Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Candysound / Andrew Skeet / Vana Mazi

July 30, 2015

candysound

Candysound‘s Past Lives is the sort of garage rock that seems born of good-natured experimentation, a genuine sense of joy in creation, and a dedication to writing catchy songs. This isn’t four-on-the-floor chord mashing–the trio makes lithe, lively, effervescent tracks full of rhythmic, melodic, and textural diversity.

I’m getting all adjective-y on it, but that’s because “Be Around” is a gleeful whirlwind, “Details” is all yelpy and groove-laden, and the title track is a mini math-rock tune. Closer “This Place” is a beautiful acoustic tune in the vein of Rocky Votolato and other even-handed tale-spinners. All of the tunes have a fresh, slightly gritty sheen about them, the sort of vibe that is confident but not super-invested in polishing every sound to its poppy ultimate. This feels like a document, not like a presentation: it’s the sort of indie-pop-rock that makes me want to hear more of it, maybe even write some myself. If you’re excited by a quirky melody and a yelpy vocal hook, Candysound should tickle your ears quite well. Here’s to that. Highly recommended.

findingtime

I knew this day was coming, both for me and for the indie-rock world. Andrew Skeet‘s Finding Time can be described as a delicate post-rock album that fits in next to The Album Leaf and the soundtrack work of Sleeping at Last or as an engaging work of post-minimalist modern classical music (it’s being put out on Sony Classical). Much alt-classical music has been made, but this is the first time it’s fit so neatly for me inside the music-listening frameworks I’ve already cultivated. My listening habits have been moving toward the classical, since my discovery of John Luther Adams’ Become Ocean and Philip Glass’s work, and now the loop has closed. It’s all one continuous line for me now.

And why shouldn’t it be? The keening repetition that opens “Passing Phase” calls to mind Philip Glass’s Glassworks, while the slow-moving elegy it morphs into is reminiscent of Sigur Ros’s work. “Reflect” is nearly ambient in its pacing; the sharp, brittle, electronic dissonance of “The Unforgiving Minute” would make Modest Mouse proud. The two worlds collide here, at least from my frame of reference. “Taking Off” and “Stop the Clock” feel more traditionally classical, with the latter’s nearly baroque flurry of keyed notes and the former’s heavy reliance on cello and violin. There are moments even in the aforementioned pieces that skew towards traditional sounds, like “The Unforgiving Minute,” but overall this is an album that can be appreciated both by the modern classical music enthusiast and the post-rock one.

Andrew Skeet’s Finding Time is an engaging, enigmatic, comforting and challenging listen. It has kept me company on long slogs of reading (particularly the electronics-laden title track) and warm afternoons. It’s just really impressive, regardless of what you call it.

vanamazi2

Like many people my age, my first introduction to the sounds of Armenian music was through the melodic structures that System of a Down fused to its already-wild metal song structures. Since then, those sounds (along with associated gypsy, Balkan, and Eastern European elements) have been floating around in my brain. Izam Anav by Vana Mazi puts those sounds squarely on the forefront on my brain once again, as the album features gypsy sounds played earnestly and enthusiastically.

With so much cultural weight surrounding sounds of this variety, it’s refreshing to hear the Austin-based outfit play their songs without theatrical bravado (a la Gogol Bordello) or overtly ominous vibes. These tunes, instead, feel like an tasteful interpretation of a long tradition. “Jove Malaj Mome” marries a complex percussion pattern with an intricate instrumental melody from the accordion and fiddle. The male and female vocals double the melody, creating a dramatic vibe without resorting to tricks. It’s just all right there, written in. If you start to sway your hips unintentionally, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

That call to dance is another distinctive element of Vana Mazi’s work: the songs here are miles away from dance rock or electronic music, yet they very distinctly beg to be moved to. It’s hard to deny the rumbling, percussive energy of “Don Pizzica”; the sultry, inviting “Celo Skopje”; and the major key perkiness of “Tarantella Del Gargano.” This ain’t an indie-rock show–crossed arms aren’t going to cut it. The most serious of the tunes here is “Fireflies,” which heavily draws on the ominous, quixotic Armenian vibe that System of a Down mined; the rest are more like “Sandansko Horo,” whose titular element is a Bulgarian folk dance. Eastern European music buffs, adventurous musical types, or fans of interactive live shows (their press assures me of what seems to be inevitable true: these shows are a party) should rush in the direction of Izam Anav. While dancing.

Heavier Than Air Flying Machines throw down chaotic post-everything

December 21, 2011

It’s amazing the amount of racket that can be made with a distorted bass guitar. Heavier Than Air Flying Machines‘ wild post-punk/post-hardcore attack has a wicked bite due to the thunderous lines laid down by bassist Jeremy Pyne. The guitars are still an integral part of debut album Siam, but vocalist/guitarist Jaymes Pyne has much more influence as the acrobatic throat of the group than a fretsman. His bombastic vocals stretch from the theatrical caterwaul of System of a Down’s work [“Follicle Gang (Green)”] to the shrieking falsetto of The Darkness (“Folio Verso”); The only constant is that they are forceful the entire time. (The group yells so often used are manically enthusiastic as well.)

That piece can be extrapolated: HTAFM is almost always forceful on Siam. The only exception is “Abacus Abacus,” which trades At the Drive-In/Death From Above 1979 comparisons for Bloc Party ones. It’s a nice break from the near-constant chaos of the album, and they connect it to their primary sound through a breakdown/chorus thing. They then slap listeners in the face with the banging sheet of distortion that is “Relativity,” just in case you were getting soft.

But while that’s the closest BP comparison, there are other dance-related elements peppered throughout. “Ascent of the Iron Talmud” throws down a nearly-funky bass groove, while “Malleable In So Far” has a staccato swagger that could pass as the dancy end of Spoon if the bass weren’t fuzzed out to the maximum.

But those are the outliers. The majority of this album is spazzy, energetic rocking, from the intimidating pacing of opener “Bedlam.Twain.Control.Towers” through the ratatat of “Vitiated/Continental” to the doomy crush of closer “Catastrophe I Castigation.” The totally sincere Heavier Than Air Flying Machines explode with a profoundly dangerous sound, and that makes Siam incredibly attractive. Rage against the machines, indeed.

Inner Surge's final offering a fantastic metal farewell

February 28, 2010

I’m gonna be straight-up honest: this album has haunted me for the better part of two years. I’ve had people run off with copies of this album. I’ve lost this album in a move. I found this album six months after the move. Then Inner Surge broke up. Then I felt guilty that I hadn’t reviewed it before they broke up and put it on a shelf. Then I found other music from before the move and I reviewed that, making me feel guilty about not reviewing Inner Surge’s An Offering. So I pulled it out, even though it came out in 2008. Once I get this CD reviewed, there will be no more skeletons in Independent Clauses’ closet. And that’s a good feeling.

Another thing that pretty much sucks about me failing so hard at reviewing this is the fact that it’s absolutely great. I know that one review doesn’t make or break a band, but every little bit helps when you’re up against the forces of evil/the music industry. Okay, enough with the angst. On to the music.

Inner Surge’s An Offering is a highly intelligent metal album. This isn’t banging and thrashing for the sake of banging and thrashing; this is a political album through and through, and everything serves that purpose. From the titles (“Halliburton Piggies,” “The Monroe Doctrine,” “Stimulus Response,” “The Empire”) to the lyrics to the overall mood of outrage, this is an incredibly well-concerted effort. This is what Rage Against the Machine would sound like if it ate a metal band.

An Offering is the sort of metal I like: it’s heavy, but it’s very melodic and rhythmic. It’s recorded incredibly tightly, with guitar effects, distinguishable vocals, singing, and yet plenty of double pedal and head-banging crunch. “Interahamwe” is the best track to display all of this, as the songwriting swings from reverbed sections accompanied by non-kitschy spoken word to screamed sections underpinned by double pedal and crushing guitars. Then it segues into a quiet section complete with found sound of a crowd screaming (or a guitar effect simulating such) and whispering. And it all flows perfectly. It’s friggin’ great. It’s right along the lines of System of a Down, and that’s a high compliment.

Inner Surge is less herky-jerky than SOAD, but they replace that innovative move with endless variations on their vocal style. “Light a Fire” features vocals that sound as if spoken through a megaphone, dramatic singing, ferocious yelling, low singing, and all-out screaming. Their total control of vocal performance elevates this album above many other metal albums.

I’m sorry Inner Surge had to go, but at least they went out on the highest note of their career. From the fantastic riff of “Halliburton Piggies” to the brutal machine-gun rhythms of “Stimulus Response” to the marching, staccato riffing and rhythms of opener “The Monroe Doctrine,” this is simply an amazing metal album. I’m not saying that just because I’m notoriously and egregiously behind on reviewing this. I’m saying it because it’s absolutely true. This album is a statement, and it’s a completely solid one.

If you like political metal in the vein of System of a Down, Rage Against the Machine, or the like, you can still purchase Inner Surge’s An Offering here. Band leader Steve Moore said in Inner Surge’s farewell address that this is “an album I am proud of to this day.” He is right to be proud. It is definitely one of the best I’ve heard. You can (and should!) check out his new band The Unravelling here.

PepperDome's experimental hard rock is unique but off-putting

February 13, 2010

PepperDome’s Let’s Try the Otherside is a blast of unrelenting social-activist hard rock that doesn’t really care what you think about it. PepperDome (which is John Tokarczyk on drums, guitar, bass and vocals) embraces everything that he has to offer: off-putting vocals, weird rhythms, odd melodies, and peculiar lyrical choices. It’s all pulled off with confidence, even when it makes me scratch my head.

The strange vocals are the hardest bit to wrap my head around. I nearly quit listening because I just don’t like the vocal tone at all. But the music, which incorporates elements of System of a Down, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and sludge-heavy rock bands, intrigued me enough to listen to it. It’s certainly a singular vision. There’s nothing like PepperDome happening that I know of.

This is a difficult release to listen to. It’s the result of a complete and singular vision; but that vision is so specific and pointed that it seems to exclude average listeners. I’d pass on this one unless you really like experimental hard rock (Primus, Tool, etc).

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

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