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Month: November 2007

Bevel – Phoenician Terrane

bevel-album-artBevel – Phoenician Terrane

www.contraphonic.com

Contraphonic, Inc. (www.contraphonic.com)

Delicate, dreamy psychedelic-folk weaves a surreal musical experience

Listening to Bevel’s Phoenician Terrane is like finding oneself in that moment between awake and sleep.  It lulls the senses into a hazy trance and induces a dreamy, enduring calm.  But Phoenician Terrane is more than just surreal; it’s also delicate, distinct and finely crafted.

Phoenician Terrane pulls the listener in early with a quirky instrumental composition that leads to “Low-Income Glade,” in which the addition of flute and violin prove the quality and talent flowing through this album.  The song begins with a light, soaring melody and transitions into a darker, Gypsy-stylized mood.

Bevel has a knack for composing distinct and complex melodies that can be described as anything from sweet to dreamy, dark, or delicate, but are all nevertheless beautiful.  Unlike some albums which tend to sound like one lengthy song, each track on Phoenician Terrane is a distinct chapter in the surreal story that the music is telling.

“Since the World” is an example of Bevel’s talent for creating great melodies as well as the band’s ability to harmonize between the variety of instruments used.  This ability to harmonize is also especially prevalent in “Coronation Day,” a folk song built on distinct yet expertly interwoven layers of instrumentation.

Along with beautiful melodies and artful harmonizing, Bevel also has mastered the ability of inspiring vivid imagery from their music.  “In Purchase” is the best example of this, painting a vibrantly haunting scene with the synthesizer and violin.

The album bogs down briefly in the middle with the mild “A Forest Ends” and “Balustra,” but picks itself back up with a guitar melody that falls like raindrops through “Vice Versa.”

It is evident that every aspect of this album has been given careful consideration and the end result is stunning.  The distinct melodies, individual talent and imagery evoked combine to create art worth listening to.  Listening to Phoenician Terrane is like walking through a collection of great art-beautiful, and just as unreal.

Hannah Kokjohn

hannah.e.kokjohn@gmail.com

Ankla- Steep Trails

Ankla- Steep Trails

www.ankla1.com, www.myspace.com/ankla1

Bieler Bros. Records, Inc. (www.bielerbros.com)

High-powered, Latin Metalcore that gives all other metal bands a run for their money

If you’re a sucker for mind-numbing guitar riffs and face-melting solos, Ankla is your band.

Spanish for anchor, Ankla hits home with their latest release, Steep Trails. The dissonance throughout the album is near perfection, making the listener constantly crave  more.

Ankla is not your average, gnarly hardcore metal; it is a blast of energy, a fusion of Latin sounds and heavy-metal elements. Formed by Puerto Rican guitar god Ramon Ortiz, Ankla delivers metal with a whole new edge.

Every track on the album is jam-packed with energy and the kind of passion that makes you want to jump in the middle of the mosh pit and mess some people up. The power in “Step Ahead” is overwhelming in the best way possible. Singer Ikaro Stafford Santana rips through the song with searing vocals, accompanied by heavy, pounding bass (thanks to bassist Edgar Gonzales), and once again the no-less-than-astounding Ortiz on guitar.

Although Ankla is described as Latin metalcore, the Latin vibe and percussion aren’t overwhelming at all. Percussionist Oscar Santiago does an expert job of mixing metal and Latin into a head-pounding, forceful, vibe-filled work of awe-inspiring metal creation. The Latin and tribal percussion is intertwined awesomely throughout, in a not-too-rampant manner. The Latin vibe is most prevalent in tracks such as “Scattered Existence,” “Intro Sinking,” “Deceit” and “Flush.”

Like I said before, Ortiz is clearly the master of his game on guitar. His work sends shivers up the spine in “Seasons Never Change”-a song which almost feels too repetitive until it blows the listener away with changed-up vocals and a killer guitar solo.

One of the most powerful songs on the album is “Still Alive,” a piece that is filled with the hard-core emotions and powerful punches that make metal fans go wild. The song channels System of a Down in the chorus, and is heavily laden with the guitar work that makes Ankla such pure and utter bliss to listen to. Pepe Clarke Magana’s drumming is psychotic and chaotic, carrying the song through on a high-paced level. This song is the star of the album.

If you’re aching for that sound that gives you the urge to jump in the pit and throw up some violent devil horns, plug into Ankla immediately. They are heavy-metal on crack-in a good way. It’s the metal that metal-heads love, but presented in an amped-up, Latin manner that will never grow boring.

Emily Craner

All Teeth and Knuckles- Club Hits to Hit the Clubs With

All Teeth and Knuckles- Club Hits to Hit the Clubs With

http://www.myspace.com/allteethandknuckles, http://www.allteethandknuckles.com

Pish Posh of North America (www.pishposhofnorthamerica.com)

All Teeth and Knuckles is the kind of stuff that is better left in one’s closet. The album was created for the sole purpose of a way for Patric Fallon to cope with his life problems, and it greatly shows.

Fallon creates some pretty good beats, but they are not always the most original. He experiments with different styles of club beats: some are fun, up beat, and “8-bit” while others feel like imitation Justin Timberlake. While Fallon’s beats are decent hits with a few misses, his lyrics are incredibly irritating.

The album opens up with Fallon using the tactics of anti-mainstream, self-hype that underground hip hop artists love to do. It can be assumed that an indie/underground act will turn to such tactics, and thus the opener is not bothersome. But the opener’s lyrics and feel are completely different than the rest of the album.

As soon as Fallon hypes himself up, he quickly brings himself down. On “Fuck Your Jacket”, Fallon criticizes the hipster culture, and by doing so makes himself look like one. The delivery of his lyrics hints that he has had training in the emo department, and his choruses are horridly trite. This brings for a quirky, angst-ridden album full of emo club music that one would feel incredibly awkward dancing to.

Most of Fallon’s songs start out with potential, but never completely flesh out, and we are instead left with tracks created by a jaded, burnt out beat maker. However, the best song on the album is “black out dance”, which is an interlude. The beats that Fallon chooses combined with the dissonant guitar makes for something bone chilling and bittersweet. All of Fallon’s emotions and pain can be felt in this one interlude that is the epitome of what is All Teeth and Knuckles; the rest is just filler and Fallon experimenting.

–         Tim Wallen

Badenders – Driving

badendersBadenders – Driving

www.myspace.com/thebadenders

Self-released

Piano-driven power-pop that draws heavily from many influences for inspiration.

It’s part of a reviewer’s job to compare new bands to established bands. Sometimes this job is easy – a band fits perfectly into an established sound, they rip off a band, or they establish a piece of the sound that is clearly influenced by someone else. Sometimes the job is next to impossible, either by bands having no discernable influences or by bands having way too many.

The Badenders have way too many influences. Their basic sound is a piano-and-synth-heavy power-pop, but there’s flashes of Radiohead, U2, Mae, Oasis, Coldplay, Something Corporate, Brand New, Counting Crows and more. There’s so many influences that I feel they can’t all exist – I must be impressing my own opinion and musical choices on their sound. But darn it all if I don’t hear Radiohead in the chord changes, guitar wankery and choral wailings of the epic-length “Cry for Help” – even the tone of voice changes to wail incoherently at the appropriate section. If it weren’t supported by a perky piano line, I would say it was the little brother of “Paranoid Android.”

The emotive piano and acoustic guitar of “Possum” evoke the later half of Coldplay’s Rush of Blood to the Head – the crisp jangle against the smooth piano evokes “A Rush of Blood to the Head” and “Warning Sign.” “Drywater” is a Blind Melon, Counting Crows-esque tune that yearns to be included in early 90s radio.

This is not to knock the talent of the Badenders. The members of the Badenders are all very adept at their instruments, and their chemistry is undeniable. Their songwriting is very capable, as it takes effort to effectively and enjoyably emulate some of the greatest bands of the past twenty years. It’s just that when it comes down to describing the Badenders, it’s very hard to do so on the music’s own merits. Other than sounding like an amalgam of many of the best songwriters of the past two decades, there’s not much that separates the Badenders from the rest of the piano-driven pop-rock pack except closer “The Lights.”

“The Lights” is a dark and foreboding experiment in minimalism – a string quartet, vocals, a single drum tom and piano are all that enter at the onset of the tune. The song unfolds with more vocals but not much more in the way of instrumentation. The mood created is ominous, ambitious and commendable. In stripping away all of the things that drew comparisons, Badenders discover their songwriting style on the final track of this album. It’s a little late to establish yourself on an album, but “The Lights” is easily the most memorable track on the album due to the fact that the Badenders did find their identity within its confines.

Driving is a very enjoyable piano-driven power-pop album. The band spends much of the album playing musical chameleon, dragging the album’s creativity down, but it doesn’t hurt the listenability of the album. The band might not have convinced me of their talent for the long haul if not for “The Lights,” though. If they can harness the vision they caught in their closer to the instrumental talent that they display throughout the album, the Badenders will have an ox team that will lead them into some good territory.

-Stephen Carradini

Stephen@IndependentClauses.com

Among Wolves- Among Wolves

Among Wolves- Among Wolves
http://www.myspace.com/amongwolves
The Beechfields (http://www.thebeechfields.com)
Wonderfully accessible, yet innovative, alt-country songwriting that hardly fits into a genre

Among Wolves’ self-titled album is an impressive blend of the experimental and the accessible. The group combines these elements with an ease and grace that creates a really enjoyable listen. Influences are as wide-ranging as Wilco, The Flaming Lips, Death Cab for Cutie and The Beach Boys. Among Wolves, however, have a sound that is all their own.
As the album opens, it is clear right away from the psychedelic “Sleep and Dream” that the band is far from ordinary, with its slow, dreamy synths and distortion. Following this is the fun tune “Black Eyed Susan,” that shows how Among Wolves could fit the category of alt-country. The hand claps and harmonies, along with a great piano part, make this song one of the most memorable on Among Wolves.
An admirable element of the album is the involvement of all members in different ways. The foursome can all sing (very well, too) and each plays a variety of instruments, from the average guitar, bass, drums, and piano, to the unusual use of lap steel, harp, banjo, bowed upright bass, violin, and toy xylophone. The extensive instrumentation and vocal diversity keep the album fresh and interesting throughout. There is never a dull moment.
“Bottle” is another standout track. This short and sweet, up-tempo jingle infuses the album with energy, after the slower tracks that precede it. The bright-sounding organ gives a happy feel to a song that includes the dark lyric: “if you’re looking for me, I’ll be at the bottom of a bottle.” In the next track “Seems to Me”, the banjo plays an important role, as it really makes the chorus stand out.
With a clear Beach Boys influence in “Baltimore,” Among Wolves give a shout-out to their hometown in Maryland, with a hauntingly pretty ending on the keyboard. It flows nicely into the methodically-paced “Love pt. 7,” that blends banjo, mandolin, and violin, amid other unique sounds. Among Wolves ends with “Winter Days,” leaving the listener entirely satisfied. This album has a completeness to it that makes it enjoyable to listen to again and again, and it is highly recommended.

Megan Morgan
megan@independentclauses.com

Dawn of the Dude brings together influences for a great album

Band Name: Dawn of the Dude
Album Name: International Time Travel With Magical Babes
Best Element:  Catchy and unique pop-punk that uses its influences well.
Genre: Pop-Punk
Website: http://www.dawnofthedude.com
Label Name: [url=http://www.oortrecords.com]Oort Records[/url]
Band e-mail: http://www.myspace.com/dawnofthedude

Asheville, NC, pop-punk band Dawn of the Dude got their absurdly long, yet vastly amusing, album title right.  International Time Travel With Magical Babes draws on pop influences from throughout the history of pop, creating an album that is unique in its sonic diversity but is still unified in its overall sound.

Over the course of listening to the album, I quite often found myself saying, “Well, this song sounds a lot like something [insert random pop rock artist] would write.” In no way is that a bad thing. While many bands out there rely so much on their influences that they ultimately sound derivative, Dawn of the Dude manages to honor their diverse influences and still deliver an original sound that is fun to listen to.

As I listened to the album, I heard songs that made me think of 80’s pop, ska, any number of pop-punk bands and even 50’s pop, as well as bands like Guns’n’Roses, The Get Up Kids, U2. All of these help to keep the music interesting, because just when you think you have the band’s sound figured out, they hit you with something completely different.

With the first few songs, as well as several more throughout, the band presents a fine-toned pop-punk sound that rides smoothly on its heavy use of keyboards and vocal harmonies. These songs are destined to be sung at the top of the lungs of many teenage girls.

Songs like “Circuits of Time,” and “The Dream” evoke the 80’s at their best/worst. These songs had me thinking of the likes of Simple Minds, A-Ha, Flock of Seagulls, and all those 80’s bands that we hate to love/love to hate. (And that’s why it’s fitting that their bassist has a crazy haircut that is reminiscent of Stephen Baldwin in Biodome.)

The band brings in some ska with “Brittany Kaiser.” Unfortunately, their trombone player doesn’t get nearly enough time on the album, which is probably my biggest complaint, because I love horns.

With “Lovers’ Lane,” the band does a complete one-eighty and presents a soft pop ballad circa 1950’s. I expected the song to explode into a full pop-punk cavalry charge throughout, but was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. The lyrics are appropriately sweet for the song’s tone and it features some great vocals.

The reason I know I think this CD is great is because I honestly would put it in my car stereo and listen to it on a regular basis. Unless you really hate pop-punk, there’s very little to dislike about this album.

-Nate Williams
nathanmw@ou.edu