The Ongoing Concept- Saloon

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With summer entering its twilight and the chilly vestiges of autumn just around the corner, many people like to switch gears from the energetic and aggressive sounds of summer to the more appropriate mood that is associated with autumn. Still many other people appreciate a good banger anytime of the year and it seems Solid State Records have found another winner with The Ongoing Concept’s newest offering Saloon. It’s hard to get more close-knit then this band, which consists of three brothers and one very close friend, and the music radiates this bond throughout its runtime. The energy exhibited here is palpable and save for a few instances, unrelenting. The band channels this cool fire by way of some crafty guitar play, well produced drumming, and a stellar vocal performance.

A band can have all the energy in the world but if they lack a penchant for songwriting, all the sweat they exert will be for nothing. Saloon is an example of the perfect amount of experimentation gelling with fresh instrumentation wrapped up in a faintly (wild) western package. The album opens with some nice parlor-core in its title track “Saloon” and serves as a damn good template on why this album succeeds. This song, and almost every other, grabs your attention with its sharp balance between its novel presentation and catchy metal roots. If not immediately evident from the album title, Saloon has a theme that is vaguely southern as well as vaguely wild western in sound. The band does a good job not soaking this record in zingy southern sauce but by use of a banjo here, a southern rock lick there, and especially the parlor music portion mentioned earlier, applies just the right amount of southern bite to the record to let you know of its influence.

The skill in this delicate balance attained here is brought about by the band’s seeming aversion to unoriginality. From the music video of “Cover Girl” to information online about the group, the ever-present notion is that of originality. Luckily the group need not eat their own words as Saloon is largely original in many different aspects. As mentioned before there are three primary factors contributing to Saloon’s refreshing sound, the largest of the three being the guitar. The hooks and riffs here are varied, catchy, and most importantly they keep the album interesting. Along with the guitar, the drums sound dense and give the heavier portions of the album a distinct weight which adds immensely to the energy this band exudes. Lastly, the vocals are also well executed, loud without sounding whiny and powerful with a very noticeable air of confidence throughout the album’s runtime. It’s the magic of having your brothers as your band mates.

Unfortunately the slower songs on the album don’t emanate the same emotion the faster songs do in spades and while it doesn’t drag the album down, the stark contrast in the quality is a little jarring. Even so it was a choice between make the whole album fast songs and risk wearing out the listener, or add slower ones to break up the pace. This is just another one of the many applauded decisions The Ongoing Concept has made in creating Saloon and those not quite ready for the energy of summer to end can stave it off a bit longer by picking this up.

 

4.1/5

 

Tracklist

1. Let’s Deal The Cards Again
2. Saloon
3. You Are The One
4. Cover Girl
5. Little Situation
6. Sunday’s Revival
7. Sidelines
8. Failures & Fakes
9. Like Autumn
10. Class Of Twenty- Ten
11. Goodbye, So Long My Love

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The Reign of Kindo- Play With Fire

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There’s certainly something to be said about a group of men able to connect so keenly not just to themselves and their own distinct sense of beauty, but also to each other in order to weave a lush tapestry of sound the likes of what they’ve accomplished here. The Reign of Kindo are a special breed of collective musicians, ever humble yet supremely in tune with their abilities, always eager to connect with their fans, and always pushing their own musical boundaries itching to see where their new perspectives and experiences in life take them from one record to the next. With their latest effort Play With Fire the collective seamlessly incorporate new pianist Danny Pizarro Jr  into their world and once again add some subtle tweaks to their sound heard on This Is What Happens to create a lavishly emotional record perfect for your warm summer evenings.

Those wishing for the band to go back to their more progressive, slow burning sound of their debut Rhythm, Chord, and Melody will unfortunately be disappointed as Play With Fire is definitely a spiritual successor to the more pop-oriented, upbeat style of This Is What Happens. The record keeps a brisk pace throughout its runtime driven by another stellar performance by vocalist Joseph Secchiaroli and drummer Steven Padin. The music has a distinct depth to it akin to the group’s debut yet manages to retain a poignantly jovial mood.  Play With Fire accomplishes this through a potent combination of excellent instrumental layering and some infectious hooks mainly by way of the vocals. Personally where The Reign of Kindo has always shone brightest has been in their slower-paced songs and while Play With Fire doesn’t contain as many as previous releases, their vigor has not dropped at all. The band manages to tug at your heart strings as easily and effortlessly as before and combined with lyrics that don’t hide behind metaphors for you to ascertain meaning makes the punch that much more powerful.

An interesting aspect of Play With Fire and further proof of the group’s skillful chops, is the lack of guitar leads. While obviously not completely absent, the guitar is utilized sparingly and usually as back-up for the lead instruments, namely the drums, horns, vocals, strings, and piano. In addition to a healthy dose of trumpet and saxophone, Play With Fire showcases the group’s most diverse array of instruments and by extension the most diverse collection of songs to date. The best examples come way of two Latin/jazz mash-ups, the album highlight “Impossible World”, and “Romancing a Stranger.” The group also explores a wide variety of topics throughout the record as well as producing music which perfectly fits each mood they convey.

The Reign of Kindo are a non-profit organization, they earn no profit from their collaboration yet they still bestow upon the world their biggest, most diverse album in Play With Fire. This record and this band have found a special niche amongst the adult contemporary/pop/jazz/indie scene, a space fit for only them. It’s obvious the group are best friends, not mere colleagues, and every note played in this record cements this fact and whatever legacy they are sprinting toward. Play With Fire is a record suited for any mood, any time of day, for any time of the year, and those willing to sit back and let the music wash over them cannot deny that some emotion in them, however briefly, has stirred.

Karnivool – Asymmetry

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Despite their relative obscurity, mostly due to the fact that they’re from Australia and not one of the more visible musical hotbeds in Europe or North America, Karnivool have steadily been gaining traction in the international music scene for over a decade now. Their appeal finally reached critical mass after the release of their sophomore album Sound Awake in 2009 which showcased the bad performing a distinctive brand of layered, progressive-leaning alternative rock that was simultaneously challenging and catchy. Naturally, the sudden popularity encountered by the band has been followed up with breathless anticipation for the follow-up to Sound Awake. The band has somehow managed to deliver on its promise, but not in the way its fans are probably expecting.

For starters, Asymmetry finds Karnivool placing far less emphasis on hooks than it has in the past. Vocalist Ian Kenny remains as melodic as ever, but his vocals on Asymmetry brood melancholically for the most part rather than striving for immediate sing-along-ability. In place of the often-huge choruses and refrains of the past is a more textural sensibility. Even more so than before, Kenny’s vocals are the focus of the music, and while this is often a means to write pop-songs, Karnivool subverts this sensibility through Kenny using his voice and melodies to direct the mood of the songs and counterpoint the instrumentation rather than simply hogging attention from the platform provided by the instruments.

Karnivool’s aversion to overt hooks is even more pronounced in the guitars on the album. The guitars on this album exist solely to provide texture whenever possible, aggression wherever required, and propulsive force whenever absolutely necessary, but make no mistake, this is not a guitar-centric album. If anything, the album’s main propulsive force comes from drummer Steve Judd’s often tribal yet markedly subtle work on percussion, and bassist John Stockman’s thick bass tone and basslines. All of the musicians, Kenny included, work together to create a canvas of sound that you can lose yourself and discover wrinkles and little flourishes in without getting snagged on hooks. This is both admirable, because it’s obvious that this aesthetic is intentional, and annoying, because who doesn’t love hooks?

However, lest you think that Karnivool have gone and made an anti-pop record, there are still some gorgeous vocal hooks to be found, particularly on We Are, Aeons and Eidolon. These songs are easily the most earworm inducing songs on display and are as catchy as anything found on Karnivool’s earlier albums. But here too, in true Karnivool fashion, the band refrains from writing straightforward pop songs. We Are mixes things up with a poly-rhythmic middle section straight out of the Meshuggah playbook, while Aeons and Eidolon are epic in scope and the way they utilize the loud-soft dynamic. Rather than having the aggressive sections colliding with the quiet sections, the songs build slowly in dramatic intensity from the quiet portions to the loud portions before the distorted guitars ebb away once more and repeat the process.

This mature and organic use of dynamics is found throughout Asymmetry and lodges Karnivool firmly in the progressive-rock camp. The shifting dynamics within songs constantly twist and turn them in unexpected directions and are a huge part of what makes Asymmetry such an engaging album. Similar to the afore-mentioned Aeons, Sky Machines and Alpha Omega are also epics, building in tension and urgency before releasing cathartically in waves of distorted guitars, which manage to keep things interesting enough that you probably wouldn’t realize the songs are over 7 minutes long. AM War and The Refusal flip the dynamism script through the use of dissonance and chaos that coalesces and crystallizes into quiet melody before devolving once again into dissonance.

This use of dissonance and polyrhythmic abrasiveness had previously been flirted with on Karnivool’s debut Themata, but had largely been sanded down on Sound Awake. However, on Asymmetry it makes a somewhat triumphant and mature return. The afore-mentioned AM War finds the guitar and vocal melody dissonantly accentuating each other in eerie ways, while harsh vocals (a rarity for Karnivool), guitars and drums collide with and bounce off each other in a chaotic manner on The Refusal. The dissonant blows of the instrumental bumper cars on The Last Few are considerably softened by Kenny’s voice floating serenely, yet somehow dissonantly, over the churning music.

While not all of Karnivool’s ideas are equally good, they fearlessly swing for the fences by constantly trying different things. Thankfully however, the band uses a light touch with this experimentation and blend disparate elements rather than hammering you over the head with them. This light touch is seen on elements such as the robotic vocals on Nachash and the glockenspiel that haunts Eidolon. There’s also a noticeably heavier influence of electronica in Karnivool’s new sound, with two ambient electronica pieces, in Aum and the title-track, as well as dominating the intro to Amusia, and plenty of ambient electronica flourishes on the quieter sections of most of the songs. On several occasions, such as the title-track and on Nachash, the experimentation comes of as somewhat superfluous and unnecessary. The robotic vocoder-esque vocals on Nachash aren’t bad at all, but they would have been much more meaningful and provided more variety had the song been placed later in the album rather than as early as it is. And even without the roboticism, the song would have still been just as good.

While it’s preferable not to compare an album to its predecessors, that’s a difficult thing to do with Asymmetry. Comparison is inevitable because of how good Sound Awake was and how much hype and expectation Asymmetry has to live up to. However, throughout Asymmetry, Karnivool veers away from convention and expectation, and the result is a mixed but thoroughly engaging product that stacks up nicely to its predecessor. While it’s definitely not as immediate and as accessible as Sound Awake, it proves to be every bit as rewarding, if not more so, on repeated listens. While Asymmetry may not make much of a first impression, its replay value is nearly unparalleled and it is a fine addition to Karnivool’s discography.

Rating: 4.2 / 5

Tracklist:

  1. Aum
  2. Nachash
  3. A.M. War
  4. We Are
  5. The Refusal
  6. Aeons
  7. Asymmetry
  8. Eidolon
  9. Sky Machine
  10. Amusia
  11. The Last Few
  12. Float
  13. Alpha Omega
  14. Om

Bosnian Rainbows – Bosnian Rainbows

Bosnian Rainbows

I think I can conclude that Omar Rodriguez-Lopez never seems to give up on the music industry…

He has been way all over the place in this world, starting with the post hardcore band in 1996, At The Drive-In, which was a huge success musically and commercially; the perfect example of what great music should be. His next gig with The Mars Volta would also continue to have a lot of benefits, such as the heavily spastic Deloused in the Comatorium, the Latin infused Frances the Mute, and early him more commercial honor (HINT, HINT: the Grammy Award he got for Wax Simulacra). And so, you’d think after 18 years well spent as a professional musician, he’d take a break for a while. NOPE. Instead, in a mounting load of shock, we find out that Rodriguez-Lopez is now working with a new band, Bosnian Rainbows. By seeing what direction he as a solo artist and in The Mars Volta was going in, his newest group’s self-titled debut was both unpredictable and yet so predictable.

The first question arrises: what was so unpredictable? Bosnian Rainbows features a female vocalist. Not that it ruins everything (or anything, for that matter), it’s just very different. By different, I mean it is actually, on contrary, rather fresh. Rodriguez-Lopez was consistently working in bands that had a bunch of vocalists such as Cedric Bixler-Zavala, who often meticulously used very inconspicuously high vocals. Teri Gender Bender, the BR vocalist has a deeper, more mature voice and in certain perspectives, sounds more musically interesting. Her lyrics are fun, upbeat, and in certain ways, clever. This is a case in which unpredictability is very handy, providing pleasant surprises. However, this album can also provide some pretty bad bombs.

For one part, what is unpredictable in a negative way is the current artistic direction that Rodriguez-Lopez is taking with Bosnian Rainbows. In comparison to Nocturniquet, the self titled album’s genres are slightly more divorced than usual. The themes in Bosnian Rainbows, shockingly, lean closer and closer towards an alternative rock, indie, and even electronica at extreme intervals. Cases as these are such: Omar’s musical exploration beyond the usual, whimsical, and muscle-spasm induced psychedelia, prog rock, and post hardcore is rather dangerous. This is going to cost him quite a few valuable points. If there’s anything bright about this mission, in any way, it is simple; at least the album is very consistent. It doesn’t just go straight from pure alt rock to extreme electric fused indie. It combines a few workable genres of music together, making Bosnian Rainbows still sound somewhat exiting. If something still is the same for Rodriguez-Lopez, it is that his guitar playing still speaks and sounds good. He delivers abrasive melodies to an album that desperately needed it.

To sum it up, Bosnian Rainbows is a new dramatic direction for an Ex-Mars Volta guitarist, who has been through a lot, including the band breakup, the return to At the Drive In, and the death of his mother. The album is the sign of the times in his life and for music fans all over the world. To put it simply, before you buy this in any form, ask yourself this album: do you like indie and alt rock a lot? Do you also like electronica? And for that matter, are you adept to artistic contract over the years? If so, then you will probably enjoy this album. For me, personally, it struck a far chord. It felt like Omar was doing this only for the music industry’s benefit. But still, not completely ruined.

3.2/5

Pearl Jam Album News

imagesSeminal alternative rock band Pearl Jam have announced plans to release their tenth studio album Lightning Bolt on October 15. Lightning Bolt will be the band’s first effort since 2009’s Backspacer. The band has also released an audio-only video for the album’s first single “Mind Your Manners” which we have provided a link to at the bottom of the article. To support the album, Pearl Jam is commencing a U.S. tour starting in Pittsburgh on October 11.

“Mind Your Manners”;

Jimmy Chamberlin Complex-Life Begins Again

Jimmy-Chamberlin-Complex-Life-Begins-AgainBeginning a solo career can be rather difficult. For a drummer, it’s next to impossible. Phil Collins is the only solo musician I can think of off the top of my head who was a drummer and simultaneously sold a moderate amount of solo records. So it’s no surprise that Life Begins Again wasn’t a big album-I’m even less surprised that it only has 20 votes on sputnik. Jimmy Chamberlin was often regarded very highly for his drumming with The Smashing Pumpkins, being one of the few rock drummers to combine raw power and musical energy with jazzy technique and impeccable precision. His sound and style truly made the band what they were, and without his presence it was notable how hard the band had been hit (this is my defense for not being a big fan of Adore). After the Pumpkins broke up, the band members scattered in all different sorts of directions. While James Iha saddled up with A Perfect Circle, Billy Corgan and Chamberlin crashed and burned with the horrific Zwan project. After that band met its demise, Chamberlin had an epiphany; he was free. He didn’t have to rely on another person’s songwriting to be successful in the music world; he could write his own songs and be just as successful as his counterparts. While Jimmy Chamberlin Complex’s only record Life Begins Again never reached the plateau of success that it deserved, it is undoubtedly a fantastic and original piece of work that any fan of Chamberlin or jazz fusion should check out as soon as they can.

The album is essentially half instrumental and half lyrical, with the vocal pieces being sprinkled throughout the record while being spaced apart by groovy and fluid instrumental compositions. The album opens with the instrumental “Streetcrawler” which showcases everything about the band in a nutshell as well as Chamberlin’s technique and process. The song is a healthy and balanced blend of alternative rock and jazz, with dreamy keyboards floating across the busy, soulful percussion and spacey guitar flourishes. There are some vocals deep in the back of the mix, but no lyrics, which is a situation that actually is better for the Complex, as they prefer to let the music do the talking. Every musician here is extremely technically gifted, most notably Chamberlin, whose speedy and brilliant fills on tracks such as “P.S.A.” and “Streetcrawler” advance the songs forward with a strong rhythmic pulse. Also worth mentioning is bassist Billy Mohler, whose bass work is stellar on the slower “Loki Cat” and grooving “Time Shift”; he also contributes the vocals to highlight “Newerwaves”. This fantastic and gifted rhythm section lays the groundwork for every supremely brilliant moment on the record, while the rhythm section also sometimes gets the melody with its dreamy synths, also played by Mohler.

Also worth mentioning is how surprising it is to see Jimmy Chamberlin write such strong material. During the Smashing Pumpkins’ run, Iha and D’arcy contributed very few musical ideas, but when they did it was always worthwhile (i.e. “Farewell and Goodnight”). Chamberlin never got a single songwriting credit in his time with the band, so the fact that his music is so structurally sound and melodic is something to applaud him for. The best example of this comes on the beautiful “Loki Cat”. After the hectic “P.S.A.” Chamberlin slows down a bit for this lush number which features a vocal contribution from none other than Billy Corgan. The whole song just feels laid back and natural after the controlled musical roller coaster of the first three tracks. Corgan’s vocals are sublime, primarily due to the fact that he uses his lower-register range from the Siamese Dream days rather than the nasally shrieking of the Pumpkins’ latter period. Chamberlin’s interaction with the guest drummer on this track, his brother Paul, is also worth noting; the two mesh incredibly well, with each sharp tap of the cymbal bell, pop of the snare, and cascading tom rolls being placed perfectly in tandem. Mohler’s keyboards float gently over guitarist Adam Benjamin’s ghostly guitar hook, which lock in tight with the solid percussion. “Loki Cat” is undeniably the best song on the album and one of the best song either Chamberlin or Corgan have ever put their name on.

It just goes to prove how great Chamberlin’s writing really is. This album truly ebbs and flows seamlessly from one superb track to the next. Whether it’s the controlled mania of “P.S.A.” into the airy clouds of “Loki Cat” or the solid guest vocal performances transitioning into rapidly paced instrumentals, the album is paced extremely well, which is not surprising since Chamberlin’s key talent is timing. Speaking of vocals, the guest vocalists really hit the nail on the head. Other than Corgan, the album also features Catherine Wheel vocalist Rob Dickinson on the title track and “Love Is Real”. The title track is the most accessible song on the record, with Dickinson’s multi-tracked harmonic performance carrying the strong melody over one of Chamberlin’s signature ostinatos. “Love Is Real” is definitely more musically focused, with shifting time signatures and a strong emphasis on harmony, but the vocal performance is still solid, especially in the chorus despite the lacking lyrics. The one disappointment is vocalist Bill Medley on the track “Lullabye” which is the album’s lowest point. The lyrics on this track are rather childish and annoying, and sound like something anyone could write within 15 minutes. The vocals aren’t great either; Dickinson would have been able to carry the track better.

Jimmy Chamberlin Complex has only released one album so far, but it truly reinvigorated Jimmy’s musical career and got him back into performing, and now writing impressive material. It’s definitely a project more people should listen to. Their sound is rather accessible, the instrumentalists are more than capable, and they combine crushing alternative with airy jazz; what more could a listener want? This album truly is Chamberlin’s musical life beginning again, and I hope that a new release finds its way to us soon.

4/5.

Tracklist

1. Streetcrawler

2. Life Begins Again

3. PSA

4. Loki Cat

5. Cranes Of Prey

6. Love Is Real

7. Owed To Darryl

8. Newerwaves

9. Time Shift

10. Lullabye

11. Loki Cat (Reprise)