Thursday, December 31, 2015

Greg McClure (Del Paxton) Year End List 2015

For the close to zero people waiting for me to announce my grand list for 2015...tough nugs. I'd much prefer to let my buddy Greg (kit master in Del Paxton) dispense what releases made him take notice this year.

It is perhaps more important to point out that Del Paxton released their excellent split with Gulfer this year and if you haven't...its something that you need to be digging into. Both groups always have a great showing and this is no exception.

Without further babbling, take it away Greg...

"Hi I’m Greg and I play drums in Del Paxton. 

End of the year lists are HARD! 

Here is a list of releases that best define my 2015. 

OK here I go."

1    Toe “Hear You” 

When I first heard Toe I was mega jacked up on caffeine I watched every youtube video that exists of them. Like… seriously every single one. There’s a lot. This vinyl got pushed back by plants for months. Now that I finally got mine in I treat it like an only child.

2     Options “Driftwood Metaphor”

This is the solo release of Seth Engels. Dude is crazy talented and in about 3242135 bands. I met him after our set at Fest. I tried to play it v cool but I’m such a fan boi so I’m guessing I was probably not that v cool :-/

3     Tenement “Predatory Headlights”

This record actually might be too good. There are days where I get struck by an urgent need to hear the song Garden Secrecy like some kind of anxiety attack. It’s also a double LP which is cool.

This record is as relevant today as it could have been back in the early 90’s when this band put out their first record. I however was too busy listening to Ace of Base to check them out back then.

5     Ratboys “AIOD”

We played with the ratpeople in Albany before either of our bands announced we had signed to Topshelf Records. We def clicked right away… cool people putting out cool music is the easiest thing to back. Hope to play more with them.

6   Gulfer “What Gives”

The only thing I don’t like about this band is that I’m not in it.

7     Alaska “Shrine”

I kept hearing about Alaska and putting off a good honest listen. We all do it OK!?. Then we played with them in Savannah and they really blew me away. We listened to their record many times on the rest of that tour. Big future on this band.  Listen to Hashish Christo.. it might actually be my favorite song of 2015.

8     Hop Along “Painted Shut”

This record is going to make everyone’s list. I will add that at first I didn’t love it, but it sat in my car stereo on low key repeat until one day I realized I knew every word.

9     Sonny Baker “Flesh It Out”

I have this rule of thumb, if you release music that sounds like it could have been on the soundtrack for the movie Angus, I will probably love it. Such is the case for this incredible Buffalo native releasing music. I saw them play this live in a basement before it was released and I think that was the right way to do it.

10  Soft Skills “A Future to Remember”

This record actually came out in 2013. But I found it in 2015 and it’s the most important record that I discovered in the last 12 months. Every single second of this absolutely rips. Listen to it from front to back.

Again....check out Greg's band Del Paxton 
If you already have then check them out again because once is not enough.

Happy New Year Everyone 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

POS Top Ten's - Kyle Owls (He Was Eaten By Owls)

He Was Eaten By Owls
has been for me a breath of fresh air in the often stagnant waters of the math and prog communities. They have a command for incredible song structures with intricate and well thought out passages. We are also close on the heels of their newest release that will officially make you re-consider your notion of the group as well as be an album we will remember for years to come.

It's of course then no surprise that we find member Kyle with his head clearly fixed on some of our greatest contemporary composers and more in this installment of POS Top Ten's......


        Apart from being geek heaven - with its tongue-in-cheek references to the Dungeons & Dragons role play game through the track listing - the album itself is a work of chamber music genius. The ability to compose fluid, elaborate counterpoint music in odd time signatures and make it seem like nothing out of the ordinary is happening is quite a skill, and Pallett exhibits his penchant for such delightful subtlety to great effect on tracks like 'He Poos Clouds' and 'Many Lives → 49 MP'. 
Not just a musical marvel, his lyrics set him apart from many of his contemporaries, littered with references to obscure video games, casual drug use and gay sex, his open and frank discussions of Queer issues and this (Owen Pallett Facebook Post)
stand him out as an important figure in todays musical/political field. 

Take these lyrics from one of the albums b-sides for example:

While you were out sexing
I was a chef soaking a hundred tissues with sweat
and moisturizer
In my head burns a picture
of my face with your privates
I read your diary it said: I've been a good son
All it takes is a good job
to take you out to dinner
but I sold the volvo for pot
(Jars Of Lars)

    I heard 'This Lamb Sells Condos' on a late night radio show back in 2006, and I've been literally obsessed with the man ever since. It's well worth listening through his back catalogue from his days in Canadian alt-rock band Les Mouches ( through to his most recent release 'In Conflict' under his real name Owen Pallett, to observe for yourself one of the most interesting, eclectic and inspiring careers of our times. 


        Not much needs to be said about this album. It's just perfect. Steve Albini recorded the harps and vocals for goodness sake. Van Dyke Parks wrote the arrangements and played accordion. Jim O'Rourke mixed the thing and she's simply one of the greatest living musicians, a rare gift, a generational genius. Her lyrics are dense, highly constructed thickets of poetic imagery steeped in folk tales, history, botany and astronomy; her musicianship is second to none, flitting between lilting washes of enrapturing and impossible polyrhythmic mantras and gentle, heartbreaking balladic simplicity. 

      Parks' arrangements will dazzle with their dancing complexity - the supporting melodies at times rushing up to overtake the harp and vocals, at other times delicately augmenting slight vocal dynamics. Watching her perform songs off this record was one of the highlights of MY ENTIRE LIFE, and I say that with no exaggeration whatsoever.


     My very favourite composer, probably of all time, is the California based John Adams. 

 It was really hard for me to decide which piece of his to put in here, as he's a fantastically prolific and always revolutionary composer, but in the end, it came down to a fierce battle between 'The Dharma...' and another which I insist you check out, 'Shaker Loops'. In fact, here is a fantastic mini-documentary filming him in rehearsal with Shaker Loops for a 2002 performance, which gives you a really deep insight into just how complicated and subtle his works are
(John Adams: A Precise Process)

       'The Dharma At Big Sur', Adam's slow moving dedication to the West USA coast as well as an intentional homage to fellow experimental composers Lou Harrison and Terry Riley, is really a stunning piece to wrap yourself up in.

    A work of two movements for orchestra and solo electric six-string violin (written to incorporate just intonation tuning methods on the harps, pianos and synths), Adams' attempt to describe aurally the feeling of coming up against the Pacific coastline is quite offsetting and uplifting at the same time, rich in sudden dynamic shifts and long, resounding washes of single string glissando's. 

    In trying to describe his feelings for the landscape which influenced the composition, he basically sums up how it feels as a listener to experience his piece for the first time: "Here the current pounds and smashes the littoral in a slow, lazy rhythm of terrifying power. For a newcomer the first exposure produces a visceral effect of great emotional complexity". 

   Equally influenced by Qawwali singers, Jazz musicians, Beat Poets and Blues players, he really stands out for me on the contemporary 'classical' and Post-Minimalist scene as someone deeply in touch with the roots of his tradition but just as forward thinking as the best our younger generation has to offer. 


       This record is, in my opinion, a cult classic waiting to happen. I first met Perhaps when we performed together somewhere in Leicester, and after being bowled over by their energy, inventiveness and sheer noise we became friends and when 'Sludge & Tripe' erupted a few years later it had a profound effect on my musical tastes and style.

      I can honestly say that this album was my first real introduction to what a 'rock' band format could do with tightly constructed rhythmic changes, a wide dynamic range and and a left-field approach to songwriting, and I'm super proud to know them and to have watched their career thus far, recently supporting Amanda Fucking Palmer in London and receiving 12,000 euros from the Haizetara International Street Music Contest. 

     Never one to be pinned down by genre, the band now exist as a marching Prog-Brass outfit, complete with stripped down drums, a giant Sousaphone and a delightful amount of group harmonies and counterpoint melodic meanderings. In between this and their origins as a noisy and very English prog band they produced a stunningly beautiful acoustic record with themes and concepts reappearing from tracks off the first album (this conceptual continuity continued too - when they reformed as the brass-punk outfit they re-imagined the main theme song 'Business' from the second record for the new band with really spectacular results.)
Still D.I.Y, and still producing incredible work, with elaborate self-penned art, matching stage costumes, choose-your-own-adventure style videos and a ferocious live show, they are a shining staple of the London/UK alternative music scene.


    Another set of good friends, this band began life, as did we, on the London squat/anarchist free party scene. Bought together by the political ideal of humanism, uniting under the banners of anti-fascism, anti capitalism and the no borders movement, 52 Commercial Road create glorious, mellifluous dreams of swelling guitar sounds over an almost electronically-tight rhythm section. 

     This record dropped in the middle of 2010 and made a significant dent on the scene, crystallising the intricate, elaborate forms set out in their first self titled record, only this time with the incredible Sam Navel on production duties and Harris Newman of Grey Matter on mastering, who's joint work made the already brilliant songs erupt with life and warmth. 
    This album is never long off my playlist, and it still stands out as a seminal post-rock record for me. It was through these guys I got into Godspeed and their label mates Do Make Say Think, and in my opinion 'A Wreck' is up there with the best works in the genre. 
    I'm really excited to say that their fourth album will be coming out on our label Fu Inle around April of next year, and it really exhibits them branching out into less familiar, more off-kilter territories in their constant striving for positive political advancement and shared experience through music. 


      A must-have album for anyone into the experimental side of chamber and what I'll loosely call 'contemporary classical music'. 

    The first section is written around tape recordings of various speakers - ranging from Reich's childhood governess and the train porter from his youthful journeys (Part 1, Before The War and Part 3, After The War) and three holocaust survivors (Part 2, During The War) - using the unique patterns of speech from each subject as the grounding point for the string and wind melodies to quite stunning effect. These three consecutive pieces move and sway and jolt through sections in such a wonderfully jarring and disarming manner (something we really tried to replicate within our new record), so the listener is literally catapulted between 'different trains' by this incredible music of gradual process defined by outside influences. 
Reich, a middle class American Jew who grew up during WW2, became very aware that while he spent his childhood riding the trains across the US with his nanny, millions of his people were being shipped off on trains to much more terrifying fates across the water, and this raw and terrifying realization is palpable in the piece. 
 Part 2 of the record, Electric Counterpoint (For Electric Guitar and Tape), is for me, the precursor to albums such as 'American Don' and other loop heavy works. Originally recorded by Jazz whiz Pat Metheny, who recorded the first seven guitars and two electric basses onto tape, adding the last lines live in the studio or in performance. There is criminally little footage of him performing this piece, this video here being the best I could find (Pat Metheny Plays Steve Reich).

     There's few things more moving for me than sitting back with headphones on and just disappearing into this record, allowing the pulse heavy drones of some of Reich's finest and most illuminating work to propel you out of yourself for a little while. 


A collaboration between one of the greatest Classical violinists and the most respected and revered exponent of the Sitar (even going as far as redesigning the instrument to the now accepted standard) was obviously going to be something special, but when they released WME (Volume 1) in 1967 - after a successful performance the year before at the Bath Music Festival - it sat on the top of the best selling Classical LP chart for a shocking 18 weeks, prompting them to follow up with the second volume, my personal favorite.

 I first heard this at about 13 years old, and the tangible connection between the two soloists and the incredible Tabla player Alla Rakha, as well as both artists work with using their positions of privilege to raise concerns for human rights and cultural harmony, was a formative influence on my teenage years and early adulthood. 

   Up until this point most of the music I was listening to was in a Pop, Folk, and European Classical vein - Kate Bush, Michael Jackson, Scottish singers Dougie Maclean, Hamish Imlach and John Martyn and stuff like Britten, Bach and Tchaikovsky from my fathers radio. 

   I can literally catalog the first moment my musical life (in this video 4:23/4), when everything changed and all became possible. I didn't have a clue what was happening, had no knowledge of bar measures, time signatures, scales, nothing, but I knew that this was something entirely different and entirely more free than everything I'd heard before. 


      My first celebrity crush and the author of some of the finest works of pop music ever created, Kate Bush is - for me - the quintessential experimental artist of the late 70's and early 80's. I first heard her as a very young kid in the 80's when I saw the video for 'Suspended In Gaffa', and have spent the rest of my life hooked to her intricate, eccentric melodies. 

     Notable especially because she produced the entire album herself, 'The Dreaming' deals with a wide variety of themes; such as the Vietnam War (but controversially from the perspective of a Viet Cong soldier), illegal immigration and the oppression and murder of Aboriginal Australians; as well as more personal issues like being worthy of ones place in the world, acknowledging your 'darker' self and existential frustration. Thrown in for good measure is the life of Houdini, gung-ho robbery and a the cataclysmic album closer influenced by 'The Shining'. Something for everyone then. 
    The multi-layered intricacy and depth of her lyrics and the baroque-esqe/folksy/world-fusion style of her music really put her head and shoulders above most of her contemporaries, and indeed many of the modern day disciples of her work. 

    To get an idea of what a small group of truly gifted musicians can do in a simple live environment, look no further than Nina's live album 'At The Village Gate'. 

     Featuring undeniably powerful performances - where you can literally feel the musicians tied to her every word, her every lyrical and musical cue - the album holds sublime interpretations of great American songs like 'If He Changed My Name', 'Just In Time' and 'Children Go Where I Send You', as well as the gorgeous African folk tune 'Zungo'. 

     Just check out this delicate, mournful interpretation of 'House Of The Rising Sun' and I challenge you to find another version with as much sincerity, grit and deep emotional rawness underpinning it's performance as this (House of the Rising Sun). 

     In my opinion Nina was the greatest singer of all time, her voice resonating simultaneously with all the joy and sorrow of her people, gracing every song she sang with her remarkable, unmistakable timbre, and this record exhibits her raw unbridled skill perfectly. 

      I play this album a lot in the shop where I work, and it always amuses me the vast difference in how people seem to experience it - one person demanding I write down the name so they can purchase it, and another saying (and I quote) "This sounds like it was written specifically just to annoy people".

   Vibrant, sonorous, elaborate patches of colour rise up through the repetitive, criss-crossing guitar lines; soft horn swells and pulsing fretless bass cascade over the beautiful weirdness created by the slight phasing of two drummers playing live with each other. 

      Recorded over a fairly long period, with a lot of time spent in post-production micro-mixing swirling lines of electronic sounds, this album taught me that taking your time on a project is key and also that no matter how many layers and (I dread to say) 'soundscapes' go into your work the most affecting parts will not only lie in the interplay between the melodies and rhythmic lines but in the quality of the silence hanging between the notes.

Just missed the cuts:

Cheval De Frise - Self Titled

The Slits - Cut

DM Stith - Heavy Ghost

Fairport Convention - Leige and Leif

Grace Jones - Warm Leatherette

Nick Drake - Pink Moon

Davy Graham - Folk, Blues and All Points In Between

Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Slow Riot For A New Zero Canada

Rostroprovich - JS Bach Cello Suites 

Suffer Like G Did - Rasberry EP

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Ni - Les insurgés de Romilly

       What an absolute disaster. We'll be tragically telling our kids, so stuck on whatever latest orchestral djent symphony is floating around (hopefully along with us on some sort of relaxing meditational chair), wearing strange visor bands on our heads, avoiding advertisements with our retinal movements, albeit poorly due to the unstoppable flow of tears clogging up the sensors caused by our offspring's decidedly mediocre taste in metal. We'll be thinking ever so fondly about the times of our youth:
when metal bands slowly started to unravel the 80s/90s framework for what ought to be considered metal or not.

      I'm not too worried about whether my future child wants to listen to ni. 2, I'll probably be far too busy ensuring he understands not to put each fathomable ounce of his faith and trust in anything other than himself,  hopefully to some avail. That being said, ni. will likely be bouncing around the walls of whatever gigantic floating stucco hive our immediate emergency area's populace will be forever dwelling in.

       This raucous four piece from France is likely turning heads with this album. I've never really heard a band work it out like this, they are as addicting as they are relentless. Their approach requires what I imagine to be an inordinate amount of rehearsals and time spent mapping out incalculably knottier sections. Give it another three years, and they'll (hopefully) have released another EP and a full length. Every time you think they're about to repeat themselves, they throw some Murphy-esque wrench into whatever metaphorically visual bike spokes are turning in your head as you listen. Songs like Rodomont and Flaquadin seem to have the band wrestling between tranquil atmosphere and momentary intensity, but I found the majority of the songs on the album tend to feature both of these aspects prominently as well as at the same time.

        Take Gringuenaude, which starts off with noises I could only interpret as a broken SNES system and a back masked Raga from some old Bollywood film playing to each other while someone watches Monty Python's Holy Grail in the background and leads to a very intense and wobbly 3/4 jangly guitar riff that is more or less the spinal column they build their atmospheric and rhythmic leads upon for the first 3rd of the song, until an introduction into the next part from what I assume is some sample from a conversation in an obscure (to us) French film propels it to grow up, maybe get a job in the real world of riffage. From there they adopt a very callous but decidedly expanded permutation of that riff, only furthering the perpetual build up to the climax where the band improvises and trades off solos until everything begins to crumble around them in a sonic storm that makes the whole thing sound like some tragic scene in a science fiction movie.

       Certain people, I feel, will immediately liken them to Meshuggah. Who do you think put them up to the task of usurping Meshuggah's fan proclaimed throne of groove metal? Nobody except fans with narrow outlooks on what they like, which is required by snob-law to apply itself to every possible musical exchange scenario. Who cares, they have slightly similar rhythmic vantage, and that's pretty much all the connection there is. As you'd imagine with a name like ni., there is not a whole lot out there to know about such reclusive and veritably underground musicians. Objects pertaining to former musical projects that are of potential interest to you, the reader, can really give some type of perspective on the music itself:

          Drummer Nicolas Bernollin also drummed in a four piece noisy bluesy kind of band called V13 who released two LPs, Overlook Hotel  in 2009 and Traqueur in 2012. The latter also happens to be produced by everyone's favourite coffee enthusiast and poker star, Steve Albini.

           Bass player Benoit Lecomte also plays bass in a very unique fusion band out nowadays, uKanDanZ, which basically is the sonic equivalent of a bunch of French Bungle-y jazz grads attending a Yared School of Music open mic night (That's in Ethiopia), as well as having played in a now defunct freak rock outfit by the name of JMPZ. The former is releasing their first full length, Awo, in February 2016 via the Dur et Doux label which is also home to both ni. and another band from France, the psychonautical rock (not noise, I've seen them labelled that, and I really don't know what the hell people are talking about) called PoiL, which members of ni. have been working very hard with to form a super group by the name of PinioL. There are a few live clips of them playing full songs, and believe me, this ain't your grandpa's cup of gin. These guys are really fusing their abilities in a cohesive and seemingly effortless manner, hybridizing even further into frenetic oblivion. The axiom here is: " time to rethink the game again".
             Not a lot is known about the guitar players. One of them  is bald, smokes a lot and has a name that bears intense similarity to another French jazz guitarist called JEAN Francois Mignot, while the other one has a huge afro and has a set of facial expressions like he's constantly winning and losing the lottery when he plays live. They balance each other out visually in this sense, and further give credence to my theory that men with hair are insecure about it, no matter how huge or good it looks. They will always be worrying about losing it, until they actually do. At that point, they can relax and smoke entire cigarettes while playing stupidly difficult riffs on guitar. It also seems, that it's quite likely that the one with the afro is now in another band on the Dur et Doux label called ICSIS. The names on the credits of ICSIS first album (released in 2013) don't match, but if you go to the Dur et Doux website and look at the artist profile for them, it's clearly the same guy.
          There's really not a whole lot to dislike about ni. They are in their prime in every sense, and there seems to be quite the little scene stirring up in France at the moment, which doesn't limit itself to math, or metal in any way. These guys are furiously jettisoning whatever calcified genre "rules" from this gleaming ship they are riding in, in a clear effort to warp to light speed.  Beam me up, Scotty.

-(review by Chris Harry ~ Toucan Slam)

Monday, December 21, 2015

POS Tops Tens - Andrew Grannis ( Flower Coronet )

Happy holiday week to one and all.

Welcome to another exciting installment of our top ten album series. This week we are treated to a list by Andrew Grannis, the one man jazz-math power house behind Flower Coronet.

A special event truly because Andrew has just dropped his newest release since 2013 called Hyperconformist EP.

I urge every living breathing organism to really dive in to this stuff as it's truly inspired composition. Mr. Grannis has graced us with two versions of his list. One a post-modern send up explanation as well as an abbreviated version. Hit the links to be transported.

Flower Coronet Domum Inspirationis 

Flower Coronet's Top Ten 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Empyrean Atlas - Inner Circle (2014)

Its easy to become disenchanted with guitar based noodle rock, lets just be honest with each other. There is a hell of a lot out there these days. I am happy to say that I am late to the party on one band that really pushes the envelope when it comes to complex guitar rock.

Empyrean Atlas (NY) operate far closer to the aesthetics of modern composition than almost any of their counter parts. Coupled with the fact that they have performed/recorded with an array of artists (including Philip Glass Ensemble and Steve Reich) you might start drawing some sound conclusions.

Intricately laid guitar works that dance and cut like a practitioner of the math rock arts but with some noted stand outs. There is a clear jones for melody and tone that is easily displayed in every song. Rather than boorish fret gymnastics you get something that sounds...carefree..almost easy...breezy...beauti... To think that couldn't be farther from the truth however. These compositions are razor structured and truly a testament to genius level calculations.

Songs do operate in very much the same ways though. BPM's are on cruise control but dynamic shifts do happen. But like its modern comp brethren the compositions are more concerned with repetition and small shifts. It's incredibly nit picky really and possibly a byproduct of my penchant for aggressive shifts in mood. This is an album that needs to be heard...bottom line. Unlike a lot of bands in this ilk, Empyrean Atlas have easy appeal to all manner of music appreciators.  I implore anyone with even a passing interest to really sink their teeth into this band. After repeated listens there are more and more things to discover.

Empyrean Atlas

Friday, December 11, 2015

Week in Review 12/7 - 12/11

We have a large amount of activities and crafts we do on our Facebook arms. 
I am of course fully aware that many are not interested in giving Mr. Zuckerberg their shoe size and aren't hep on the FB thing. Allow me to update on the past week.

From Facebook 12/7 - 12/11:

Heist - CT based riff mages and instrumental in nature. A solidly stoic first outing.

Ditch Tiger - Angsty hardcore punk with the spirit animal of noodle rock.

Bob Baxter (Delicious Death) Bring a dish to pass...his Top Ten Albums

Member Posts from Fb PoS Group:

Rella  - Vocal infused post hardcore lite fun times.
The vox are strong with this one but the instrumental sections could be a bit more compelling.

Snort - Shy Faced (Video) It's been a bit since these cats have passed by my ears. I'm not especially tickled by the track...too aimless and lacking in a compelling structure.  

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

PoS TOP TEN: Bob Baxter (Delicious Death)

     Another hair raising installment of our top ten album series is upon us and I've invited Mr. Bob Baxter (one man math show Delicious Death) on some of his favorites. Delicious Death dropped a killer release this year and i figured it only fitting to ask the man....What are some of your favorites?

10.Jonny Classic and the Classic Johns:Your New Favorite Record:

This is the brainchild of Brendan Bell.  I've been listening to him since the early Gruvis Malt days and this album equally plays on my loves for video game music and the art of writing nontraditional ideas into palatable music.  One day I'd like to release an album that follows in the footsteps of this one.

I love when I can introduce this album to fans of similar artists (e.g. Daughter and older City and Colour) because Keaton's songs change people.  The content in this album is dark and heavy and hits you in those spots that you tend to keep to yourself.  His music is like a masterclass in expressing yourself in song.  I'm a very rigid writer, so Keaton's songs are a reference I like to come back to every now and then to help me break out of my stiff style.

8.  Grammatics - Grammatics:

This album is densely packed with complex instrumentation, interesting song arrangements, and sometimes odd time/feel; however, you could simply just listen to it for the catchy vocal melodies.  Every time I come back to this album I feel like I take something away to use in my latest music project.

7.  Proceed - Curious Electric EP:

Proceed released this album in 2010 and it completely flew under my radar.  I found it about a year or so ago and I feel like the music they wrote is still relevant today.  The vocals and musical direction take me back to older Dance Gavin Dance material and the drums have a faint resemblance to Beloved.  I'm a massive DGD fan, yet this EP bumped them off the list for me.

6.  A Wilhelm Scream - Career Suicide:

This is their melodic thrash punk masterpiece.  I love all of their albums, but this one has it all.  It's technical, the production is very high, the guitars are blazing fast yet so crisp (especially that bass!!!), the album flows well with no lulls, the vocals are dead on, and the content is clever.  This record changed punk music for me.  It completely shifted me towards raspy vocalists in the genre.

5.  Plini - Sweet Nothings:

I've always been a fan of instrumental music, but this release unlocked something new for me in writing for the genre.  The structure, the voicing, the instrumentation; this album was a huge influence on my latest EP.  I wish I had his talent a decade ago when I was his age.  It totally excites me that he has gained enough traction to start playing live and continue writing for the project.

4.  Circa Survive - Juturna:

I feel like Circa opened up a niche for higher ranged male vocalists within the post-hardcore scene.  Maybe it's just me, but I feel many good bands like Closure in Moscow, Hrvrd, and Vela Ceras are pulling a lot of influence from Circa.  As for this particular album, I can remember some of my first times listening to the record and trying to deconstruct it.  I love that it's simple, catchy, and at that time they were doing something that no one else had done before.

3. Counterfit - Super Amusement Machine for your Exciting Heart:

I found out about this album from a local college radio station.  My sister would record the radio episodes on cassette tape and we would listen to them on repeat.  For years I would try to replicate the things they did on this album.  Three of the four members played their instruments left-handed, which was the catalyst for me to start playing drums left-handed myself.  Lucky for me, the Allen brothers are still writing fantastic music as Helen Earth Band.

2. Damiera - M(US)IC:

Dave Raymond is a beast of a musician.  What I love about M(US)IC is that it's raw and fast yet well planned out; logical writing and visceral execution.  My best friend showed me this record back in 2007 and I'm still using it as a reference for my latest tracks.  I feel like I'll forever be trying to write songs as well thought out as the ones on this record.

1.  Coheed and Cambria - Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness:

Three out of four times people will tell me that my music sounds like Coheed, and I have no shame about it.  They've been my favorite band since the first album was released and I remember being on the message boards when In Keeping Secrets was in production.  I feel like Good Apollo One was their pinnacle; it was also the last time the four primary members recorded together.  Even though I like Zach Cooper more on bass, I still have a sentimental attachment with the writing direction of the original members.  With every new release following Good Apollo One I go through a period of 'Eh, I'm not sure,' but then within two weeks I know the whole thing.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Old Head - Stained Glass Stilts (2015)

Old Head? New Head? Heady Head?
Hmmm well it had been posted on our facebook page awhile back and i saw it sitting in the ever awesome math rock reddit community.. must be a sign I suppose.  

So where do we start? Its a methodical take on math for sure...dare i say...F O L K ...ish? I do like that it doesn't falls into clear tropes (incessant tapping ect) 

At least guitar wise I feel this throw back folk picking. As for the drums and bass well they are ramping it up off a cliff. Tasteful bass runs and some fun drum licks. At necessary times restrained when things get moody slow for your girl....or guy. Keyboard as well I've found when done correctly fleshes out even the most chaotic of math. I really enjoy this i guess is what im getting at. Solid mix inside and out of the head phones. Philly based, should make their way upstate way for sure.

Monday, November 30, 2015

POS Top Ten: Chris Harry (Toucan Slam)

           Previously we had featured a top ten from Will Conrad Byler (Piles and Piles) and I loved it so much I bugged another of my buddies for one. Though the most important question is why?
           My first touch point with Chris Harry was drumming in a band called Civil (which still owns btw) and now in the excellent two piece Toucan Slam hitting the skins. I asked Chris what made his top o' the heap...

(1) Gong - Camembert Électrique

In 1967, founding member of Soft Machine Daevid Allen was denied re-entry into the UK after a
tour of France. Being at that time more or less completely at the peak of his creative powers (there are stories from that tour of Soft Machine playing 'We Did It Again', which is a 3 minute song off of their debut LP that consists of one perpetually propulsive riff for over 44 minutes at the Bataclan in Paris) he decided to form Gong. The space jazz style they are often associated with is in its primal form here, later albums would have a lot more framework, even an entire mythology about "Planet Gong" along with a main character "Zero the Hero". I prefer it for that very reason, the band is just cutting loose and creating these deep walls of psychedelic noise that hover around every song and structure. Allen approaches song writing with a very playful, almost childlike delicacy amidst the organized chaos unfolding all around him, which for me translates into utmost accessibility. Space jazz is not for everyone I imagine, but Camembert Électrique is a good opportunity to open up some windows to those who may not be able to stomach the more intense avant garde jazz from that era.  Also it was recorded in a castle, which is just awesome.

(2)Ruins - Hyderomastgroningem

Ah, Tatsuya Yoshida, you absolute madman. This album was my introduction to Ruins, and it didn't take very long to convince me. Something about their absolute relentlessness like songs on Speedball, or Memories of Zworrisdeh is just nothing short of legendary. Their pared down drum and bass set up is somehow never lacking or empty, unless they mean it to be. People like to call them Zeuhl, simply because of the frantic pace and complex rhythmic changes that serve as the building blocks for that genre, but also for the fact that Tatsuya composed an entire language to sing his music in (Hint: It's not Kobaïan). Don't be fooled by the veil of insanity: Tatsuya is first and foremost a composer, literally scoring out every single note on paper before ever performing it. If that doesn't impress you, I don't know what will.  

(3)Magma - Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh

Now THIS, this is Zeuhl.   This band literally coined the term. Zeuhl, which is Kobaïan for 'Celestial', is quite possibly the best way to describe it. Drummer and leader Christian Vander is just another language inventing drummer dude who took way too much LSD during the student protests in France in 1968 and writes with an affinity for space mythology on this list. Comparable to Gong in that sense of being its really dark and Nihilistic brother, as well  having shared a member or two in the early 70's. This album employs a very polyrhythmic feel throughout, juxtaposing a 7/4 build up against a straight 4/4 drum pattern, to great effect I might add. This album lends itself to a very dark and almost, John Williams or Gustav Holst brand of compositional fabric. It sounds like the Empire coming down hard on the Rebels. I usually play it on my phone at the bar, sort of like a pickup line. Women fucking love some good Zeuhl.

(4)CAN - Tago Mago

Despite being made in the 70s, this album probably featured more sampling than anything up until DJ Shadow's Endtroducing in 1996. Holger Czukay, the band's bassist and de-facto leader employed tape splicing to great effect on this album, incorporating everything from recordings of various whistles, flutes, drums, filters, etc. (Halleluhwah) to some impressively tasteful tape echo (Aumgn) to absolutely jarring beat machines (Peking O) and even the sound of a nuclear bomb (Mushroom). On top of all that, the band is unbelievably tight considering how much improvisation lies at the core of this album. Jaki Liebezeit, CAN's drummer and resident asshole, keeps better time than the Sun. He sounds like a helicopter at times, others a train engine. The break beats on Mushroom are some of the best you'll ever hear. Just a little forewarning though, this band is not exactly "about" traditional vocals. They literally found their second singer, Damo Suzuki, busking outside of a cafe (Malcolm Mooney, the draft dodging original singer had a mental breakdown on stage in 1969). They then proceeded to invite him, without rehearsal, to play a sold out show at a sports hall that same night. One of the grooviest albums around.

(5)Love - Forever Changes

Arthur Lee used to be the king of the Sunset Strip. Before Los Angeles was Doors town, it was Love town. He's even allegedly responsible for showing Elektra records founder Jac Holzman The Doors in the first place. By the time this album rolled around, the early days of his bands unbridled success were starting to fade, along with the overall health of the bands relationship. Conflicts over  drugs and women, along with addiction and a lack willingness to even perform was taking its toll. All of this contributes to the albums overall sombre tone. Arthur Lee was, for one reason or another, convinced that he was going to die in 1967, and he wrote Forever Changes in that time. His mercurial outlook and little lyrical puzzles are noteworthy, along with the string and horn arrangements, which don't play out the way they often did on other records in those days. Instead of having that 'cut and paste' feel, they tend to be more important sounding when they appear, very cleanly and vitally woven to the songs themselves.

(6) Bert Jansch - Bert Jansch

Having a dark period in your life? This album is the one for you. When it comes to British folk in the 60s, there are three names that stick out to me: Davey Graham, John Renbourn and Bert Jansch. (The last two are also in folk rock band Pentangle, who are absolutely magical) The exasperation in Bert's voice can be as warming as it is haunting. This is the voice of somebody who's spent a lot of time alone, walking around the middle of nowhere with nothing but cigarettes, a few dollars and a guitar. He doesn't slack on the former either, his playing is incredibly elastic and appropriately tailored to suit every lyric or chord progression. He tears it up on songs like Angie and brings you through some darker sides of himself on Alice's Wonderland and Veronica. For fans of Big Bill Broonzy.

(7)Idiot Flesh - Fancy

This album is very difficult to describe in terms of genre, it is very influenced by 20th century classical music and avant garde traditions, but at the same time retains a hardcore edge found on a lot of straight ahead metal or rock. Nils Frykdahl is one hell of a composer, he can turn absolutely anything into a song. This band was pretty famous for its elaborate stage presence as well as making their own instruments. Nils went on to form the legendary Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, who have permanently set the freak flag so high up the pole that Captain Beefheart standing on the shoulders of Wild Man Fischer atop of a ladder secured by The Shaggs couldn't even reach it. Huge wafts of Zappa here, if you pay close enough attention. Not necessarily in the arrangements themselves, but the attitude and way they fuse different styles together into something very new and different. Not for the faint of heart, these guys can bring you to some pretty dank places, if you let them.

(8)Meat Beat Manifesto - At The Center

It's my opinion that Jack Dangers is one of the best producers ever to be offered up by our species. He's been at the helm of electronic dance music before there even was one, the elder statesmen if you will. As a drummer, this album is particularly enticing as it features Dave King of The Bad Plus on almost every track, along with pianist Craig Taborn and flutist Peter Gordon. The majority of this record is just psychedelic uncut studio jams (. Two songs are soundscapes built around old recordings of beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti reading want ads in the 1950s, these are some very beautiful pieces of work. Jack's knowledge of recorded sound and film, along with just talent overall, is far too vast to even begin to extrapolate here. He's playing the friggin bass clarinet, sampling everything from just about every source imaginable, mixing a well as mastering. Needless to say, he's that type of creative catalyst that is so dedicated to his craft that nobody hears about him. We wouldn't have Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy or The Future Sound of London, along with a lot of others were it not for this guy.

(9)Steve Lehman - Dialect Fluorescent

Steve Lehman is that hot new thing in experimental jazz, the rising star of the last few years. He's worked with Anthony Braxton, Vijay Iyer, and Jackie Maclean. You name it, he's done it. This album catches him in trio format, which lends itself to the swift and booming nature of the album. You can actually sort of, you know...keep up with what's happening, for the most part. The drumming and bass playing in this album can only be described as post mortal, the level of interplay between Matt Brewer and Damion Reid escapes definition, both literally and musically, as they bounce back and forth on the beat. "Mr. E" is a particularly hard swing/bop, a relentless one at that. "Foster Brothers" is one of the more straightforward songs on the album, having a very pronounced beat, regardless of how intensely Damion flies over it (That song was previously featured on Lehman's octet album with Rudresh Mahanthappa, so it's nice to be able to hear it in core form). The crown jewel here though, is the cover of 'Pure Imagination' from the Willy Wonka soundtrack. I know, right? Don't expect to be hearing any chords on this album. Thoroughly post modern jazz at its finest.

(10)Fela Kuti and Africa 70 with Ginger Baker - Live!

Yeah, I watched that documentary on Netflix. The one where Ginger Baker is smashing his cane in the director's face within the first 5 minute of the film. I'm fine with it too, it brought me this absolutely amazing piece of work I would never have imagined even existed otherwise. For those who don't know, Ginger Baker left randomly for Nigeria in 1970 after the collapse of Blind Faith. He set up the first 16 track studio that country ever had, but most ultimately, teamed up with Fela Kuti for some live performances. If you like Cream and you think Jimi Hendrix is the most influential guitarist of all time, chances are you won't be super fond of Ginger's drumming on this album. There isn't a whole lot of flash, mostly because that's not what this music requires. He just simply holds everything together and still manages to do it with a lot of panache. A great shag record, if you know what I mean. Literally oozing with rhythm and so goddamn groovy, I was absolutely stunned when I heard this last summer, and it continues to be very high on my list of favorites.

Another fine installment for sure and some incredibly intense picks. Stay tuned for more of these two come as well. Again, check out Chris in the very excellent Toucan Slam. They dropped a new burner in August that is more than worth a look see. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The week in new stuff....

Im a sucker for bakery fresh bread and as such I generally like my music the same....


Deerthrone - Broken Mirror
A reminder of simple/tight song writing in a 3 man set up. Its wistful and contemplative mid tempo songs are always engaging. occasionally flirting with math riffage but generally a lyrically driven post-rock/alt rock mood. Just different enough to make a nice impression.

Kairos Theos - Self Titled
For a new group...and at only three strong these Texans make a strong case for their blend of post-hardcore and jazz fusion. Its quick and busy but never needlessly complicated like a lot of young groups these days. Vocals are varied and add a lot to the music. Its certainly an in vogue style but Karios stay true and craft an impressive first release.

Low Cloud - Do You See Me As I See You?
Toronto always seems ripe with interesting tap happy math's.
Memorable and interesting riffs with suitably capable vocals. I'd like to say its the fantastic combination of catchy melodies and winding rhythms that create such a compelling story.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Shipley Hollow - Normal Soup

These Toronto cats have been at it for a bit now and each release finds them razor sharpening their blades. Hooks become lodged and guitars sling devilish riffs that dance around each other. Keyboard helps set them apart from the pack as well. Loving those horns in track 5's chorus, talk about exactly what is needed at the right time. Highly suggest anyone jumping in head first to this emo mathstravaganza