Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Bloody Knives Will Cut Your Heart Out For This

There seems to be two camps in our post-gazing world.  One camp takes the ethereality route create airy, gauzy songs that linger like a spring breeze.  The other camp assaults you with sheets of distortion, noise, and more effects that humanly possible.  This is the camp that unsurprisingly named Bloody Knives belong in.  Their latest album, the family friendly, I Will Cut Your Heart Out For This is a loud, brash, and violent musical attack.

Creating solid sheets of noise, Bloody Knives crank their guitars to 11 put their effects pedals on overdrive and just go.  The songs that make up I Will Cut Your Heart Out For This are aural assaults of cascading waves of distortion that could scare the living daylights out of someone.  This record contains no choruses or things to latch on to.  Rather, it overpowers you with so much guitar wrangling it's hard to discern where riffs begin and end.  This is a record of sturm und drang and it's almost painful to listen to on headphones because of how chaotic and noisy it really is.  I love the idea of this band and their approach is nuts I just wish they had a bit more to cling to.  Really, what they should have done is gotten a black metal vocalist and just gone off the deep end...that would have been unreal.

As it stands though, Bloody Knives are about the most brutal and vicious indie band to walk the planet.  Their songs are visceral, raw and strike at the core of shoegazing.  Like Marmite,  I Will Cut Your Heart Out For This is a love it or hate it kind of thing and where you fall will depend on what you hear when you listen to it.  But know this, a noisier and more riotous gazing record will be hard to find!

Monday, April 4, 2016

DJ Sun Heads To China Bearing Beats With Qing Xi

Ok…I have to admit, I was a bit thrown by this record.  Judging by what I saw on the cover I figured I was about to embark on a world music journey centered in China and can you blame me…I mean look at the record.  What QingXi actually is, however, is a chilled out electronic album from DJ Sun constructed as a soundtrack to his personal journey around China; at least I got the China part correct.

Anyway, QingXi is an atmospheric excursion through sound and an imaginative travelogue authored by DJ Sun.  Originally commissioned as an audio visual experience the record is a thoughtful expedition where following along with the liner notes is important and informative.  Sun, through his writing, sets the tone and the stage for each of the pieces that make up QingXi and it provides some context of where Sun’s imagination and creativity were rooted while he was producing this record. 

Featuring a bevy of minimal beats, synth washes and other haunting and natural sounds one can’t help but wonder how these musical ideas permeated Sun’s journey throughout China.  With tracks about bee keepers, shop keepers, the island of Macau and even sailing in a non-Christopher Cross sort of way Sun keeps your imagination flowing as his story unfolds.  His blending of minimal techno and chill out while honoring tradition and culture makes for an awesome listen.  It might not be a dance floor monster but QingXi is an amazing headphone experience that will keep you mind incredibly busy. 

While this isn’t what I was expecting, I got something much better.  DJ Sun’s QingXi is an awesome listen and an interesting idea that works.  One would love to see DJ Sun take the idea of aural travelogue’s and run with it.  Imagine an Australian journey, an Indian excursion, an Arctic experience…the possibilities are endless in a Rick Steeves kind of way!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate Play Monistic Theory

Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate have come together for a second round of kora infused fusion on their album Monistic Theory.   Much like their debut, this effort is a gorgeous blend of North American and African sounds that come together in a jazzy blend of funk, folk, and virtuosity.   With a variety of influences and musical sounds blending and working together there is nothing that this duo is afraid to try.  They rap, they sing in Guinean, they pack a thousand guitar riffs into a song and let the kora weave magic spells; it’s all here and Joe & Sekou seamlessly intertwine cultures and chemistry to a dynamic and organic sound that is uniquely their own. 

From songs that sound like they’re straight from Pat Metheny’s studio to more traditional ballads featuring the kora, Joe and Sekou take the listener on a journey of exploration and discovery.  It’s a wonderful ride that’s as gorgeous as an African sunset and as intriguing as New York City.  These guys can seriously play their hearts out and it feels as though they’ve dumped every ounce of their musical souls into these songs.  There’s a lot of love, emotion, creativity and talent throughout these songs.  It’s hard to believe after listening to Monistic Theory that this collaboration might not have ever happened.  Thankfully, both Joe and Sekou stuck things out and let things flow and if all works out the journey that they’ve carried on with Monistic Theory will continue for years to come.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Cha Wa Bring The Funk & Feathers

Talk about perfect timing…the arrival of Cha Wa’s album Funk N’ Feathers just happens to coincide with the Mardi Gras season.  This record sounds so New Orleans it sounds as if it were recorded as Cha Wa were marching through the French Quarter.  To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a band that so seems festival born than Cha Wa.  These guys are ridiculously energetic and pumped to bring the sights, sounds, and even smells of Mardi Gras to you by any means necessary.

Funk N’ Feathers has this incredible live feel to it that manages to catch some of the energy that pulsates through New Orleans during this time of the year.  Honestly, it’s almost more energy than the digital music format can handle.  Nonetheless, the party atmosphere that Cha Wa creates throughout this record is upbeat and fun and propelled by songs that are percussive, rhythmic and as the title indicates…funky.  In fact, these guys are so funky that one suspects they could create grooves out nothing but CafĂ© Du Monde beignet mix. 

If you weren’t able to make it to Mardi Gras this year in New Orleans and are too lazy to partake in the one at Universal in Orlando, pop Funk N’ Feathers on, cover yourself in beads make a float out of your bed and imagine yourself cruising through the French Quarter.  Seriously.  Funk N’ Feathers is an fantastically fun record that does its best (and does it well) at trying to encapsulate the funk and fun of New Orleans in less than an hour.   Cha Wa have knocked it out of the ball park with this record and short of seeing them in New Orleans Funk N’ Feathers suffices as one heck one an experience by itself.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Jeff Runnings Primitives & Smalls Is A Beauty

Jeff Running’s album Primitives and Smalls is an ethereal dream that washes over you like a fragrant wave of clean laundry on a spring day.  The album is an airy, wondrous exploration of guitar textures, ghostlike drum beats and whispered vocals.  It’s so angelic it doesn’t feel real.  In fact the songs seem so otherworldly I’m kind of convinced that the only way to listen to Primitives and Smalls is by unconscious.

Mr. Runnings has come up with a series of haunting tunes that have some Slowdivian qualities about them but are still uniquely his thanks to his fascinating voice.  While not quite deep or high pitched, Runnings’ voice sounds dazed, hazed, and half-awake as he whispers and sighs his way through the songs that make up Primitives and Smalls.  It’s this heavenly croon that really makes the record stand out.  While the songs on Primitives and Smalls are stunningly gorgeous it’s Runnings’ voice that lifts the record from being just another post-gazing experiment. 

I quite like this record.  It’s chilling, minimalistic tones and slightly drowsy vocals make the record easy to get lost in.  Primitives and Smalls isn’t necessarily catchy or filled with pop hits but rather, is beautiful and transcendental.  This is the soundtrack to the best night’s sleep ever…and after a lot of really crappy nights of sleep this is a dream come true!  Essential listening for anyone remotely interested in shoegazing, dream pop, or a good night’s sleep!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Blessed Isles Are Straining Hard Against The Strength Of The Night

Somewhere between shoegazing and synthpop lies the land The Blessed Isles have staked out as their own.  This dynamic duo specialize in creating ethereal synthy post-gazing works of sheer beauty that are dreamy and otherworldly.  Their album Straining Hard Against the Strength Of the Night is a magnificent effort that’s the closest thing to floating in space I’ve ever heard.  If you can imagine Peter Hook and Elizabeth Frazier working together then you have some semblance of an idea of where The Blessed Isles are coming from.

Straining Hard Against the Strength Of the Night is a hypnotizing effort that is an alchemical reaction between the cross pollination of ethereal sub genres.  From the whispered vocals, the washy synths and distorted guitars The Blessed Isles have such a firm standing in the past that you might think that they were.  And yet, despite their obvious love of all things 80’s & 90’s, the band find a way to take their vintage influences and manipulate them into something wholly modern and unique to them.  Sure you can play spot the classic indie band but it’s more fun to just listen to how these guys written such great songs. Straining Hard Against the Strength Of the Night has so many great choruses and so many huge hooks that just about every song on this album could be an indie pop hit.

There’s really nothing to dislike about either The Blessed Isles or Straining Hard Against the Strength Of the Night.  This is a perfect pop record that’s emotional, catchy and simply gorgeous.  From solid production to brilliant songs Straining Hard Against the Strength Of the Night has it all and it’s easily one of my favorite records of 2016!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Los Hacheros' Bambulaye Is A Modern Vintage Gem

Sometimes good things come in small unmarked packages!  Such was the case when Los Hacheros’ album Bambulaye arrived in my mailbox.  This fantastic album of Latin music harks back to the golden age of the genre and reminded me of the days of my youth in Miami.  This Brooklyn based band are so in touch with the vintage style of the music they love that they recorded the whole thing analog for a grittier and more raw feel; they succeeded as Bambulaye feels and sounds like a record from another time.

With influences ranging from son montuno and guaracha to salsa Los Hacheros’ sound is as diverse as the city they call home.  The result is a record that sounds fresh, alive, and energetic despite looking to the past for inspiration.  Throw in the band’s ability to not only improvise musically but lyrically as well and you have a band that’s vibrant and truly creative.  This creativity and improvisational nature allows the songs of Bambulaye to become these organic, living and breathing works of energy that are fiery and loose.  It’s a magnificent work of art here and Los Hacheros do such a great job of creating an old world atmosphere that it’s hard not to love Bambulaye.

With amazing musicianship, a love of the past, fantastic spontaneity and songs that are almost impossible not to dance to Bambulaye is pure perfection.  Los Hacheros are an amazing unit who have captured the energy and passion of their forefathers and created something uniquely their own.  They might not actually be from the Golden Age of Latin Music but don’t tell them that!  Bambulaye is a constant reminder of how seductive Latin music is and as such it’s an essential record of the genre.