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Friday, July 21, 2017

Dunlap Broadsides - Grace review

Last time, I talked about Mirkwood Recordings, a Pittsburgh-based lo-fi record label that I only recently discovered. They have quite a few releases, and they are putting out more and more this year. Grace, by Dunlap Broadsides, just came out yesterday. Let's talk about it.


I was fairly sure that I would like this album based on the cover. They say not to judge things solely based on the packaging, but sometimes that can tell you a lot about a product, the intended audience and the creator's own aesthetics. There was a point in my life when I would buy CDs at Eide's from their clearance bin without listening to the musick, just looking at the artwork. This happened because I found some great stuff like that before, the previously, in older posts, mentioned Blue Velvet. Later I ended up with some thrash metal junk and some other cool IDM and hardcore stuff. This is kind of like that.

Grace has some great sounds, the kinds you might hear speeding through Neo-Tokyo at night but a little warped. There are weird warbling tweets, tremolo'd tones, and gravely synths within the neon atmospheric glow. I've been watching a lot of anime lately if you are curious. Most of the tracks are more upbeat, but there are some creepy songs like "It's Not Murder If It's Passion", with it's breathy vocals. Some of my favorite tracks are "Mental Surveillance" and "Sneaky Bastard". "No Deal" would go along well in a futuristic noir story with its creeping buildup and sirens. "Did You Forget?" has some nice X-Files synths hanging down from the lofty, crisp air of the autumn night. The production on the whole album is nice and clear, though some of the instruments have an "up-and-down" volume thing going on (you could probably just say tremolo, but that makes me think of Davie Allen and other surf-rocker heroes). The drums are too loud for me on "Swan", a track that I am not very fond of. The last song, "Sinister Solution" is my least favorite track; I don't like the auto-tuned vocals at all, and they have a kind of soft-rock cadence.

While Grace isn't something that I would usually listen to, I did enjoy the album a lot. Not everything is perfect, and I really don't like some of the production. However, I would still say this is a Good album. I like the mood and atmosphere of the tracks, the neon glow of the cyberpunk future that is nearly here. Unfortunately, there is less neon in Pittsburgh than in Tokyo, so this will do.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Düne Kankel - Impermanence review

I was recently made aware of a pretty cool record label operating out of Pittsburgh - Mirkwood Recordings. Mirkwood has been releasing "subterranean lo-fi, punk, post-rock,blues, folk, noise rock and more" since 2005, which is quite a while. Kurt, who runs the label, told me that they used to do physical releases but switched to an all digital format some time ago.



Mirkwood's most recent release is Düne Kankel's Impermanence from about a month ago (June 21). It's an ambient/noise/drone kind of affair that reminds me of my own Satyr/Elfheim quite a bit. The tracks have some household sounds and imperfections to them, which adds to the feel. This is an album from the dark and lonely depths of the night. The album starts off with "Acceptance of Sorrow", which sets the tone of the whole release. It sounds like a band that I really like called Blue Velvet, a post-rock-ish instrumental group from New York that broke up years ago. The playing is kind of advanced on here like an old blues guitarist in the truest sense (I don't mean Jimmy Page). The second track, "Toothache Session", is long and droney, various instrumentals begin and end through a few fades. There's a lot of fuzz and a heavy undertow of dread. It reminds me a bit of the Melvins' "Lividity", the final track off of Stoner Witch, for the heavy tones and the implication of a medical procedure; "Lividity" explicitly ends with a man telling a doctor that his lungs are fine. "Johnny", the third track here, goes back to the guitar, a little more calm and acoustic, with some imperfect picking. It's warped and sad, alone but for a cat. In the next track, we head into a totally tonally different world separated from the real by a thick shell of fog or perhaps a blanket; we're looking into a room from outside. This has a very different feel from the last track, which was an invitation to a private world where you could perhaps become comfortable. This track, "Source Emptiness", is devoid of warmth, and it is harshly dissonant. There's some looping of the void of guitar winds while some shapes of scales come through the fog. A bit before the middle, the murk clears a bit into more melodic stuff, but then it's back to echoing sounds around into a feedback loop. As the song ends, it alternates between the two several times before fading out. The final track is called "Division from Intolerance", and starts with more abyssal sounds. This track has some semi-Sabbath-y chords and soloing, along with a waveform that pierces through and bell-like tones that probably resound from a third bridge. It's pretty misty like the last one and fades into the night.

Impermanence is a little long and somewhat hard to listen to at times. I enjoyed the lo-fi aesthetic and the dark and deep sounds. It was so strangely eerily similar to many things I did as Satyr/Elfheim that it almost seems like something I might have recorded. I will be checking out the rest of the Mirkwood Recordings catalog as time goes on, and I am excited to check out more of their releases which will surely include some folklore of the past and more myths of today and tomorrow. Impermanence gets a Good.

Friday, July 14, 2017

BBQ'd Zigtebra

On the 4th of July, my band, Sorry I'm Dead, played a show at Howlers with Zigtebra, Reign Check, and Dumplings. It was pretty fun, and all the bands were good. I booked Zigtebra a while back at Roboto, also on a patriotic holiday, Flag Day, so this unintentionally continued the weird trend. Just like that show, this was a potluck, but this time we also set off some small fireworks outside.

Sorry I'm Dead played first. It was a really good set, similar to the one at Goathouse. Early on, I did some cool rock moves and my guitar strap came off. The guitar was hanging by one side, and I had to just hold it up for a second. It's fun to go into reckless abandon.


Second was Reign Check. I had never seen them before, but I am pretty sure that I had seen their name on like a Facebook event. They were a really cool band, sort of 90s indie sounds, and they played Bikini Kill's "Feels Blind". They are not as thrashy as Bikini Kill, so it was kind of strange. Some of their other songs used a synth, and it reminded me of the awesome, ancient band Dress Up As Natives. I liked their anti-catcaller song. Reign Check ended their set with a somewhat sobering cover of "This Land Is Your Land", but some of the lyrics were a little different than either the original or the sanitized version you hear all the time.



In their time since the show at Roboto, Zigtebra became a very dreamy band; everybody swooned to their loveful synths and echoey vox. Emily, the keyboard player, sounds like Björk at her poppiest. The guitarist/drummer, Joseph, had some whimsical moves like Jonathan Richman. They have some dancey beats via their drum machine. You might be surprised to hear me say this, but Zigtebra are pretty poppy in a really good way. They will be back later in the year, and I am excited!



Finally, Dumplings played. They were super rockin'! It was the band's anniversary and Pam and Jon's dating anniversary! Jon used a new guitar, at least one that I had never seen before, for some of the songs, and he wore a cool tie with ghosts on it.  Their sunglasses made me think of the Damned. They played a few songs that I haven't seen them play often or maybe ever. I really liked the song about being alone forever. Dumplings is really great every time I see them!

Go see Zigtebra if they come near you soon! They are on a long tour, and are very nice to have around! And check out their Facebook or Bandcamp - they are doing new songs each month! Maybe we will do another weird holiday show again with them soon! Look at all these exclamation points in the last paragraph!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Finally Clowning at Station P

On July 3rd, I went to see the final show at Station P. I didn't actually realize that until I got there. Though I had only been to Station P a handful of times, it was always an interesting place with its own character. Station P was softer and more playful than the normal Pittsburgh house; there were no beer cans piled in the sink, rubble rooms, or studded punkers breaking the house apart. The shows there were quieter, experimental and ambient, but some bands played there too. I always liked the people there and the cool painting in the basement. Anyway, on to the show! If you are afraid of clowns, I would not read further.





I got a little mixed up going to Station P, going a different way through Shadyside and ending up on Walnut Street, surrounded by nightlife. I had to turn around, so by the time I got to Station P, I had missed Anna Azizzy's video. In the basement, something very interesting was brewing though! Guinevere and Marty were presenting an amazing elixir to the people of the world in the style of a home shopping network. Two frogs called in, and hopped on it, sitting in cauldrons near the presentation. The frogs drank the mixture, an herbal (not like that) product smelling of the finest spices. One frog collapsed and the other got up and pranced around. The whole time, Guinevere went on about complacency and satisfaction. It was a great performance, and I enjoyed the theatricality of it.

This is yr last warning! Seriously if you are afraid of clowns, you should not continue.

















Alright, there you go. I actually really like clowns, though I have not had many interactions with them. I did go to the circus once when I was very little with my uncle Jack. Sneff combined absurdist humor and strange props for a bizarre and otherworldly experience. He wore puffy pants and a shaggy hat, and he spoke in a voice sort of like Pee-Wee Herman, a person I often associate with Station P actually. Sneff gave everybody some Easter eggs with small prizes inside and gave out some medieval costumes to wear. I ended up with Smarties and a green robe respectively. Then Sneff rolled out some Chatter Telephone pull toys and spoke with somebody somewhere. He got sad; he got happy. Then we all went outside and made a magic potion, watching out for the plants in the dark. "Sometimes magic stinks," Sneff chortled as he stirred the concoction like a witch in a fairy story. Magic sure does stink when it is a mixture of grass, dirt, beer, Smarties, rocks, and other junk. It was a lovely set despite the bad smells, and I await Sneff's return to Pittsburgh in the fall.



Finally, Maenads played in the basement. Maenads is a band that plays musick. There was no performance art stuff, just post-stoner space metal like Mars Red Sky or Yuri Gagarin. I love this kind of stuff - the slow lumbering drums and spacey guitars. The songs were dramatic and epic, the scope of space. This was only Maenads second show, and it was good. It's kind of a local Pittsburgh supergroup, which is cool. I do wish they had bigger amps for a fuller sound.

After the show we did some clown games with Sneff, and then that was it for Station P. There is a new Station P, which I suggested should be called New Station P. They did a show there that Saturday, but I had to miss it. The pictures I saw looked cool, and I hope to go there sometime soon. Thanks to everyone at Station P for the good stuff in the last few years and good luck with the new place.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Jigsaw'd Howlers

On June 29th, I saw a pretty cool show at Howlers. It was only three bands, and it went by pretty quick. I enjoyed the brevity - it was short and to the point after the massive LadyFest days before. Interestingly, it was sort of like a continuation of LadyFest, as someone pointed out at the show, as all of the bands were female-fronted and one, Garter Shake, had even played there.


When I got to Howlers, Garter Shake were already playing. Since I had just seen them a few days before at LadyFest, it wasn't a big deal. This was a better set though; the sound seemed fuller and the energy was higher. The guitars seemed fuzzier too, which I almost always prefer. I hope to see this band some more, and I am interested in seeing how they develop as time goes on.



Jigsaw Youth is a band from New York City. They are named after the Bikini Kill song and have some similarities to that band, along with the Ramones and Mudhoney, with lots of crunchy riffs and wailing vocals. The members are very young, which is unusual for a band with as big of a following as they have, but it is also good to see. I'm always glad to see youthful musicians, though their musicianship is not always the best. Jigsaw Youth is a pretty good band, but I wish they had a little more stage presence or more dynamic songs. I guess it's really more of the grunge influence that I dislike more than anything else, as I have never been a big fan of that sound. Anyway, the vocals were excellent and the songs were thrashy and fast. I thought they were pretty cool overall.


Aloe played a great set, just like the last few times. I think this was the best one yet! Unlike the show at Roboto, the sound was clearer, and everything else was excellent. I love the guitar interplay. Aloe isn't playing for a bit, but they will be back in August.

Since it was a short show, we have time to check out Jigsaw Youth's America's Sweethearts. The album got me to really hear their how grungy they are. As above, I've never really liked grunge too much, so I guess that's my issue with their sound. It's still a Good album, though I think it drags at times; I like the shorter tracks, but some of them, like "House", are too long. "Aunt Jenny's Got My Back" has a nice Ramones sound, though heavier. "Moth" closes the album on a doomy, downtrodden note. A little too Mudhoney-esque for me at times, but it's a Good first start. I'm excited to see what this band does down the line.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

LadyFest 2017

I get very anxious about festivals, so I miss LadyFest every year. This year, I was determined to go, just like every other year. I did actually go, though I only saw one of the shows, the very long Saturday show. I am very glad that I finally went.



I got to LadyFest a little late; the first act, Samm Bones, had already started. She is currently located in New Orleans but formerly from Pittsburgh. When I got in, she was playing a keyboard, later switching to banjo. Bones' set reminded me of seeing a pre-stardom version of Madonna or Lady Gaga, though it was much rougher and less poppy, perhaps more like Amy Winehouse. I thought it was a really cool set; I often dislike singer-songwriter-y things, but this was super strong.


We had to go down to the basement to see the next band, Working Breed. This alternation stayed true for the rest of the night. Usually an "art-rock quartet", according to their website, this was a stripped down, acoustic version of the band. I had never seen them before. The songs were a little too poppy for me, sort of Serge Gainsbourg at times (the first song was in French), but there were some cool instruments - the frontwoman played a trombone and a saw! I also loved her deadpan banter and the amazing lyrics, "if you love somebody yr... fucked". I'm interested in seeing the full band.


The Telephone Line was playing back up on the first floor. They were sort of like a more subdued Janis Joplin. Like Janis Joplin, the Telephone Line is rooted in funk and blues with some nice bass parts and keyboards. I wished the guitar was louder and more fuzzed out. I liked the songs "Queen of the City", "Back Off" (about harassment on public transport), and "Caving In" (which had a sort of easy-listening sound).


Other Girls was the weirdest act on the bill. Other Girls is Hannah Thompson in a body suit, morphing to some ambient drones. It was very cool and under time, which makes me feel better about huge shows that always give me a lot of stress/anxiety rushing back and forth. I had seen Other Girls before at a very tempestuous show I booked a few years ago. I got a clearer picture of the project here, the morphing folds as a statement on societal expectations of the body.


The fifth band was Garter Shake, a pop/garage band that sounds like something on Bufu Records. They were sort of like Bleached or a less psychedelic La Sera. Again, I feel like there were some level issues - the keyboard was cool, but the fuzzy guitar should have been louder. Since all the bands upstairs were using the same amps, it seems like this was a result of the quick setups between the bands. The last song they played was "Crimson Wave" by Tacocat. It was a cool set.


We went back down to the basement to see Iris Creamer. She is a rapper and producer from Providence, Rhode Island. I liked her stage presence; it was strong but loose and carefree, like a character in The Warriors. The dub breaks and somewhat minimal, non-dense production appealed to me; it was kinda post-punky. I wish that she had been turned up a bit by people running the sound. Iris Creamer is great!



Brazilian Wax was next, with a returning Mae on drums. Wow, this was an awesome set! I always miss their shows, though I have seen them before, and this was a good argument to not miss anymore. Athena is a powerful vocalist and the entire crowd went along with what the band was doing. Mae played bass for a second, and everybody cheered. Everything was fast and loud and strong.



Blak Rapp Madusa continued the powerful sets. She came in like a sledgehammer or a wrecking ball but for real (sorry Miley). I was stunned the whole time! Just like Brazilian Wax, she really lead the crowd with her powerful lyrics. The audience was so loud after each song, it hurt my ears! On some songs, Madusa was accompanied by a friend with more soulful vox, and they were amazing too - it was a great contrast. The last song she played was dedicated to another person who had recently passed away, and I was really touched, despite having never met that person. Madusa is an acronym meaning Making A Difference Using Skills and Activism, and she has a movie coming out soon that you should all check out.


The ninth band was Murder for Girls back upstairs. I saw Murder for Girls some time ago, opening for Shonen Knife, also at Cattivo. Their sound is like a darker 90s indie band, almost grunge. This was better than when I saw them with Shonen Knife. The guitars sounded warm and full with a Ramones buzzsaw attack and the bass has a post-punk tone. The vocal harmonies kinda wear me down over time though.


The Lopez played a great set as always, but this was one of the stronger ones in a while. As always, they were very energetic, dancey, and full of Ramones tones. There isn't much to say that hasn't already been said.


I went home to take a break for a second, missing the band Blue Clutch. I hope to catch them at a later date. When I came back, Swampwalk was already playing. I haven't seen Swampwalk for a while, but I always enjoy her sets a lot. She uses a Game Boy for electro chiptunes. This was so giggly and fun and honest, though don't mistake that for weakness - "my body is not yr commodity". I wonder if it was more intimate since there were not a ton of people left. It was getting late and the show had probably worn people down; I was exhausted. Despite this, I felt rejuvenated a bit from her joyfulness.




We took the Sound Elevator upstairs for the end of the night. That's a bad joke, but that is the last band's name. Sound Elevator almost played my Ramones tribute show last year, though they had to back out. They would have been a really good fit, and this was a good set. There were some colorful lights floating around to the post-punk/goth sounds of the band; I was so tired that I actually fell asleep, lulled into dreamlands. What I did hear was excellent; I really enjoyed the vocals and basslines especially. I hope to catch them again when I am not so tired.

I left LadyFest, ate some food, and fell asleep. As mentioned above, I was exhausted, since I was there for like the whole day. Festivals take a lot out of me; it's a lot to process. Regardless, it was a fun time, and I am glad that I went and got to see many new (to me) bands. There were two more shows the next day, but I skipped out on those. There were also two shows the day before. Clearly the people behind LadyFest put a lot of work into it. Despite there being some sound issues, in terms of levels, the Saturday show was excellent, showcased many female-fronted bands, and raised a lot of money for women's charities. Assuming I don't feel super anxious in 2018, I plan to go to one or more of the shows, and you should too.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Climax Landers album review

After writing about the awesome Climax Landers show at Roboto, I got an email from the band. They thanked me for the review and sent me their album digitally. I already bought the CD, but this was a kind gesture. Since I hadn't listened to it yet, this also prompted me to play it, and it is great!

Climax Landers' self-titled album seriously might be one of my favorite albums ever! All the songs are solid and fun to listen to. The first song, "Climax Landers", has a very lo-fi, people talking intro before going into a fun singalong. I like these musique concrete elements, as they help to document the time and place and feeling. "Obstacles" is another great one. It has awesome guitar and drum sounds, electrifying and popping, with more singalong-y vocals. It sounds like a more wild Miracle Legion. "Up On a Hillside" has some cool harmonica, and "Prophecies" is a vocal-driven song with strong harmonies/counterpoints. "Pray For All Muslims" is a social commentary, and it seems like it uses some "found statements" to deliver its point. It's pretty freeform, with a scary, tinkling, attic piano jam. "Star Wars is not a religion".

"Came to Splatter" and "Flip Out First" rock on through. There isn't much to say about 'em. "Free Thought" is a celebration and musing of the costs, due to societal constraints, on the title subject. "What Can I Say?" has a great, squeaky outro, like bikes deflating wholly.

Like the band's name, there are two tracks named after video games, "Silhouette Mirage" and "Azure Dreams", games all with a similar aesthetic. "Silhouette Mirage" has plain vocals in a dreary but hopeful way. "Azure Dreams" uses video game imagery to create something more. It reminds me of my own band's stuff or Queen's "Seven Seas of Rhye". The vocals are weird, but they make sense in a nonsense Beat way. I really like this song.



The album closes out with "Charles' House", with its themes of lost memories and lost youth, dreams of the past, the Brian DiSanto-ish "Titmouse", and a reprise of "Climax Landers". This version of "Climax Landers" ends with the talking and it helps conclude the album.

Climax Landers gets a Good. It's probably one of my favorite albums ever. I love the simple production, the freeform songs, the sounds of the instruments, the vocals, the lyrics, and the political/childhood innocense themes. You can hear Pavement, Beat Happening, Uncle Wiggly, and Miracle Legion in these timeless tracks. I would tell you to go listen to it and post a link here, but I don't think this album is anywhere online (except that song above). You can check out the band Old Table here, which Climax Landers is an offshoot of. I hope eventually they do decide to upload this album somewhere so everyone can listen to it. Anyway, check 'em out if you get a chance.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Honey - Mock Pop preview review

A little bit ago, I got an email about a new album by a Pittsburgh band that I had never heard of before. Honey is a three-piece guitar/bass/drums 90's alternative kinda band. It looks like they released an album back in 2015, so this isn't a totally new band. The new album came out today on Wild Kindness Records, located in Pittsburgh, and it is called Mock Pop.


Three tracks from Mock Pop are up on their Bandcamp page. "Send Me No Flowers" seems to be the intended single, and it is a great track! It's a fuller and longer kind of song that might have been written by Robert Pollard, but it also sounds like some later Cure or Siouxsie and the Banshees tracks, maybe even like The Cult. It's got the loud/soft/loud dynamics of Nirvana, with a good fuzz guitar sound, very cool bridge, and excellent vocals.

"Drag Dealer" is another one of the tracks. It doesn't start as strong as "Send Me No Flowers", but once the guitar solo kicks in, the song soars high and continues that way. The guitars are really excellent on here, but there are some good vocal lines at times too. Some cool detuned sounds end it on a Sonic Youth sort of note.

Last we have "Mallrat's Dream", a glittery realm of pale red lights, recalling both A Flock of Seagulls and, more so, Comsat Angels. This is a great track! I used to go to the grocery store at night on existential journeys, and this reminds me of those times or when I was little and my grandmother and I did the same thing going to Kmart, Ames, Hills, and some malls in the North Hills. There's a hurt and a loss/lost here. "It's only existence", and that's the truth for sure. This song is a little more compressed, but it still rocks.

From what I have heard, Mock Pop is a great album. It has some post-punk influence to it's alt-rock sound, which helps keep it fresh. The production is good; it isn't too compressed, and it isn't too bare like some of my early Satyr/Elfheim albums. It really recalls the first two Comsat Angels albums, favorites of mine and semi-unknown, though I wonder if that was actually an influence or not. I'm gonna be on the lookout to see this band live; if they are anything like these three songs, it is sure to be a great set! Mock Pop, or at least the three songs I've heard, get a Good. I hope to hear the whole album soon.