Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Prana Crafter’s psychedelic guitar bliss

April 18, 2017

Prana Crafter’s psychedelic bliss always leaves me wanting more. After reviewing last year’s album, Rupture of Planes, I could not wait to get my hands on what William Sol had brewing next. And MindStreamBlessing was worth the anticipation. Just as the album’s title suggests, the tracks take me on a matchless journey, with no vocals and quite the range of instruments. Each instrument used brings its own flavor to the collection of six songs.

Released last month, MindStreamBlessing is an entrance to a world I wish I knew more intimately. The tracks feel playful yet seductive, as they show us a peek into the Washington woodlands. The first song, “At Agartha’s Gate,” is the most inviting, as the acoustic and electric guitar sweetly set the mood. As the album progresses, I notice that since this collection contains no vocals, the instruments are left to tell the stories, akin to orchestral works. Each time a particular instrument–like the electric guitar, drums, or synth–appears, they are like actors on a stage. For example, the intricate electric guitar work that is sprinkled in this first song fully grows into its soulful skin by the last track.

Similarly, the acoustic guitar that starts off the album returns in the title song “MindStreamBlessing” to show off more of its sassy personality. With each track, the first guitar or bass lays the rhythmic foundation so that a second, often electric, guitar can enter in and take the lead. That second guitar usually comes in and sings a soulful, jazzy tune. Similar to Jimi Hendrix, you never know when the lead electric guitar plans on ending its rant.

Percussion is also a great addition to this album. In “As the Weather Commands,” the beating of the drums tells a story of movement. Picture someone playing wooden drums for a show, perhaps snakes coming out of baskets. Then, my favorite track off the album: “Luminous Clouds” opens up with what sounds like a recording of the night woodland wind and slowly builds until about halfway in, where a tambourine, guitar, and drum circle combination immediately thrust my thoughts to the middle of the woods, dancing around a bonfire. And since that’s one of my favorite places to be, I certainly don’t mind that.

At large, there’s a cyclical nature to MindStreamBlessing. Each track feels orchestrated by jazz musicians. Even when the lead electric guitar does go off on soulful displays of its power, it always seems to cycle back to an established rhythm, giving the album an effect of falling slowly down a concentric helical spring. Finally, the organ-like synth sounds which make a continual appearance throughout the collection add just the right amount of eeriness to complete the album’s wall of sound.

Prana Crafter’s MindStreamBlessing proves itself as another magical journey, clearly constructed by an adventurous soul.–Krisann Janowitz

Prana Crafter’s Psychedelic Ride

April 8, 2016

pranacrafter

William Sol’s brainchild Prana Crafter serves up yet another mind-melting Prana Crafter album with Rupture of Planes. The album consists primarily of mysteriously seductive instrumental tracks that always leave you wanting more. For most of the album, Prana Crafter entices you; places you in a trance; and then, when you least expect it, kicks you out of your state. Until, that is, the next track begins. Rupture of Planes combines brilliant guitar work with raw vocals and poetic lyrics to create a truly existential experience.

William Sol is the best guitar player I have heard all year. Whether acoustic or electric, the guitar work in this album is jaw-dropping. At times the electric guitar oozes sex appeal (“Forest at First Light,” “Rupture of Planes,” “Mudra of the Mountain Throned”) akin to Jimi Hendrix’s guitar style. In other songs, Sol goes the more intricate route with both his electric (“Diamond Cutter of the Jagged Mountain,” “Moksha of Melting Mind”) and acoustic (“Vessel,” “Tara, Do You Remember the Way?”) guitars.

In the end, no matter which way he plays the guitar or whether it is acoustic or electric, Sol’s guitar work stands strong as the star of this psychedelic rock album. The interplay between the electric and acoustic guitars within songs like “Prana Crafter’s Abode” and “Mudra of the Mountain Throned” is playful yet competitive; it’s as if the two are in competition to see who can stand out the most. My vote is on the thunderous electric guitar.

Although less than half of Rupture of Planes contains vocals, both Sol’s voice and his lyrics are noteworthy aspects of the album. I love Sol’s voice; it’s very rustic and Eddie Vedder-esque. The lyrics are also breathtaking. One of my favorite tracks off the album, “Forest at First Light,” shows off Sol’s tender voice with thoughtful lyrics and some of that beautiful acoustic (and a bit of electric) guitar work. The nature-focused lyrics of “Forest at First Light” ooze poetry with such morsels as “the swimming song of the birds and the trees/ riding on the luminous breeze.” Sol creates these brilliant images with his words and his instrumentation.

Rupture of Planes will take you on a ride to a place you never dreamed you’d go. But when the album ends, you will want to take that awe-inspiring ride again and again. If you have never experienced Prana Crafter’s psychedelic rock, you are in for a treat.–Krisann Janowitz

September MP3s 3: Twirling Arms

October 13, 2014

Twirling Arms

1. “The Balance” – Royal Tongues. Sometimes the RIYL is absolutely perfect. I got told this one was like Smallpools and Passion Pit. BY JOVE IT IS! EVERYBODY DANCE!

2. “Desole Pt. II” – The Gromble. This is like if the enthusiasm of Passion Pit met the restraint of The Naked and the Famous. You can dance to it and think heavy musical thoughts about post-punk to it!

3. “I Feel Sorry For You” – Bullybones. Always space in my heart for voice-shredding, garage-crushin’, surf-rockin’ tunes.

4. “Lisa Loeb Probably Never Pierced Her Ears” – Field Guides. Surf-rock meets indie-pop in a vastly enjoyable, really impressive way.

5. “I Told You So” – The March Divide. Early ’00s emo/punk is back, and that’s a really great thing. Let it emote, men. Let it jangle and emote.

6. “Black White Fuzz” – Coastgaard. Yacht rock + The Strokes? Why not? *head bobs frantically*

7. “Little Surfer Girl” – The Yetis. Do you love the Beach Boys? If yes, you love the Yetis.

8. “It Don’t Even” – ET Anderson. When you mix rubbery bass higher in the mix that crunchy guitars, you’ve got a very specific vision for your sound. ET Anderson’s vibe here is strong and impressive, like a slackery Spoon or something. I’m intrigued.

9. “Trouble” – Micah Olsan and the Many. Funk, indie-rock and shades of Hendrix psychedelia come together to make a pulsing, groove-heavy track.

10. “photograph” – crashfaster. Jamiroquai in outer space! Anamanaguchi at the bottom of the sea! Dance-rock with serious sci-fi vibes!

11. “Old Enough to Know Better” – Youth Mass. ’90s Brit rock vibes infused into dance-rock. I’m all about it.

Premiere Stream: M. Lockwood Porter’s 27

October 7, 2014

I have the honor of premiering 27 by M. Lockwood Porter today! You can preorder a vinyl or CD of the record at Black Mesa Records.

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The deaths of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse and more have inspired the myth that 27 is the age past which no musical youth icon can live. M. Lockwood Porter, also aged 27 but definitely alive, thoughtfully grabbed the number for the title of his sophomore alt-country/country-rock/just plain rock album. His debut Judah’s Gone focused on the past (just look at that title); 27 is a coming-of-age rumination that turns his gaze from youthful aches to the troubles of living in the adult world.

27 does not contain fluffy or stereotypical lyrics: while there are a couple jilted-lover tunes, they fit into a larger paradigm of the difficult questions Porter is asking about life. Thoughts about mortality (“Chris Bell,” about another lost 27-year-old musician), the possibility of not achieving dreams (“Restless”), religion (“Couer D’Alene”), and leaving behind a legacy (“Mountains”) paint a picture of a person standing at the edge of adulthood and grappling with what he’s found so far. I may not agree with every conclusion, but I’m deeply glad that the sentiments are expressed with enough depth and clarity that I can actually agree or disagree with them. That’s a pretty rare accomplishment in the rock world.

The album’s centerpiece is the ballad “Mountains,” which pulls all of these thoughts about life together. It starts with tom hits that sound like a heartbeat before Porter wearily sings, “When I was young my father said / that faith could move a mountain / now there’s mountains as far as I can see.” Striking piano, tasteful percussion, and an earnest guitar line fill out the raw, earnest tune. I wish I could write out all the lyrics for you, but Porter distills it all into one sweeping statement to close the tune: “And as I stare across the vast expanse / I can hear my father shouting / but mountains are all that I can see.”

Porter serves up these musings in expertly crafted alt-country/country-rock tunes. Porter’s been in a bunch of bands of various genres over the past dozen years, and he’s learned things from all of them. Opener “I Know You’re Going to Leave Me” crescendoes to a pounding, ragged, desperate, shiver-inducing rock ending; he follows it up with “Chris Bell,” which is about as perfect an alt-country song as Gram Parsons could hope to hear. “You Only Talk About Your Band” is a rollicking, impassioned ’50s rock’n’roll tune that sounds like it fell out of a time machine somewhere, while Bruce Springsteen would approve of the insistent piano and urgent vocals in “Restless.” “Secrets” sounds like a San Francisco indie-pop mosey, an influence holdover from his time in The 21st Century. “Couer D’Alene” is a delicate acoustic-and-voice tune to close out the record. All of these songs are impressive in their own right, and yet none feel out of place on the record.

Porter keeps these disparate sounds and ideas held together through a consistent vocal presence on the record. No matter what genre Porter writes, he works to make his voice inhabit the song. There are no bad vehicles here: Porter sounds completely at home in each of these tunes. Instead of sounding pristine, the opposite is true: by feeling comfortable throughout, he’s able to allow his voice some fluctuations and character without needing to edit it out. It gives the whole album a careworn, comfortable feel, similar to a Justin Townes Earle song or Josh Ritter’s The Beast In Its Tracks.

27 has the sort of musical and lyrical depth that causes me to come up with more things to say than I have space for. (Two things that got cut: 1. comparing the lyrics of “Mountains” with my favorite Ryan Adams track “Rock and Roll,” which you should do on your own time; 2. The production job is excellent.) Personally Porter is in transition, but lyrically Porter is hitting his stride to be able to describe the struggles so compellingly. Musically he’s creating work that shines as a whole and as individual tracks, which shows a rare maturity. You need to hear this one.

Fri, 10/10 – San Francisco, CA @ Brick and Mortar w/ Victor Krummenacher
Fri, 10/17 – Oklahoma City, OK @ The Blue Note
Sat, 10/18 – Tulsa, OK @ Mercury Lounge
Sun, 10/19 – Lawrence, KS @ Jackpot Music Hall
Mon, 10/20 – Iowa City, IA @ Gabe’s
Tues, 10/21 – Chicago, IL @ Reggie’s
Wed, 10/22 – Eaton, OH @ Taffy’s
Thurs, 10/23 – Philadelphia @ The Grape Room
Sat, 10/25 – NYC @ Wicked Willy’s at 6:30 pm (Official CMJ Showcase)
Sun, 10/26 – NYC @ Rockwood Music Hall Stage 1
Mon, 10/27 – Charlotte @ Thomas Street Tavern
Tues, 10/28 – Chapel Hill @ The Cave (I’ll be at this one)
Wed, 10/29 – Nashville, TN @ The 5 Spot
Thurs, 10/30 – Huntsville, AL @ Maggie Meyer’s Irish Pub
Fri, 10/31 – Clarksdale, MS @ Shack Up Inn
Sat, 11/1 – Lafayette, LA @ Artmosphere
Sun, 11/2 – Austin, TX @ Sahara Lounge
Mon, 11/3 – Dallas @ Opening Bell

Colin Stetson's Ten Influential Records

February 1, 2012

Bass saxophonist extraordinaire Colin Stetson’s New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges was IC’s 2011 Album of the Year. When I informed Colin’s camp about this, they sent back an e-mail with the following list and no other explanation. (I added the links and album art.) Colin Stetson, everybody:

TEN INFLUENTIAL RECORDS in no particular order

1. Glenn Gould: Goldberg Variations (’55 and ’81)

Never in my knowledge has there been a lasting example of a single piece of music framing the entirety of one’s life and career so completely as these recordings. They are perfect snapshots of a man and his vision, heart, and mind, both at the beginning and end of his all too short life and have always been precious to me.

2. Jimi Hendrix: Band Of Gypsys

When I was growing up, my father had only a few records in the house and most of them were Jimi Hendrix. It was no mystery that I found myself years later learning his solos, attempting to mimic them in every way, but on the saxophone. The translation of sound and technique across instruments is something that has always been exciting to me and in this case was absolutely formative to almost every aspect of my sound and musical approach.

3. Various Artists: Goodbye Babylon

Goodbye Babylon is a six cd set of american pre-war gospel music, transferred from the original vinyl, and it is a priceless archive of a singular time in history. The music captured in these recordings embodies all of the suffering and hope that has defined humanity for all our history and I feel is essential listening for understanding who we are,where we come from, and what we could do to make a better world for eachother.

4. Liturgy: Aesthetica

This record absolutely destroyed me. On first listen, it was simultaneously a thrilling surprise and a familiar comfort, feeling like some sort of inevitable epiphany. Liturgy’s is the most exciting music I’ve heard in recent years and you can hear it’s influence already in my last EP, Those Who Didn’t Run.

5. Tom Waits: Bone Machine

Tom Waits’ music came over me like a conquering army, populating every inch of my mind. From first hearing Bone Machine I was in a fever for everything he had made and I didn’t come up for air until I had experienced it all.

6. Mobb Deep: The Infamous

Not just a scene from 8 Mile, hanging out in Detroit, driving a long, brown oldsmobile and listening to this record was how I used to roll back in the mid-90’s. There was something limitless to that town back then, like some vast old ruins. Like this record, It was hard and unapologetic and is forever etched in my memory.

7. Nobukazu Takemura: Scope

When I first heard the song Icefall I was about 19 and had just started to scratch the surface of what the saxophone was capable of. Immediately, the sounds that comprise this song translated effortlessly onto the saxophone. The cd skipping clicks turning into key noise in my head, the frenetic post minimalist cascade of melody and repetition fell idiomatically perfect onto the instrument. It is perhaps still the single track that has had the most influence on my music.

8. Henryk Gorecki: 3rd Symphony

This is a rare and patient beauty that has no equal in my mind. It is music that stops the machinations of the world and inhabits you so fully that if there is such a thing as “what it means to be human”, your understanding of it is deepened.

9. Metallica: Master of Puppets

In my earlier days I had strong mullet and I listened to a lot of metal. I’ve since lost the backflap but kept the metal and this album has always stayed in heavy rotation throughout the years.

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10. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: The Day, the Night, the Dawn, the Dusk

Nusrat throws the best parties out there. He’s put out what seems like hundreds of records, but this one was my first and maybe for that reason or maybe just because it’s awesome, it has always been my favorite.—Colin Stetson

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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