MUSIC REVIEWS: Solid Gold, Cold Cave, Irmin Schmidt, Times New Viking, Mr. Something Something, The Mary Onettes, Cubic Zirconia
Minneapolis natives Solid Gold were one of the most interesting musical acts to break out from the middle of America in recent years and with their new EP, Synchronize, they dive deeper into the ethereal ocean of 80’s inspired synthetic chill. The five track release includes three new songs, a cover of Kenny Loggins’ hit “Danger Zone,” and a remix of the title track by Morgan Kibby of M83 which is an appropriate choice for the band who is pushing their sound toward shoegazing as they progress.
Synchronize and the opening track “One in a Million” are both songs with teeth and memorable hooks that brings you into the band’s trademark blend of spacey synth behind an electronic rock melody and percussion. It’s interesting listening to the original version of “Synchronize” comparatively with the “White Sea Remix” by Kibby which drops almost all of the driving forefront exchanging it for minor percussive loops creating a much more moody interpretation which eventually builds to something of a trance dance track. This more psychedelic, moody sensibility seems to be the direction the band is experimenting with as illustrated additionally by the track “Sharpshooter” which is totally instrumental.
In all, the EP, released exclusively through iTunes, proves that the band’s sound is continuing to grow and expand musically as well as reminding us all how tough it was when we lost Goose back in the day.
Quartet Cold Cave, who started with a few thrift store Casio’s and a hardcore lead singer, have made their debut, and it’s an unmistakable one. Thick, icy layers of synthesizers create loud, industrial beats sprinkled with male and female vocals on Love Comes Close. A short album of just over a half-hour, it’s a bit hard to take at its first listen because of its dark nature, but upon several listens, the ice starts to melt a little and the hooks become interesting. The songs are catchy and cohesive, challenging but engaging. We’ll see this album at its best in a club sometime soon.
Looking for some minimalist sexy sounds…then take Filmmusik Anthology, Volume 4&5 to bed with ya. This 2CD collection of soundtrack work from keyboardist composer Irmin Schmidt culls pieces from films like Wim Wenders’ Palermo Shooting, In Sachen Kaminsky and for most of the second disc, tunes taken from German TV series “Bloch.”
On CD one, the highlights for me are “Flavia Theme (Variationen uber ein Thema von J.S. Bach) with it’s haunting accordion, Markus Stockhausen’s trumpet over the roiling electronics on “Arrow From Beyond,” and the very sexy “”Tatoo” with Daniel Rosenboom playing trumpet. “Airport” with breathy vocals by Isis Zerlett is the most song-y song on the first CD.
“Coming Home” (3rd song of the second disc) really opens up the proceedings with its lushness. On tunes like “Stigma” and “Lied Vom Verschwinden” (with Judith Stegemoller’s sweet violin over the top) and the float-y high trills of “Zucker Fur Die Bestie,” Schmidt shows his range as a composer. “Im Wald” is really sweeping and scary, (that Bloch show must have been dramatic man!), “Zicke Zick” from the film Tatort gets under your skin with a scratchy beat box bed and the slice-y percussion under the piano of “Abschied” cuts deep. For me though “Bloch Dei Bloch” worked best because of Schmidt’s straight ahead keyboard under Gerd Dudek’s sexy sax.
It’s worth checking out Filmmusik Anthology, Volume 4&5 for a long night of sitting back, smoking (whatever), and getting into some weird and wonderful tune-age from Irmin Schmidt.
Times New Viking’s newest album, Born Again Revisited, is a collection of lo-fi, Brooklyn sub-pop that contains just enough structure and pseudo-melody to call it a rock album. I’m not familiar with their earlier stuff, so I can’t fully comment on their progression, but this record warbles with growing pains that persist within most adolescent beings.
From the opener, “Martin Luther King Day,” the album simmers with the ethos of every other NYC indie band and their desire to eschew conventional musicology. Yet throughout, the record dips its toes in straightforward pop tracks that become the highlights of the album, e.g., “No Time, No Hope” and “Something More.” Though, the remaining songs tend to burrow themselves in the self-indulgence of pesky, “artistic expression”: Obvious immersion in antiquated recording techniques to obtain a homemade, garagey sound in order to purvey a seeming sense of disaffected conceit. Which in of itself is not a bad thing, but they drudge up too many tired indie-pop mechanisms that seem to fall flat on the face of their often chronic indifference.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’m in no way opposed to buffering your aesthetic with a sandpaper shammy, but this album makes no effort to mask their allegiance to form over function. All in all it’s not a bad record, but, to me, it’s style over substance.
Shine Your Face is the new album by Toronto-based afrobeat geniuses Mr. Something Something. This is their fourth album and it is uproariously energetic and politically engaging. Their pulsating jazz fusion is a sweltering funky art house vintage sound that creates such a wicked vibrancy that calls for an over-crowded dance floor. The sheer auditory pleasure of this sun-kissed sound is seductive and sensual. Lead singer, Johan Hultqvist’s vocals run like warm honey and are as tantalizing as hot candle wax. Stealth lyrical palpability along with the beautifully dramatic push and pull thrust of low bass tenor and baritone saxophones, sophisticated maracas and jet-set trumpets help relay the wizardry of Mr. Something Something’s lyrical prowess as well as the richness of their ever shuffling time changes and intricate harmonies. Paul MacDougall on guitar and bassist, Liam Smith, move against their fret boards with such an exploratory excitement that it is hard not to become hypnotized by the movement. Subtle, poetic and funk filled, Mr. Something Something thrives on a rhythmic mysticism rarely heard.
Swedish quartet The Mary Onettes sure do put out some 80s goodness. In their sophomore release Islands, the nostalgic nod to the 80s continues in an updated, more modernized version of a different era. The opening track “Puzzles” begins with a thumping drum beat and synthesized keyboard line, suddenly transporting you back to the once familiar sounds of Modern English, New Order, and The Smiths.
While it appears that some songs do stand in as fillers, there are several notable tracks throughout the album. Included in the list of standout titles are the solemn and emotionally raw “Don’t Cry For Love” as well as the sentimental and wispy, yet slightly regret-filled, “God Knows I had Plans.” The lyrics are as thoughtful as they are emotionally revealing and singer Philip Ekström’s vocals are able to pull off the sentimental tonal quality expertly. There’s a sweet melancholy present throughout the composition and the musical accompaniment of synths, drum beats, and light guitar lines, take the listener along for the nostalgic ride with comfort and ease. My favorite tracks tend to be the more emotionally revealing, touching ones, including the track “Whatever Saves Me” and the ones mentioned above, but the effort to go outside the single expression is appreciated, as when the band extends their reach to include a more up-tempo number such as “Once I Was Pretty.”
On the good side, I can listen to this album repeatedly and enjoy something different about it each time. The stronger points tend to be the more sentimental songs, yet the album as a whole is a delightful flashback to a previous era, and gratefully in a more polished and modernized version created for the current listener.
Representing the East Village and Brooklyn, Cubic Zirconia, consisting of Tiombe Lockhart, Todd Weinstock, Nick Hook and Daud Sturdivant are the latest stars of the experimental electro movement. F*ck Work is a 10-track digital EP on the many ways you can do something other than a J-O-B. Following the banging original are several remixes by a plethora of DJs and producers from around the globe.
Setting their sites on the sounds of early Chicago-house are Toronto-natives Nacho Lovers, Dam-Funk brings his boogie-funk vibe from Los Angeles; while the duo from across the pond, Dekker and Johan drops a banger of heavy basslines and cut-up vocals. But you have to dig on Brooklyn’s own Dances With White Girls with his sinister thug house sound that when you think about it…really doesn’t go together (thug and house, c’mon?!). But in this context, his storytelling abilities and rocking beats truly belong together. So be irresponsible and download it all today!