Friday, March 16, 2018

Record Review:
"Stranded, Not Lost"
(Diversion Records)

While I listen to a wide variety of music, I will always enjoy it when I feel like genres are crossing over.   The music of VLMV is truly something wonderful.   As soon as I pressed play on "Stranded, Not Lost" this sort of ambient drone came out and then pianos accompanied it.   Strings were added into the mix and I had this feeling of it being somewhat like The Cancer Conspiracy.   The tone is also calming, relaxing on not just the first song but throughout.

I expected this to be an entirely instrumental album but then the second song brought about vocals to these desolate yet beautiful arrangements.    The music remains ambient and minimal but there is singing on some of the tracks.   It seems at one point as if the songs would alternate between vocals and instrumental, but if you're keeping track for number purposes there are actually more instrumental songs on here than ones with vocals I believe.

If you were to run this through a program like Audacity and remove the vocals from these songs, you would have a solid album full of ambient songs with elements of FNL/post rock tones.    That, on its own, makes this an album worth listening to because the music itself is just so powerful.    Listening to the various strings and ambient tones combined reassures me that these songs do not need words to justify their greatness.

But then when those vocals do come in... It's like one of the slower, quieter songs by New End Original.    I've never really thought about putting ambient music such as this with vocals (Though I have imagined it with beats) but VLMV has created something the likes of which I've never heard before but hope to hear more of from them in the future.    While not something I ever dreamed possible, the way this sounds is just amazing.    You can think "Wow this is something that hasn't really been done before" but it's also just done so well that it will simply amaze you.

With the quality of the music that it is, I would also be regretful if I didn't note that while I tend to listen to instrumental songs and find them to not need vocals, I feel like these songs could stand on their own without them as well.   But, the fact that these vocals are so unique in their delivery coupled with the thoughtful lyrics just makes both aspects of this album- the music and the lyrics- so vital that you will not be able to stop listening to this one.

Cassette Review: Droopies "Responsible People" (Funny/Not Funny Records)

$5 //
Edition of 100 // //

Listening to Droopies is like being taken through this portal of rock n roll history somehow.   When I think back to my earliest days of listening to music, I can see this evolution from R&B to rap to punk to hardcore to emo and then everything after the 21st Century just got weird for me.   Of course in there somewhere is also grunge- as it was taking over MTV at the time- but I never went through a "rock n roll phase".  Isn't that odd?  I've researched the deeper songs of Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and a lot of the bands like Zeppelin and Pink Floyd... but I never really went through a phase where I'd say "Yeah, I'm really into The Beatles right now", even though I love "Rubber Soul".

"Responsible People" is a solid rock cassette.    There are elements to it which blend within bands I've heard that I maybe don't consider to be rock n roll so much.  At times, it sounds like Stone Temple Pilots (from their fourth album) while at other times it has that "Tiny Music" feel to it.    Ultimately, when Scott Weiland was with the band, Stone Temple Pilots proved to be a rock n roll band, this is true, but I always kind of think of them as grunge since they came up at that time and were kind of grouped in with all of those other grunge bands which went on to do something different.

As it gets heavier, there is this feel like Blind Melon's "Galaxie" and what a treasure Blind Melon was outside of that one song.   I really miss them more than I should miss a band.   This makes me feel like the songs are getting a little psych and the thing you have to understand here is that these songs come through big and distorted with the guitars but it's not fuzzy.    When was the last time you heard something with such distortion that wasn't "fuzzy"?  For me, I'm really not sure but it is rare these days.

A slower acoustic number gives me vibes like this is something from the 1990's.  I want to say Spacehog but that doesn't seem right.  Parts of Nada Surf do come through as do Foo Fighters.    The more I think about this, the more I hear some Nirvana because what was grunge other than our version of rock n roll.  During one song specifically I can really hear those "About A Girl" chords.    It puts the Nirvana influence somewhere earlier in their career, not with the later stuff like "In Utero".

Synth makes an appearance and then it becomes darker and slower like Pink Floyd meets Alice in Chains.   One of my favorite thoughts about music is how artists should sound original because there are so many possible sound combinations now given how many existing and well known artists there are.    Droopies somehow managed to take the most rock n roll pieces of all of the bands they have drawn influence from and created a pure rock n roll cassette here.   This is not common in 2018 because everyone either wants to sound like Buddy Holly or Zeppelin and this sounds like neither.    Droopies are bringing back a style of rock n roll which seems forgotten.

Music Review:
Erica Eso
"129 Dreamless GMG"
(NNA Tapes)

The first song I heard by Erica Eso was "Gun-metal Grey".   It's one of these songs that has this smooth R&B feel to it but it's also just very easy to get stuck inside your head.    I had this album for a couple of months and things got busy, as they usually do, and I began to feel overwhelmed, which I also can at times.  I went through the music I had to review and after listening to this a bunch of times (maybe ten) I just decided for various reasons I wasn't going to review it.  It mostly came down to time mixed with a combination of not knowing exactly what to write (not having enough to type about it) and I felt somewhat odd about it-- I didn't dislike "129 Dreamless GMG", I just wasn't in love with it.

I spent a few weeks, maybe even a month, without listening to this album.  I distanced myself from it, though it was still there on social media and in press emails, reminding me of what could have been.  Though in some ways it was a relief-- instantly being able to archive an email about something I knew I had no interest in reviewing.  It makes it so much easier than having to stress over release dates and finding a hook to write about.   The clock was ticking and I was okay for once because I didn't need to find a hook; I was passing.

Then I spent more than one time just randomly singing "Gun-metal Grey" out of nowhere.   It was stuck in this far-back place in my mind from my previous listens to it and it had somehow made its way back to the surface for me to experience again.   Have you ever listened to a particularly good album in your youth, maybe your early teenage years perhaps, and then listened to it again in your twenties or thirties (or older) and had this life-changing experience where you thought "Wow, I knew this was good back in '96 but in 2016 it's just... so much better than I ever imagined.

Erica Eso had that kind of affect on me only instead of waiting ten or twenty years for the music to really click it was more like ten or twenty days.   (Of course I'm estimating to enhance the writing)  So what I'm saying to everyone who listens to this album: if you like it, cool, but you'll probably appreciate it even more over time.  If you don't like it, at least you've listened to it so Erica Eso can have planted those seeds in your mind that will one day blossom, you will come back to this and you will understand it.

Between saxophones and synths, smooth R&B and soul and just the general idea of wild guitars the easiest way (in a broad sense) to describe this would be as some best possible combination of Prince and David Bowie.    That is one of the reasons why I wasn't sure about writing a review of this.  I figure you can simply say "This sounds like the best parts of Prince and David Bowie combined" and everyone would just say "Sold!" and listen to it.   But sometimes that isn't enough.   Sometimes that doesn't even sell me on an album because, again, this one took some time for me.

At one point in my notes I referred to this album as being "future rock" but with the way it seems set in space at times and just has this overall feeling of musical magic I like to think of it more as futurewave.   Erica Eso are making these sounds that you might not have thought were quite possible yet and people maybe wouldn't be ready for them until 2035, 2050?   "Vaccination Free" begins acapella and then drums come crashing in with space lasers.  I am reminded of how James Gunn wanted David Bowie to play an alien in a "Guardians of the Galaxy" movie before he died.

"Love-gun" seems to take a shot at not only MTV but mainstream culture in general, which I would love to be one of those people who believes everything in mainstream society is shitty because it feels like the highest paying art is the least original while the original artists suffer away for minimum wage.  But hey, daddy's on morphine again.   But the lyrics will definitely get stuck in your head just as much as the rhythms and melodies because that is what originally brought me to this album and what ultimately ended up bringing me back to it.

Cassette Review: Strange Stains "Bogan Atmosphere" (dubbed tapes)

$5 //
Edition of 50 // //

As soon as this cassette starts there is this electronic looping with the title of the first song being repeated: "What did you say?"   This should immediately bring you in because I've often wondered what someone has said, and the question itself- "What did you say?"- can either be a simple case of not hearing someone and wanting them to repeat what they said or it could be met with more anger in the sense of threatening.   Fun Fact: I recently tried to recall a movie where someone told someone else (an adult telling a child, I believe) not to make people repeat themselves because it's annoying I feel like it was Johnny Depp's version of Willy Wonka, but still, it got me into this google search about people having to repeat themselves and I think it just ties in with this song nicely.

The next song seems to have audio clips mixed with Pong type sounds.  You can hear someone ask "Can you show me on the map where I am?" and the answer to end the track is "You are on the wrong road".    That reminds me of the scene in "Tommy Boy" when the gas station attendant tells David Spade he needs a new map but it might not be from a movie and that's just why I'm thinking that it is.    Big, distorted blasts come out and then we move onto organ drone.  It's like church but, you know, without all the talk about God.    Haunted vocals make their way into the background and this has a sound which is spatial now as well.

A more industrial feel now takes us through the remainder of the songs.   At times it sounds like Garbage.  Dark skip beats turn to big beats and whooshes and then the vocals are just really spliced in as well.  It can have a sound which is triumphant as well, which is odd considering how dark this feels most of the time.   It's not something you might be able to dance to but there is just enough darkness to make it not quite pop.  Is "goth pop" a thing yet because that could describe these songs.  (Though the Bandcamp page describes this as "goth wanna-be pop" which is not quite the same thing)

While there is a meaning to the name Strange Stains I still like to think of it in my own way.   As someone who washes their own clothes, I have gotten to this point where I will occasionally look at things such as pants and see these stains which look like either blood or chocolate and I cannot tell which one nor do I have any actual idea as to how they would have gotten on my pants in the first place.   To me, those are Strange Stains, but I also will be on board with the idea of this being post-sex.

I also somehow received two copies of this cassette.   If you have made it to the end of the review here and are willing to provide me with a valid mailing address, the first person to email me about this cassette will get my second copy of it sent to them in the mail for free.   Don't sleep on this and, yeah, I'll leave this part up forever too so if it's like, 2020 or later assume this offer is no longer valid.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Cassette Review: Ducklingmonster "Live Beehive" (dubbed tapes)

$7 //
Edition of 50 // //

One thing you learn when you have kids is that there are a lot of books and other form of media out there which are about ducklings for some reason.   Is it because they are so tiny and cute?  I do not know.   They swim, so I've seen stories where the mother duck has to convince the duckling to not be afraid and swim on its own-- which could be told with birds and leaving the nest but I guess "leaving the nest" is thought of when you're older and moving out and maybe baby birds aren't as "cute" as ducklings?  I don't know.  I'd still love to build a city sized where I could record a duckling running through it Godzilla-style.

"Live Beehive" opens with this skipping, buzzing rhythm which sounds like that lightbulb is stuck in a glitch loop.   The sound can quickly turn to video game glitch but it sounds like Atari, perhaps like the soundtrack to Pong gone awry.   Loud space blasts enter the scene now as well.   It's like some kind of great space war and then the drums come shaking in.   At first, there are vocals which come through and I think they sound damned.  Eventually, they come through in loops to the point where you know it's a singular voice being looped but it can sound like a crowd of people talking at once.  In this way, it also can become trippy.

Steady drum beats keep the background, which I feel have been made with some sort of electronic programming but sound a lot like a live drum kit.   Rapid fire shots come out via feedback and then it drops down lower.   There is this grinding guitar sound with the drums as the vocals have abandoned us but they return and that becomes the story of this in a way: it's between the deep, static void, glitching, vocal looping and those drums keeping the beat.   Into a solo bit of distortion these deeper tones come out with them that are likely a guitar but have an organ feel to them as well (Mainly because I'm thinking of the original entrance theme for The Undertaker)

This picks back up with the drums and more vocal looping.   I'm not sure what is being said and I think it could be open to how you want to hear it but it's something like "radiant eye" though I'm pretty sure it's not.   Sort of tribal screams bring back the vocals which alternate on the high and lows (If you're already reading this and got my other wrestling reference, then think of it how fans used to chant "LuCHA luCHA" for the Lucha Dragons in WWE)  It's kind of like a yipping now but this is not what the fox says (nor is it what ducklings say). 

Maybe it's not "radiant eye" but "ready to die".  I'm not sure.  If I was ever doing vocal loops like this though I'd just make up nonsense that sounded like actual words without being actual words just to confuse people.    But words are seemingly coming through now in a stream where they could be forming sentences-- I think it's "give me my radio" but don't quote me on that.   At the end of this, as everything sort of fades off, there comes applause and such because, you know, "*Live* Beehive" and all.   This actually brings about a sound after it which sounds like a swarm of bees, oddly enough. 

This program repeats on both sides, so that's one way to get around the whole dubbing over existing cassettes I suppose.    I realize there are artists out there without labels who dub over existing cassettes and I know also that Illuminated Paths sort of made it famous, but as much as it makes me want to do it I'd feel like I was ripping off Dubbed Tapes.   Yet at the same time, I constantly think about how cassettes could be less expensive if you just went to Goodwill and bought them for a dollar or whatever and dubbed over them, so it's an eternal struggle between my guilt and practicality.

CD Review:
Some Girls
"All My Friends Are Going Death"
(Deathwish Inc.)
[Deathwish Inc. 10/$10 #01]

Copy & Paste Intro: One thing we at Raised by Gypsies love is a good deal.   Deathwish Inc. offered up ten compact discs for ten dollars and I could't help but jump on it.   I have received promos from Deathwish Inc. in the past, but between moving and just life in general I'm not sure how many I still have- the only CD I can tell you I still have for certain is by The Dedication.   So take a trip with me, shall you, as I explore ten compact discs for ten dollars.

The reason why I chose to start with this Some Girls CD is because I actually used to get promo CDs from Deathwish back in the day and this was one of them.    At the time (late 90's/early 00's) Daughters, Some Girls and Sex Positions changed the way I thought about hardcore music.   This is just so... it's so much in your face, so unrelenting.  Usually, hardcore bands would have breakdowns or slower sing-along songs maybe but when I first heard Some Girls I fell in love and never wanted to hear anything less brutal than this again.

In the fourteen years since "All My Friends Are Going Death" was released (Wow!) I feel like not only have I changed a lot but music has changed as well.   Where are the bands who were to step up and take the place of Some Girls?  The ones who would be influenced by this music and keep the scene alive?  Why did hardcore music go the way of Hot Topic and have breakdowns with melodies and singing?  I honestly fell out of the hardcore scene a few years after this album was released because more music became "screamo" and "emocore" than, well, like Some Girls.

I think the worst thing about Some Girls (which they have no control over, obviously) is that this album and band on the whole didn't have more of an influence on music all these years later.   I wish I was listening to more bands and thinking "Yeah, this sounds like Some Girls.  Right on!"   But so much hardcore music still sounds like bands I would rather prefer it did not.    You can call Some Girls a "super group" and looking at the members of it now it definitely was-- but even back then it was a "super group" because when I first heard this I had heard of The Locust and American Nightmare.    (I think it was one of the selling points from the publicist as well.  I want to say her name was Maria or Marissa?)

My original version of this came in a plastic sleeve- no jewel case- and I thought the image from Bandcamp (Which I am using as the main image up top on this review) was the cover but now it appears as if there is a different cover.    [Editor's Note: From what I can gather the Bandcamp photo is a slip case cover while the CD no longer comes with a slip case] One day I'd like to own this on record along with a lot of the other albums from my past that I feel just cannot be topped.   This CD itself is worth the $10 price tag I paid for ten compact discs and that's coming from someone who already has this CD (probably; I don't know.  I thought about looking for it but my CD collection is such a mess)

        Though I mentioned how straight forward the songs of Some Girls are, they do cover The Stooges "No Fun", which is a great sing-along punk song.   While it feels somewhat odd to me knowing that I reviewed this album once before I do feel like it still remains as important to me now as it did back then.  It has certainly withstood the test of time and yet still feels ahead of its time.  When will the rest of the world of music catch up with it?  Will it ever?  That's up to the musicians, not me, but in some ways I don't know that anyone really can nor would I want them to either.  I struggle for a scene like this existed in to return, but at the same time, I know why it never can.

Bandcamp :::
10 for $10 Deal :::
Official Deathwish Store Link :::

Cassette Review: Darko the Super "Watered Down Demon Fuzz" (Personal Archives)

$5 //
Edition of 50 // //

How do you continue to write about the music of Darko the Super?  I tend to stop writing about artists after maybe two or three releases because anything other than "It's still good" or "They suck now" can seem like overkill, but if Darko the Super can put out albums at the rate he does and he can keep coming up with the words to rhyme and music to put them over, then why can't I come up with the words to write about them?   It seems only fair, really.

"Watered Down Demon Fuzz" begins with singing which reminds me of Daniel Johnston.   Pianos come in with the rapping and oddly there are even guitar chords in here so this isn't even your typical sound for a rapper to, um, rap over.     An audio clip says something about "SAYTON!!!!" (Hey, that rhymes with "Dayton", wassup Florida??) and my favorite quote so far is "When I die don't tell my mom / I don't want her sad when I'm gone".   Yeah, my mom never calls me so she'd likely not know.   Also, in the maternal sense the tip to his name is the line "No mail today, Grandma Death".   I always get sad when I don't get mail though (and gym membership flyers don't count as mail)

"Show's over, go fuck yourself" is about as straight to the point as you can get.   There are audio clips from Bill Hicks while Darko also quotes Billy Madison.    Darko doesn't have the same lyrics as anyone else and he doesn't have the same music style either, which is what makes him stand out when everyone else seems to be trying to rap to sound like what is already on the radio.    It feels stupid to me though to think if the sound of Kendrick Lamar got him onto the radio why would sounding like him get you on the radio too?   Everyone could learn something from Darko the Super about being original.

"The Earth Isn't Fucking Flat" is about how hard Darko works but is still broke and if the right people heard his music (or read his screenplay) he could be bigger and I'm inclined to agree.   I've always felt that the world was backwards- the more talent you had the less money you made and the more money you were making the less talent you had.  I call it "The Paris Hilton Effect".   But yeah, can you believe how far we've come with modern technology and all and people still living like Chris Columbus times, thinking the world is flat?  Seems quite ridiculous to me.

As I thought the first song sounded like Daniel Johnston a bit, Darko the Super name drops him on "I Don't Wanna Be".    I'm not trying to say this in a bad way, but I feel a lot of Daniel Johnston's songs (as much as I enjoy them) sound the same.   "Watered Down Demon Fuzz" is a phrase pulled from a poem by Beck and if you ask me, I think Darko the Super could be more closely related to Beck because you never really know what he's going to pull out from album to album.   Will Darko the Super ever have a jazz/R&B album or rock based album?  I wouldn't be surprised and that's one of the things you have to love about Darko the Super: never knowing what's coming next but just knowing it's going to be great.