It was a pleasant surprise to discover that “The Interplanetary Acoustic Team” isn’t a bunch of dudes sitting around playing acoustic guitars (not that I’m all that opposed to that sort of thing.) In fact, they describe themselves as “a group of musical explorers whose mission is to listen to the stars, to record the deep gravitational waves rolling across the wide sweep of time, the voices carried on those waves.”
Their debut album, 11 11 (Me, Smiling) is a creative tour de force. Incorporating collage, retro-futurism, obscure sampling, groovy synthesizers, space ambiance, and occasional guitar, vocals and who knows what else, this album is nothing short of an avant garde, cerebral masterpiece. Others have likened it to the sound of a Kubrick film such as 2001, A Space Odyssey, however, to my ears it’s more reminiscent of soundtracks from late 70′s, early 80′s scifi films, such as Saturn 3(music by Elmer Bernstein) or maybe the movies of John Carpenter. It’s like an arthouse version of Buck Rogers. This music is very meditative, almost entrancing. While listening to this album I wanted to line up my crystals on the carpet, close my eyes and see if I could open a stargate portal through my third eye…
I’m not sure if they used all analog synths for this project, but they certainly have captured the best of “the analog sound.” There’s lots of warmth and just the right amount of tape hiss in these recordings. My favorite songs are the title track, 11 11, and also…Islands in the Cosmos. I’d love this album even on aesthetic grounds alone, but unlike so many avant garde, experimental musical creations, the music on 11 11 (Me, Smiling) is actually extremely pleasant to listen to and very good.
Terry Milla’s It’s Bangindo is more than just a geniously titled hip hop track. It’s a lively, piano driven jam with enough going on musically to keep the listener engaged the whole way through. The song features both male and female vocals, with Terry leading the way with rhymes and “Flossy Mae” providing some excellent accompanying hooks. Her expressive, emotive delivery gives the song some dramatic flair. According to Milla,It’s Bangindo “is about the music being dope even if it’s not on the radio.” True enough, but I would also add that it deals with the drive to get things done and the frustration in waiting for others to come through and get the ball rolling. Some people are just “always on” and rather that wait for everyone else to finish doing the hokey pokey, they have to just move forward and do everything on their own. Anyhow, It’s Bangindo is a solid jam and marketable. Terry Milla strikes me as a fun going, entertaining performer that takes care of business.
Possibly is the latest release from San Jose based band, “God Analog.” Despite the name, “God Analog” is a rather humble minded musical group consisting of Adam Days, Christian Jaeger, and a guitarist simply known as “X.” Their sound is like if you were to combine Depeche Mode, Marilyn Manson and some ’00s hipster garage band like The Faint and manage to make it all blend together cohesively. While, the band may have started as a bedroom musical experiment, Possibly demonstrates that the group can achieve label-tier production quality. Seriously, whoever mixed this did a hell of a job cause it sounds smooth and crystal clear. There is a lot of stacking and layering going on in this track, but the best sound always seems to be brought out.
Christian Jaeger’s mid-to-high pitch vocals are easy on the ears, while the lyrics oscillate between emo yearning and jaded disillusion, with Adam’s backup vocals rounding things out. The backing music is driven by drums, guitars and a variety of snazzy synths which contribute to the ambiance and give the song a little more moxie. Anyway, these guys are tremendously talented. It’s kind of disheartening to think how hard of a road bands like this have to get recognition, but the potential is there.
Fronterror is the latest EP release from a rock outfit called “Harmless Habit.” It’s tough to pin this group down to a particular genre. It’s basically metal / hardcore but since there are a million subgenres that doesn’t really tell you much. The band seems to blend rock’n’roll styles from the 60s-90s. Their new EP, Fronterror, could best be described as a mix between alternative punk, classic rock, glam, and even screamo. The title track reminds me a lot of the kind of music you’d hear on late 80′s, early 90s horror movie soundtracks (think Night of the Demons,Return of the Living Dead 2, etc.) Other songs like Freakshow display more of a pop punk feel. The most classic rock sounding track in my opinion is Damage Control, which is also my favorite on the album. Production wise, this release sounds nice and warm, and everything in the mix is right where it needs to be. Musically, the performances are very polished. These guys aren’t faking it. Some great technical guitar distortion on this EP, and the vocalist can actually sing. I went on the band’s Facebook page, and a lot of people seem to have become fans after seeing their live shows. That’s a good sign.
Deep in the Water is an LP from The Gary Douglas band, slated for release next month. It features 11 distinct tracks and is packed with some of the best Americana rock n’roll you’ll ever hear. The album roars right out of the gates with the opening song, River Road, a fast paced, full sounding and passionately performed track that stylistically could be comparable to some of Bruce Springsteen’s classic songs like Thunder Road. Yes, it’s that good, too. Not all the songs on Deep in the Water have the same feel though. There’s quite a bit of versatility here. Devil in Her Soul and Nothing Ever Goes as Planned both have much more of a Southern, soulful vibe. Actually, a good description of this band’s sound is that it combines the best of Southern rock with rust belt / working class rock n’ roll.
Devil in Her Soul in particular has a very haunting tone and is put together expertly. Every detail is nailed down. Musically, I think it might be the most impressive on the album. It’s tough to say though because from a technical perspective these guys are clearly pros. I admit I’ve never heard of The Gary Douglas Band, but this is a major label quality album release (which may not mean as much anymore given the state of pop music.) Normally I don’t like to give someone “too good” of a music review because it comes off kind of phony. However, this recording is pretty much flawless and doesn’t leave any room for nitpicking. It succeeds at what it’s trying to be and even surpasses it.
Veteran musical artist C-WILL121 is an architect of what he dubs “New Vibe Music,” a genre which fuses future, soul and hip hop into new niche sound. He has a few new summer singles that are floating about out there on the airwaves.
Stuck offers an ambiance that’s both somber and upbeat at the same time. Stylistically, it’s vaguely reminiscent of Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get it on, only with a more modern and futuristic backing beat. The song combines a rather uplifting musical tone with lyrics conveying the metaphoric distress of feeling “stuck” on a desert island (within a romantic context.) Stuck makes good use of harmonies and layering, with everything sounding where it should be in the mix.
Your Portal is easily my favorite of theses singles. It features some killer, spacey synths and has a very minimalist vibe. It isn’t just a boring, straightforward beat. There are a lot of changing bits and pieces, and perfectly timed, tiny musical components are added throughout. This is a solid dance track, but more importantly it demonstrates C-WILL121′s level of creativity and penchant for the avant garde.
Change Your Mind also comes equipped with some impressive synth hooks, almost sounding like early 90s video game music at times and tropical surf music at other times. The overall tone is slightly brighter than the other tracks. I think this song could also be released as an instrumental version, which would make a great commercial jingle or film soundtrack piece.
C-WILL121 definitely has a knack for composing interesting songs, and I have to admire his willingness to explore new creative angles and fresh sounds.
His full length album, Music Hero (which includes the above tracks,) is scheduled to be released December 7, 2018.
Time to Spare is a new single from Leo Salom, a DJ/producer who divides his time “between Rome, Italy and Los Angeles, California.” Time to Spare is a medium paced dance track with a light ambiance and quite a bit of musical dynamicism. There are a lot of elaborate, somewhat unexpected transitions and vocal layerings in this song, as Leo manipulates the sound effortlessly. He could have gotten way with just having one steady beat and playing it lazy with stylistic monotony…and the song still would have been pretty good. Impressively he utilizes breaks and transitions to transform different parts of the track into substantially different musical components, which he manages to piece together in a manner that doesn’t seem forced or awkward. Indeed, this is a very slick production. It’s energetic party music but very ambient and calmly cerebral. Time to Spare is dance music for club-goers of a slightly elevated consciousness. If I had to make one mild criticism, it’s that the words of some of the vocal samples can be difficult to understand. It doesn’t really matter though, because this kind of music is intended to be more abstract. It’s promotes a certain carefree, vibrant state of mind, and in this case, it is very well done.
Sweetest Surrender marks the 7th independent album release for singer/songwriter Amy Loftus. This 10 track collection of songs is notable for its embrace of positivity. In fact, after listening to this uplifting album, one might be convinced Amy doesn’t have a negative bone in her body. That may or may not be true, but Sweetest Surrender is a romantic anthem that treats the listener to the joys of allowing oneself to fall in love with someone completely.
The songs have quite a bit of contemporary pop flair. The best way I could describe the style of music is that it is very sentimental. It reminds me of the stuff you would hear in commercials that deal with any kind of uplifting or togetherness kind of message. The song On The Inside fits this mold very well. I envy Amy Loftus because she strikes me as someone who has found balance and inner peace. She has a very sweet sounding singing voice, but ultimately I’d recommend her music to anyone that just wants to develop a more positive attitude toward their life.
Amy also hosts the podcast Something Better (of which the album’s title track Sweetest Surrender is also the theme song,) a show which targets both singles and spouses. She’s also a certified yoga teacher, and I have no doubt that whatever she charges for yoga classes, it’s well worth it.
The artist known as “Pagan Interface” describes his music as Neuromantic Chillwave For the Post Apocalypse. Suffice to say that this sort of thing is right up my alley. Like vaporwave, chillwave is just another tentacle from the genre of retro music that captures the abstract background aesthetic of afternoon mall ambiance of the 80′s and 90′s. With Pagan Interface though, it is thematically more like the ambiance of a mall that’s had a nuclear bomb dropped near it, yet one can still hear a cassette playing somewhere as they’re sifting through the rubble looking for radiation-proof snacks. The post-apocalyptic theme here also makes for some amusing song titles, such as Toothless Youths,Malleable New Flesh and Atomic Bald (lmao!) This music is in fact very chill. The pacing varies from bleak to upbeat, but the synths themselves are quite soothing and meditative. These jams are sure to animate whatever mutated survivors are lurking about out there whom have lost the will to live. I couldn’t help but think that this album would be great to listen to while playing a game like “Fallout” if one were to just turn off the game sound and enjoy the haunted future for what it is.
24-7 is a new single from Love Ghost, a budding young alternative rock band from Los Angeles. When I say young, I do mean young. A couple of the band members are still just in high school. You wouldn’t necessarily guess it from the music though, which comes across as mature and professional.
24-7 deals with themes of anti-bullying. It has long been something of a paradox for bullied kids in school in that in order to get teachers to punish a bully who is tormenting them, they must have to be physically pummeled by the bully before the school will actually do anything. In order to prevent the bully from hurting you further, you must get hurt more drastically. If you yourself do something violent preemptively to the bully, well then you’ll be the one punished. It really is a no win situation. “There’s no escape from attack…Only after the bloody meat hangs on display will they give you, the time of day.” as the song’s lyric states succinctly. Another interesting line is “An elusive language sets the rules and governs the lunchrooms in school.” There is an entire framework and ecosystem at play in school cafeterias. One could write a whole dissertation on that subject, but what’s important here is that some student’s entire lunch experience revolves around evading bullies and avoiding humiliation. Of course, the teachers and lunchroom supervisors themselves take an elusive tact also. They tend to try to avoid confrontation or the uncomfortable responsibility of disciplining problem students. They map out their own “escape” route by looking the other way.
Anyway, let’s get to the actual music. 24-7 is a pretty straightforward alternative rock song. The term “alternative” can mean almost anything these days, but Love Ghost actually has captured something close to the authentic original sound of 90′s alternative music. If I were to listen to this song without having any info beforehand, I would have guessed it came out around 1994. It could have easily found its way on to the Reality Bites soundtrack or maybe even one of the “angstier” teen episodes of Party of Five (thinking maybe season 2 with the Julia and Justin drama.) This music still fits with contemporary times as well. The whole emotive vibe here made me think of the show 13 Reasons Why. The singer here (despite complaining about bullies) displays enough charisma to make it work, as if the band is waging a kind of timid revolution.
The award winning video for 24-7 is worth watching. It features some excellent animation in the vein of a-ha’s Take on Me video. I wish more directors would bring back this style of animation instead of the 3-D, annoying filters or live action crap. Anyway, Love Ghost is a young band, but they’ve got a good thing going. I hope they manage to stay together for a while.