Friday, December 19, 2014

New Cowboy Builders on Function Room Records


New Cowboy Builders is the latest project from Jake Healy of She Ripped, having fired Dr. Rhythm they found a human hammer on drums, John, for this harder, pounding jitter that continues to explore modern dehumanization with impossible to ignore heavy riff rock.

A-Side's "Black Moses" for example is described as being about a reborn saint private investigator looking into the murder of a (reality star?) heroin addict. You know - the usual everyday monotony. It's heavy hitting, the thuds between kick and snare work as a heavy foundation for Jake's deadpan vocal delivery between fills. His sinister chopped lines giving some of those important background details in conversational tones that open up in a chorus that see saws between power chords and double kick drums. There's still hints of that post punk minimal starkness in this breakdown before the sharp bursts of distortion come winding back and I think when the dust settles this saint PI is in big trouble.
B-Side's "What is Expected" has a tight loop of gated shellac bursts and Jake deliberately tunes out the rest of this rhythm and melody to detach from the proceedings. The jittery guitar oscillates between two notes changing their place of attack but sticking to this soul sucking repetition in support of the bleak, alienated vocal. They definitely benefit from the addition of these earth shaking drums and feed off each other's energy lining up this existential dilemma into tight bursts of distortion.

Pick this up from the band direct or ask your local distro for the import.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Paz Antiguana "Surfing the Channel" on Holy Cane Spirit Records


There's the weathered, beaten up scarred romantic soul of Lee Fields that gets put on during those hard times when you need someone to really articulate it while having a few drinks and then there's the tropical soul of Paz Antiguana who are determined to get you out of your chair, and your house even to go have that cocktail with friends possibly to start that other relationship that will inevitably lead back to putting on Lee again...

A-Side's "Surfing the Channel" has a cool, marching samba style rhythm with congas coming heavy out of the left channel and Corina on vocals right up close and in the front. Sparkly keyboards and ride cymbals almost sound like loops that didn't know each other beforehand they just keep facing off only coming together because they're packed together. You can't help but picture that island and forgetting what day it is. A brass section picks up this rhythm to that chorus surfing the left and right channels '...like skiing in flannel'. A concise groove about surfing that ends up on the beach that night.
B-Side's "Groovin'" is their take on that classic 1967 Young Rascals track completely making it their own. It's worth doing a cover when you so completely put your own stamp on it like this. They reinterpret the soul bass line sliding in just before the chorus and Corina even takes that vocal melody to new unexpected places all with their polyrhythmic percussion that's coming from every direction. They took that slow dance couples only track and fired it up to make sense in the middle of the day with palm trees in sight.

Get it from Paz Antiguana direct or your usual local distro's.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Bad Axe on Permanent Records


Two brothers Dennis and Danny Gray named their band Bad Axe, which is a city in Michigan, close to Chicago where they were from. It also sounds a lot like 'Bad Ass' which is completely appropriate for this sludgey '70s heavy rock recorded in 1973 to be exact. Five long hair bad asses (see sleeve) went into the studio to get these two songs on reel to reel tape. They must have pressed up a few hundred copies, one of which managed to end up at Permanent Records and is a truly incredible time capsule.

A-Side's "Coachman" opens with a trio of beefy low end guitars washed out in fuzz and chopped into blunt bricks. Everything screams '70s, the kind of muddy tube production that you can't even fake these days. Bouncy, no make that insane groovy bass from Stan Marcheska that flies all over this thing like he's been let out of a cage. Thin vocals from the Gray's and songwriter J. Turner are pushed to that early metal background that corrals the harmonies coming off like Hawkwind meeting Crazy horse. They can technically compete with those guys and still manage that loose Easy Rider, bar in the woods vibe. Solo perfection over bass punches makes you ask why there isn't this much lower end boosted in rock these days? We are in treble heavy garage my friends. Wackka strumming shows up towards the end and their guitars line up in a Sabbath way stopping immediately and giving the drums a chance to step into the spotlight. Timeless perfection from a couple of buddies with a big dream. Before your time, Bad Axe.

B-Side's "Poor Man, Run" also sets the tempo with compact fuzz and the drums take that skeleton riff into snare wailing head banging. An acoustic blows with melodic high register vocals from J. adding an air of psych to the otherwise beefy proceedings. Lofty vocals about this 'poor man' and 'no tomorrow' give this a serious medieval Yes sound with NO ORGAN. It all breaks down to drums and a Stairway to Heaven acoustic and bass moment that grows into solo after solo and more freakout double tempos from Stan, someone look that guy up. This one turns into a real Hotel California epic with ride cymbals into the sunset, more than enough to leave you sad that it's over and sadder that they may not have ended up recording anything else.

Get it from Permanent Records Chicago.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Curtis Seals / Christian D'Orbit on Fred (Windian) records


There's no end to overlooked obscure punk seven inches. First there was Sing Sing Records, inspired by Captured Tracks and Rob's House reminding the world about old, fantastic, impossible to find punk singles and Last Laugh followed shortly with their own represses of early '80s punk from all over and now Windian Records has their say in unearthing awesomeness from Syracuse with this Penetrators double sided single of one off's from drummer Curtis Seals and Christian D'Orbit.

Curtis Seals side "The Scandalizer" is winning me over with this sound quality like it was produced by Mike Rep himself, a muddy sax blows into the low end of the track just absolutely buried and almost warbling on this tape transfer. Great organ and lead from Curtis giving this thing that backroom soul feel. That underground gentlemens club that serves way too much alcohol and guys from the neighborhood sing covers with the house band. It's all recorded together with the rest of the band yelling from the background about being 'the best around'. Half weird joke, this starts to fall apart towards the end but they pull it together and nail this raw, stripped down bluesy soul sound with metallic reverb.
Christian D'Orbit does "Drive Me Crazy" opening into a watery phaser chorus guitar under big time jangle and this side is even better with Christian on snotty punk vocals her first line - "I used to be obnoxious!" Even though this feels like it's running the straight and narrow of shuffling pop rock, she wouldn't have anything to do with contemporary music in '81. Even less with her lyric that he's "driving me crazy" and not in a good I'm in love kind of way. I think more like he burned the house down and crashed the car again. Seriously the band is keeping this groovy rhythm as she peaks out the mic and is driven to screaming her lungs out. Both sides are the beat up heart and the soul of The Penetrators...I'm seeing these guys in a new light.

Pick this one up from Windian Records for the very reasonable price of $5.50.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Ollo - "Transistor Resistor" on Metal Postcard Records


Who isn't in love with the digital sounds of the '80s. They reek of nostalgia, even back then and had their own mysterious process in creating sound that can't be emulated. I guess it's like vinyl in that way. I don't know the science, just that having that thing in your hand is a lot more fun and inspiring than a laptop. Ollo must have their own thrift store amount of circuits that make sound. Sometimes even that generic casio can have a rhythm preset or swirling chime sound that you've never heard anywhere else. Not to mention the physical side of having replacement parts for things that aren't worth fixing or no one else knows how to do it. What came first, the band or the storage units full of 'digital rhythm programmers'.

A-Side's "Transistor Resistor" opens with those ancient sounds taking up the bass line until an actual person comes in on drums in the style and gated no room sound of the period. These sounds are inherently just what they are; cold and precise. Ollo's challenge is to give them some kind of life like a defibrillator. There's an attempt at life jerk but really it's impossible, just keep trying. Kraftwerk proved these sounds can't escape their conception and you have to just go with it. Ollo have no problem enhancing the fits and tics of the equipment and delivering vocals with that shallow robotic reverb in an equally jagged vocal. The whole thing has that kind of playful pop vibe though, like Stereolab without the repetition, their approach becomes shaped by these vintage instruments in a similar way with a more laid back result.

"Full Stop Blue" locks on a low sine wave and phases it with pitch wheels starting to sound a lot darker than the A-Side track. Those low register pressure analog synth sounds push speaker cones in new directions coming off especially great on vinyl. Like a Magnetic Fields ballad, they push and pull this technology way past where anyone at the time had foresight to go. Without even trying, they avoid typical structures and these sounds lead you as much as they bend to your will. There's no denying that the technical skill it takes to wrangle this equipment is almost as hard as getting it all lined up in these pop ways. A more subtle track, this is a real tear on the robot's cheek.

Black vinyl, in a gatefold single sleeve, which is more rare than the single itself. Get it from Metal Postcard direct or Discogs.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Fitt on Big Neck Records


Sometimes bands put the guitar on an almost obscene pedestal. I don't think The Fitt were consciously trying to change hearts or minds it's just hard to hear anything but the metallic chunks of staccato bursts from Pat on guitar. Laid back garage guys might have a reverb pedal or two but don't, for the most part, mess with that sound. It's just a guitar jangle after all - big deal. Guys like The Fitt worship their guitar and push every discipline of the bass and drums as far, probably to a breaking point because after all if you can't do this for a living there comes a point where more rehearsal after work just isn't going to ever cut it. A perfect example of the flash of a match being lit in the darkness of Pittsburgh.

On "Hawk Eyes" the guitars are strictly rumbling, the kick is in double pedal Pantera territory chopping it all up into concise mirrored patterns and breaking the vocal into bursts of syllables. The only sound that's even a little bit close is At The Drive In's intensity and drive. "Scholar" makes In The Meantime seem like one of those free calculators that's in the top drawer of your desk until The Fitt make you go down to radio shack and buy one of those huge scientific calculators with an LCD display and cosine functions that you're never even going to know completely how to use. This is huge and scary and fast.
"Visions" blurts kicks and muted power chords verging on dark metal but the yelling vocals from the back and the way they run into full speed melody steers this clear of anything else really. Released four years ago it may even belong with the likes of Pelican or Mono if they also put an entire record on one side of a seven inch.

B-Side's "M80" fades into feedback and a completely insane drum rhythm, just beating out the tom while the kick works doubling underneath, if this is instrumental they've got me. Yep. Perfect melodic representation of a bunch of massive explosives going off one after another. "Gonna Get it now" dives into scraping strings and cymbal crashes with no end. Pushing each other this is the mental breakdown a normal band would stick between versus and these guys turn it into a 55 second track of it's own. "Killer" has abbreviated guitar chunks over a sane rhythm except for the stumbling rolls that don't even sound real. This blows up though into feedback between the chords, the strings perched on the edge of perpetually vibrating, for the amps to pick up of course. Clean and bordering on Shellac like clarity and weight. I really thought this single would have to have been pressed at 33 but they manage six tracks onto a 45 because I think they needed that extra speed for this low end to spread out.

Get this from Big Neck Records.

Still single liked their full length, pick this up from Big Neck Records.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Aaron and the Burrs on Ut Records


Instrumental rock is a funny thing. It immediately makes the band feel like they're on equal ground for an audience. No one member is more important or out there in front on the mic leading the direction of the songwriting...and lyrics are just plain messy. You could really turn a good song bad with the wrong style or content not to mention there's almost something weird about trying to communicate OVER music. In ditching the vocals you're left with nothing but your skill and telepathic connection to keep this thing together. Aaron and The Burrs are a rock trinity out of Buffalo (now I regret the snow comment below, sorry guys) who focused on the surf inspired melodies and left the lyrics to everybody else.

A snare roll runs into A-Side's "Release the Bats" as this sunny surf rock hit the turntable on one of the first days of snow in NYC. They don't go right for the Dick Dale or Link Wray springy reverb variety but the Shadowy men on a Shadowy Planet kind of melodic rock that's clean as hell and has since moved in a ways in from the beach (you know - all that sand) but still wiping out with echoplexes and distortion. Perfectly captured they're after creating this laid back mood even with all the attention to detail in changes and timing. I have to admire leaving any kind of vocals to this where they belong - in the notebook. Music supervisors should jump on these guys.
B-Sides "Oh no, More Bats" ratchets up the speed with a scrappy string grind and those harmonic barely touching the strings notes (I'm sure that has a name) with a harder vibe than the laid back sound of the A-Side with more slidey chords (again I need a dictionary) and heavy lower end rumble. All over the fretboard on this one but then they have to try harder don't they ending with a mellow warm slow strum. Perfect xerox insert and hand screened cardboard sleeve.

Pick this up from Ut Records direct.