Friday, September 14, 2012

Moving locations

Hi to anyone reading this. The content you see here can now be seen at.....

This new site will be much more than this blogspot site was ever capable of being. Also, you can read my newest writings at.....

The mvremix stuff is more of a straight up journalism gig; a good portion of those reviews have been assigned by my editor. I do manage to sneak a few of my own finds in there. Check it out.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Band Review: Doomsday Student

     Arising from the ashes of several other projects, Doomsday Student resounds frenetically, their sound rife with notions of psychosis. The joke is that all that seeming insanity, sexual dysfunction, bodily malfunction, and obsessive-compulsive behavioral manifestation is underpinned by solid musicality and a highly disciplined sense of ensemble. In other words, this band is tight.
     To get a real sense of just how dead on these guys are, see them live. Their album, A Jumper’s Handbook, which is available for downloading at Anchor Brain records, does a fairly good job at conveying the jagged abrasiveness of their music. But, there is something slightly tame about the sound of the record. Live, all the latent potential bottled up in the recording comes bursting forth with ferocity and that collective rhythmic sense that is so satisfying.
     Craig Kureck, the drummer, is a human metronome. Not as overtly technical as someone like Gabriel Serbian or Zach Hill, his style is based on isorhythmic concepts, a reiteration of a few ideas, repeated almost to the point of redundancy. Craig’s dead solid sense of internal feel is what makes it succeed. This complements his phrasing style and overall musical instincts. There is a subtle intricacy at work in the way he utilizes the hi-hat that brings to mind some trippy version of jazz drumming, and the ‘four-on-the-floor’ bass drum bombs that clearly articulate the quarter note pulse of the music are also of interesting note.
     The interplay of the rest of the band continues and extends musical concepts that have been experimented with for years in this particular sector of the ‘underground’ scene. Stephen Mattos and Paul Vieira create a guitaristic framework that is more indebted to a linear as opposed to a riff-based style of thinking. In other words, their approach to writing guitar parts is closer to classical contrapuntal thinking as opposed to straight-up rock-based riff writing. This is not to say that they are creating ‘classical’ music. That would be a profoundly stupid thing to try and assert. It is to say that the tendency within this group of people to think in terms of stacked layers of melody creates a musical texture that is closer to classical writing than straight up power-chord rock style. Even in terms of the drumming, this melodic style can be felt. The interplay of the drumming and the guitar parts further confirms this hypothesis; Craig’s phrasing complements the guitarists phrasing at the same time his drumming solidly lays down the meter.
     On top of this, Eric Paul delivers the vocals in the manner he is known for- amelodic, half-shouted in a highly nasal upper register whine that suits the demands of the situation better than anything else would. As in past projects, the symbiotic nature of the vocals and music is highly intriguing. The schizophrenia of Eric Paul’s persona is mirrored by the schizophrenia of the group’s utterances. To truly get it, you have to hear it. Eric has always been a singular entity.

Check 'em out at:

Also, Anchor Brain records, home of Doomsday Student, is Eric Paul's Providence based label. Please support Providence rock and roll. Thank you.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Band review: Slonk Donkerson

Rocking out in The Duddy since their formative years, Slonk Donkerson have built a strong musical unit that combines solid musical instincts with a strong group dynamic to produce historically informed rock music suffused with latent commercial potential. This is music that is at times a little earnest in its expression but is not at all contrived in its emotionalism. The impression remains that these guys stand behind what they write, and that conviction shows through.
     For the sake of full disclosure, let it be known that the fact of this bands existence was first brought to my attention roughly six weeks ago, which was due to my current position as barista at the Brown Bookstore café, of which Parker, the guitarist, is a patron. After giving the bands second album ( named II) a listen, I decided that I wanted to take on the task of producing 500 words about them. Part of this has to do with the fact that their musical aesthetic is one that I don’t relate to completely; in this group, however, I found the proceedings handled capably by a three-piece composed of musicians with the requisite degree of musicality.
     The band proper is Parker Silzer on guitar, Dylan Vandenhoek handling bass and vox, and Zack O’Brien on drums. They grew up together in NY and this band is the longstanding fruit of their endeavors in collective music-making. Befitting a group of white boys growing up on the East Coast of the Land of the Free, their list of musical influences includes Fugazi, Husker Du, and The Replacements.
     While other groups were mentioned in the same space as the above three, the imprint made by Fugazi, Husker Du and The Replacements is fairly clear. Songs like ‘Radical Dude’ or ‘The Edifice’ draw from 80’s indie rock, while the hardcore roots of ‘Heat of Night’ are undeniable. Echoes of Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. also jump out at times.
     The first track off of the self-titled drives this point home clearly. Clocking in at just under 5 minutes, the proceedings manage to evoke a danceable, sing-along anthemic quality while still rocking out. The result is something like a slightly less agro Fugazi with a more sophisticated sense of musical form. The song itself undergoes a few deftly handled stylistic permutations that all resolve intelligently at the end.
      A song that represents a different side of the band is ‘The Same Mud’; this song seems to be a meditation of sorts on the impermanence of things. This is the side of the band that I don’t relate to as directly, but, their cohesive sense of ensemble, songwriting skills and general musicality show through, here as elsewhere, which goes a long way towards balancing out the sense of overwrought earnestness that permeates the emotional life of the music.
     In short, while the ultra sophisticated might decry this bands obvious commercial potential, the fact remains that they stand behind their music and have the talent to back it up. Check ‘em out at:

Friday, January 13, 2012

Band Review: ZORCH

Zorch moves you. This conclusion is reinforced after revisiting the band. Comprised of a vocalizing drummer named Sam and a keyboardist wielding a formidable rig named Zac, this Texas duo produces music that embraces a very interesting esthetic, wedding trippy, funk hued jams with layered vocals and experimental electronics.
     They have been coalescing since 2007, after the two members had met in college. They worked out material for a gig, layed off for a while, and then got back into it, resulting in the 2009 demo. This is available for streaming on their website.
     I was introduced to the music of this band back in August of last year, when they played at Local 121. In some ways, it wasn’t the most ideal setting for this group, due to the sometimes-muddy acoustics. Still, they were impressive, unfolding their richly textured music with authority.
     Their sound has an uplifting quality to it, while being highly original and experimental. They know how to build a groove and overlay various keyboard textures to produce a constantly evolving tapestry of sound.
     The amount of textured sound they manage to produce is massive for a two piece, not in a heavy metal kind of way, but more in an orchestral sense. The small arsenal of equipment utilized by Zac enables him to create a fairly varied amount of texture; this, coupled with the solid drumming of Sam, registers a net effect of engaging and experimental groove music. Layered on top of all of this, the often wordless vocalizing of Sam creates a pronounced otherworldly effect.
      Consider a track like Morris the Loris. On top of Sam’s solid groove, Zac constructs a richly varied sonic structure; the opening major key groove and its subsequent development, moving forward at a fairly brisk tempo, present music that is overtly positive without being contrived. The song itself is spun out of a few ideas that seem to all center around the notion of a big, fat groove. The melody that Sam hums has a very major key feel to it as well; the fact that there are almost no words influences the psychedelic quality of it.
      For a really solid example of their ability to groove with serious feel, check out ‘Gimme that Axe’. After the intro, the song settles into a bit of phrasing based around a keyboard riff that sounds like a guitar. The whole first part of the song sounds like a synthetic version of rock and roll. All of a sudden, the riff oscillates back on itself in a pool of coalescing rhythm. As this subsides, a sample begins, and this leads into the second part of the song, which features Sam’s drumming. The contrast between the sections is highly distinct, and highlights the bands ability to weld disparate elements into a unified whole.
     This band sits in the same arena that is also sometimes inhabited by bands like Health. Listen to this band if you want to have your horizons broadened. You’ll never think about music in quite the same way.

Check 'em out at:

Friday, November 4, 2011

Band Review: Lolita Black

     Lolita Black produces a maelstrom of sound. They excel at a very hard edged, industrial influenced punk-metal type of music with overtones of mosh. There is a rich historical vein being tapped by this entity; the influence of past masters in the art of rocking out permeates this group’s essence. The contemporary esthetic that results informs us of the fact that this band exists very much in the here and now. This is reiterated again and again as the songs on their new album, ‘Flesh, Blood and Bone’, appear in the ordered succession.
     Guitarist Bob Otis had the inspiration that lead to the name of the band, which was started in 2005 after he got together with Kaleigh Crass, the drummer. According to Bob, the name seemed to fit ‘the vibe of what we were trying to write’. Continuing in this vein, it is evident that the overall esthetic of the band is very much congruent with itself. Anyone who managed to get their hands on the groups first release, ‘Into the Wastleland’, can attest to the cohesiveness of the presentation; the graphics and name fused with the music to create a menacing edifice.
     Their influences are varied, ranging from various punk, post-punk, metal and industrial bands all the way to Victorian novels, angst, despair, and sci-fi and horror movies.
     Bob’s abilities as guitarist and riff-monger have improved from the first record; he could always play, and he gets better and better. ‘Hollow’ is a great example of this. The subtle accenting in the phrasing of the riff is attacked consistently and with authority. The tight rhythmic net created by Kaleigh and bassist Jacob Blanchett provides solid support and serious bounce. They keep driving the riff forward, building an incredible amount of tension along the way. On top of all of this, Scarlett Delgado delivers as a vocalist, using her voice to enunciate the lyrics in a highly dramatic way. There’s something about her vocalizing that calls to mind Bruce Dickinson passed through the diaphragm of a woman. Her tone is clear and she actually sings the lyrics. This is refreshing.
     The rest of the album possesses this level of coherence and articulated delivery. Slower tunes alternate with faster ones. Of particular interest is the inclusion of ‘Tightrope’, a song from the first record. If memory serves, this version is more punk-rock, the rhythms tighter and more driving. Scarlett’s delivery is more dramatic than was Jessica Pacitto’s, who was the group’s first vocalist.
     This group is also adept at translating the music to a live setting. As engaging as the record is, this needs to be experienced live. Their ability to project their music, to engage the audience, is a powerful asset. They have tons of stage presence and attack each song like it’s their last. They also know how to employ lighting effects for an enhanced presentation. A recent set at as220 caught them bathed in eerie orange light. The effect was quite surreal. They are aiming at a late November/ December release. Here’s to it.

Check them out at:

Friday, October 21, 2011

Band Review: The Viennagram

Referencing deconstructed, Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd as the basis for even more sonic weirdness, The Viennagram burst into your psyche like theater on acid. Geographically bound by Fall River, their overtly broad scope gives them much wider terrain to traverse musically. Add in thespian flair, a fairly extensive list of auxiliary members, and a high degree of showmanship, and you have something closer to musical theater than a traditional ‘band’.
     Aiming to ‘shock, excite and secretly soothe’, The Viennagram has been building up a comprehensive body of work since roughly 2006. Ranging from show tunes to Tom Waits to experimental electronic/industrial and 50’s pop music, the group’s ability to exist in several different genres simultaneously while maintaining a coherent identity is impressive.
     The brainchild of A.V. Vienna and Scott Peloquin, The Viennagram seems intent on straddling the line between kitsch and art. The anchor in this endeavor is the high degree of talent that is concentrated in this entity. This band can play. Bearing testament to this is their recent ‘Batman’ show at Firehouse XIII. This was the first real introduction to them for me.
     Attired as various characters of the Batman universe, and aided by what amounted to a small ensemble, the band set its own music within the context of a two act mini-drama pitting A.V. Vienna as Batman against the usual set of villains, including the Joker and the Penguin. Their penchant for innuendo was apparent when Batman started making out with Robin, played by Keri Lyn King. At that point in time, Danger Dan as the Joker popped out of nowhere and started proclaiming, ‘I knew it! I knew it!’ There would almost seem to be a sense of architectural completeness in the sense that this moment could be seen as prepared way in advance by the performance being opened by a fairly crass standup comedian.
     And of the performance itself, the foregoing has implied much. The actual musical core of the group is tight. On top of that is the ever-present flair that accompanies the whole spectacle. These guys acquit themselves in high style.
     As much as the references to Tom Waits are apparent in some of the music, there is something akin to a tripped out union of David Bowie and Kurt Weill, or even The Residents. Added to this is a fairly sophisticated harmonic sensibility. Various harmonic sequences and ‘formal types’ are employed effectively, including cycle progressions and a seeming grasp of standards and older types of American music.
    This ten-second analysis only covers what could be termed the more ‘conservative’ (traditional) side of the band. The bands experimental side could also come under consideration, as well as its ability to lay down a groove that is seriously ‘in the pocket’. There are times when their sense of groove has some kind of hip-hop flavor to it. In short, this band is a highly flexible and intelligent entity, which possesses a holistic view of what it means to be performers.  Experience this. You will definitely be engaged.

Check ‘em out at:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Band Review: A Troop of Echoes

The very notion of a soprano sax as lead voice instantly gives A Troop of Echoes some distinction. The musical result gives them even more. Existing somewhere in the land between jazz and ‘prog’ rock, this band manages to create rock music with a high amount of melodic development and a very ‘in the pocket’ type groove, which adds propulsive energy to their music.
     Emerging from a basement in North Kingston sometime in 2005, they are on a mission to write the best songs they can, record them, and go play them loudly in public. On all three counts they acquit themselves nicely. While there is a slight drop in energy on the recordings, their ability to translate the music in recorded form is evident.
      This music presents a very interesting hybrid. Listing Battles, Sonic Youth and John Coltrane as influences gives some indication of things. They also possess a lyrical quality, imparted somewhat by the inclusion of a soprano saxophone in the instrumentation, but also seeming to grow from the perceptions of all involved. There is an obvious emphasis on songcraft in the writing. Given that this is a group of musicians who have been honing their skills for a number of years, this isn’t surprising.
     The fifth track off their bandcamp page, ‘Little Bird’, is a great example of what they’re capable of. The tempo is fairly up, and the rhythmic interaction of the drums, bass, guitar and keyboards creates a churning quality, especially due to the influence of Dan Moriarty’s syncopated accents. Peter Gilli unwinds a melodic line on soprano, and then drops out as the band plays some connecting passages, which lead back to a restatement of the melody with varied feel in the rhythm section; the increase in dynamic intensity is noticeable the second time around. At the end of the song, everything dies out in an electronically treated squall. The music abruptly seizes up, and fades off into the distance.
      The bands musicianship is impeccable, and the sense of ensemble is tight. This fact is reinforced by the next track, ‘Analog Astronaut’. The sectional feel of the tune coupled with the melodic development creates a compelling statement. By the time this track unfolds, the bands ability to work as a coherent unit is pronounced. The sense of formal development permeates everyone’s playing. Though performing as instrumentalists, they come to the task with a highly compositional bent. The Bad Plus is called to mind here, as well as the Wayne Shorter Quartet. Though not nearly as abstract as these bands, the same feeling of ‘composition in action’ transpires throughout. From this point of view, their effort could be considered of a similar type as that undertaken by a symphony orchestra.
      A Troop of Echoes manages to stay relevant while remaining completely distinct from the main lines of musical interest in the Providence scene. Anyone looking for rock music with a sense of compositional development should seek them out.

Check them out at: