. It takes an early lead to scare the competition and leave them behind from the start. In other words POM plays with dynamics in a great way on its new single. And then to think the song is about wanting sex. Before I read that, I noticed how mischievous and sensuous singer Liza van As is singing. She sings with at least three different voices on this single, which is an asset. POM plays with its listeners and may have a tremendously great live, yeah, I know, live ...., song thanks to the great dynamics. Multiple explosions of ecstasy are easy to see in my mind's eye. I am not at the point where I say that Eat Me, I'm Sad is a tremendously good song, I describe it more as enthusiastic, as the band presents itself in its full musical glory here. To stay in the sex mode it itself introduced, you'll find multiple, musical climaxes in one single single. That's more than a lot of songs in this round-up can attest to. Because of that it stays fully on my good side and I can't wait for the album to be released, somewhere not to long away, I hope.

Daylight. White Flowers

Daylight is a duo from Preston, Lancashire that formed in London while studying there. With Daylight the duo, Joey Cobb and Katie Drew, works towards the release of its album 'Day After Day'. White Flowers presents itself as a dreampop duo with a light touch of psychedelia. The icing on the cake is the French sigh girl singing style of Katie Drew. She sings like dreamy hits from the 60s and 70s have come in vogue all over again. The music mixes interconnected patches of synths and a guitar part that seems to be repeated over and over. (It is not.) I can't say that a lot happens in Daylight but the single certainly deserves the benefit of the doubt. The mood is simply right. On the one hand the song allows me to dream away for almost four minutes and if I want to I can "work" by following all the musical parts and changes instead. Music that swirls and twirls as if it is dancing together in delicate parts. Daylight contains music that presents images to me with ease. That does not happen every day.

Nomad. L'Asset

Another totally electronic song. A song that is about belonging. Is it the place I grew up in, the place where my band is active or the place where my love lives (which coincidentally is the same place as I live in; all similarities stop there), where I belong?, Tessa Lamers, who is L'Asset, asks herself.  Nomad is a beautifully structured and layered song. Electronic beats mix with synths. Despite all this Nomad is a song, built up by digital means, but with a full, warm and rich melody, including a counter melody in the vocals. In that way the song is surprising, as it is not of the kind I would usually listen to. L'Asset has a nice, rough edge to her voice making it possible for her to sing with a few different timbres. This is underscored in the rhythmically strong synth solo. At the end a little Madonna shines through Nomad. A rich song it is.

To The Island. Crowded House

When did I hear my fist Crowded House single? It must have been somewhere in 1987, 'Don't Dream It's Over'. My first Split Enz single was in 1977, 'My Mistake'. A lot of water has passed under a lot of bridges since then. Crowded House disbanded and reformed in the mean time. There's new music as well, including this single. The sad, even frustrating, thing for ageing artists is that often their fans are not interested in hearing new music from their favourite artists. Their minds are set and they have it sort of set in stone. I dare to state that despite the giant back catalogue I'm carrying with me, I do have an open ear. Listening to To The Island I can't help comparing the song to what came before and it does not cut it. Now 'Don't Dream Is Over', Weather With You', 'Four Seasons In One Day', 'Message To My Girl' and 'Chocolate Cake' are among the best pop songs ever written, so it's nothing to be ashamed of when that level is not met. To The Island is a nice song and that is worth something. Just listen to the familiar Crowded House elements in the song and the singing and especially to the nice interlude and outro. Then you know Neil Finn has not lost his chops. To The Island is more than worthwhile getting familiar with.

Wo.

Listen to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

https://open.spotify.com/user/glazu53/playlist/6R9FgPd2btrMuMaIrYeCh6?si=KI6LzLaAS5K-wsez5oSO2g

woensdag 3 maart 2021

Nature Always Wins. Maxïmo Park

Is it fair to compare a band to one of its first and best songs forever? That answer has to be no, but as a fan of that specific song, I just can't help doing so. At the time of Maxïmo Park's live show following its third album, the band indicated that it knew what its most anticipated song was as well. It played 'Apply Some Pressure' as the very last song, letting the old Tivoli venue in Utrecht erupt for a final time.

With the release of Nature Always Wins the band is in its third decade and the singles that preceded it, got me interested again. They did not so much sound as the Maxïmo Park of the 00s. The band does not have to. What I am hearing, is inspired songs where the band showcases what it is capable of in 2020/21. And that is more than enough to enjoy what is on offer.

Of course the voice of Paul Smith, that slightly nasal sound, defines a large part of Maxïmo Park's sound. His voice is up front and immediately identifiable as such. The second part is the high energy postpunk songs of the band. They can be found on the new album, but what was missing in the past years was that little extra the band had on its first two albums.

A band has to evolve over the years to remain interesting. Maxïmo Park has evolved but did not always remain interesting to my ears. With Nature Always Wins that has changed as I like many of the guitar riffs, the vocal melodies and harmonies.

Time changed the band in another way as well. After losing bassist Archis Tiku in the mid-10s, keyboard player Lukas Wooller left the band in 2019. The effect is, perhaps surprisingly, not much less keyboards in the sound, instead of more guitars. I'm not complaining but mostly because of the quality of the songs on Nature Never Wins. Take the upbeat discobeat song 'Meeting Up'. The synths are all over this song as if Wooller never left. The song is surprising because of its beat, but is of the cheering up kind.

What I also like is the duets/harmonies on the album. The female voice next to Paul Smith works really well in a few songs. It gives the band a different flavour at the right moment, growing the power of the album as a whole. Duncan Lloyd's guitar playing hasn't changed that much. Take the punkfunk lines in 'Why Must A Building Burn?'. They sound instantly recognisable. The song is energised but not necessarily recognisable as a Maxïmo Park song of old. It is far richer in melody and ease. It shows that the band is still able to write great songs, that should work live really well. And then comes 'I Don't Know What I'm Doing'. By then I got the picture of Nature Always Wins, a line from the final song, a ballad, 'Children Of The Flatlands'.

It's time to stop comparing. Maxïmo Park has evolved and in 2021 sounds like a very inspired band. Nature Always Wins is the album the band in my opinion needed to make to breath life into its career. Whenever we can go back to watch live shows, the most songs on this album will work really well along side the favourites of old to make an incredibly strong setlist. For now congratulations, Maxïmo Park, on a new, great album.

Wo.

You can listen to and order Nature Always Wins here:

https://maximoparkofficial.bandcamp.com/releases


or listen to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

https://open.spotify.com/user/glazu53/playlist/6R9FgPd2btrMuMaIrYeCh6?si=KI6LzLaAS5K-wsez5oSO2g

dinsdag 2 maart 2021

East Side Drive. The Heartdrops

East Side Drive is a re-released album from 1999. An album and a band I had never heard of and chances are that I would not really have liked the album at the time. Not so in 2021. East Side Drive is an album that is charged with energy. More importantly it is filled with great punkrock songs. The Heartdrops provides songs that have great melodies along with that wall of guitars backed up by a bass guitar that is playing so hard that it becomes a concrete wall in the background holding up the whole world if needed. Alongside that solid foundation the drummer can basically do what he wants to and regularly does. Of course fierce rhythms but not without machine gun rolls or cymbaltop subtleties. He can play them all, because his back is taken care off.

Rum Bar Records has unearthed the output of a record label from New York called Melted Records and one of the bands on that label was The Heartdrops, a three piece consisting of Luke Metz - Bass, Vocals / Chris Clay - Vocals, Guitar / Ben James - Drums, Percussion. After releasing a few EPs and one album, 'This Is The Heartdrops', the band released its final album in 1999 and what a loss for the world it is that it ended there and then. Come 2021 Rum Bar released a digital, "name your price" Melted Records sampler (see the link below) and has started to re-release full albums. It's impossible to keep up with the pace Rum Bar has releasing singles and albums, I do not even try, but this is another album that just cries out "listen to me"! And not in a demure way.

Chris Clay and Luke Metz manage to sing together in a great punk way. Clay has that in your face way of singing, so full of confidence and spunk. He leads the way forward without hesitation. Now confidence and spunk are all fine but not without the songs. I am certain that if it were all to be stripped away and a song like 'Coming Back' was handed to a duo like Simon & Garfunkel in the mid 60s it would have turned out as a great song as well. Here it holds all that makes a punkrock song so great to listen to. Great riffing, dynamics, a strong solo, the lyrics to sing along to.

Why some really good bands break big and others don't, is always a bit of a mystery. Meeting the right people at the right moments, slightly better looks, a better manager or booker, there can be a million reasons besides having better songs. Concerning East Side Drive I dare to state that this album does not pale besides what Green Day was releasing in the 90s, let alone The Offspring.

Come 2021 I can imagine Chris Clay bringing his kids to a sports match and one of the other fathers saying to another, "did you know Chis played guitar in a punk band"? "No, which one"? It happened to me somewhere in the 00s with the guitarist of Dutch punk pioneers Ivy Green. He had become a lawyer since and never played guitar after going to university. I haven't a clue what has become of the members of The Heartdrops but on the basis of what I'm hearing on this surprisingly good record, I hope that every once in a while someone will say to them 'I love your record'! Since a few weeks I do, so let me say from behind my computer: "I love your record!".

Wo.

You can listen to and buy East Side Drive here:

https://rumbarrecords.bandcamp.com/album/east-side-drive-melted-records-archives

the Melted sampler is here:

https://rumbarrecords.bandcamp.com/album/if-it-aint-tasty-it-aint-melted-the-melted-records-years-1995-2001-free-bandcamp-download-mixtape-sampler


or listen to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

https://open.spotify.com/user/glazu53/playlist/6R9FgPd2btrMuMaIrYeCh6?si=KI6LzLaAS5K-wsez5oSO2g

maandag 1 maart 2021

Southern Lights. Holy Monitor

There are days that I hear a new psychedelic rock album for the first time and it blows my mind, like psychedelic rock albums should. Southern Lights by Athens, Greece, based band Holy Monitor does. Everything on this album sounds instantly familiar. As it all falls exactly in the right places, the album is a joy to listen to, but above all, plain and simply put, good.

So, do you need to know more? Of course not, go out and listen to it, buy it and spread the word. Do I like to write a little more about Southern Lights? Of course I do.

Let's start with the band itself. Holy Monitors is a five piece band that started as a studio project for two, guitarists Stefanos Mitsis and George Nikas, also the singer. After releasing two EPs the band was brought together. Alex Bolpasis (bass), Vangelis Mitsis (keyboards) and Dimitris Doumouliakas (drums) joined and started to perform together live. Together they recorded and released two albums, 'Holy Monitor' in 2017 and 'II' in 2018, to be followed by an EP in 2020, 'This Desert Land'. Southern Lights is the band's third full length album; and my first.

My attention was caught immediately when the band opened with an elaborate instrumental intro to 'River'. A 6.04 minutes long song that can easily hold a long, interesting intro. From a vague soundscapelike begin a huge guitar riff emerges, the band including, a warm Hammond organ, kicks in before an even larger riff joins the first one that is moved slightly to the background. Without a tracklist, it is easy to think that there is a short instrumental song that opens the album and then a second song starts, with a new intro, in no way smaller that the first but slower and more thoughtful, contemplative. The singing that finally starts is trippy, subdued and totally befitting the music. It's very easy to imagine fluid projections behind the band.

With an objective ear I hear everything from The Black Angels to Kula Shaker and PAUW in the music. Not for nothing some of my favourite bands in this genre of rock music. Holy Monitor easily slips into this category when 'River' returns to the speed and intensity of the intro sequence once more.

 Photo: Takis Madray
Next up is single 'Naked In The Rain' that was lauded in a single round-up recently. The wah-wah pedal is used masterly. Again I notice that one trick on the guitar is not enough for this band. There's always a second or third melody to be found around or beyond the original idea. Although 'Naked In The Rain' is a fairly straightforward song, as a whole it has that power and intensity that makes listening to psychedelic rock of the right kind so interesting. Including a great organ solo.

Throughout the album Holy Monitor keeps surprising. There's a masterly playful use of dynamics in 'The Sky Is Falling Down'. Where all drops away for a totally subdued sound to emerge from the silence, making my skin crawl from musical delight. Somehow the song reminds me of Golden Earring's 1971 hitsingle 'She Flies On Strange Wings'. (For Greek readers, check the song out on Spotify!) On the other hand there is the far lighter, almost poppy 'Bell', where the band manages to write what could have been a hit in another time. It tips the hits of Kula Shaker from the mid 90s like 'Govinda' and 'Tattva' easily. Faint traces of eastern music daubed in psychedelic sounds. I like the way Holy Monitor manoeuvres with ease between harder sequences. 'The Sky Is Falling Down' e.g. holds elements of classic rock that merge with the psychedelic sounds and the lighter, more evidently trippy parts. It results in an album that is more than just interesting and nice. This band ought to be able to blow minds from the stage with its intense songs like 'Southern Lights' and 'River' and mesmerise the audience with several others. Even the underwater, trippy instrumental 'Hourglass' is simply fine.

With 'Ocean Trail' the band repeats itself for the first time perhaps, but listen to how strong the guitar riffs and the long-held Hammond chords are. Kula Shaker returns as a Greek reincarnation. Let it, when it is this good. The albums ends with the much more light-hearted 'Under The Sea' with a wobbly guitar and a 60s solo. A psychedelic ballad to close an album that is mostly like a psychedelic storm gives an opportunity to catch my breath before I emerge myself in the opening riffs of 'River' once again. Southern Lights is that kind of album alright.

Until I was introduced to 'Naked In The Rain', I had never heard of Holy Monitor. A few weeks later Southern Lights can be heard in my home regularly. Good rock music can come from all over the world. The difficult part is to get acquainted with it. Running a blog on music certainly helps here. Because missing out on a great song like 'The Sky Is Falling Down' would be such a miss.

Yes, the music on Southern Lights is totally anachronistic. It has nothing to do with what I hear youths play these days (or better see play on a screen). For me it is like as if an angel is peeing on my tongue. Holy Monitor has made one of the great neo-psychedelic albums of the last ten years.

Wo.

You can listen to and buy Southern Lights here:

https://holymonitor.bandcamp.com/


or listen to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

https://open.spotify.com/user/glazu53/playlist/6R9FgPd2btrMuMaIrYeCh6?si=KI6LzLaAS5K-wsez5oSO2g