Saturday | 04.01 What:Wild Powwers w/Calamity, DANA, Body and DJ Marika When: 8 Where: Hi-Dive Why: Wild Powwers from Seattle basically picked up where neo-grunge style spelunkers left off and turned it into a vibrant and lively riff heavy variant that bears some comparison to Sleater-Kinney for its spirited vocals and creative rhythmic layers. But heavier and its moments of unhinged catharsis, at least listening to its recorded output lives up to the name of the band. Calamity is the project name for the works of Kate Hannington whose own songwriting is in line with the kind of pointed emotional delivery of the headliner but with a touch more introspective atmospheric element that live hits a little harder than seems obvious from the evocative singles available via Bandcamp. DANA is an experimental, psychedelic garage rock band from Columbus, Ohio whose quirky and ebullient songs sound something like the offspring of Tyvek and Suburban Lawns. Body is also an eccentric pop band but one whose songcraft bringing together borderline campy krautrock synth with indiepop is surprisingly moving and refreshingly unlike insipid indie rock trends of the past decade. No surprise considering talented weirdos like Roni Beer, Ned Garthe and Stuart Confer are in the band.
VanGerrett Records run by producer/musician/songwriter Kramies just released the latest set of songs by Denver-based artist Bryon Parker. “Razor’s Edge” and “Fever Dream Death Kiss” represent an experiment in Parker’s approach to songwriting in form and approach.
“These two songs were written in the same day,” says Parker. “They are siblings. Their production, while experimental at times, pushes the boundaries I deem acceptable of stark immediacy.”
The songs were recorded in Lucas Johannes’ Studio Basemess in Denver, Colorado with Parker providing vocals, acoustic guitar, upright bass and Flamenco guitar backed by contributions from former The Symptoms and Lionsized singer/guitarist Josh Bergrstrand on guitar/noise and drums with Johannes on Wurlitzer, Midi, string arrangements and bass. The result is a pair of songs with a delicacy, immediacy and momentum. On the recording the textures of the instrumentation and Parker’s unconventional vocal delivery add to a dreamlike sense of introspection that escalates into heights of sonic frisson in particular on the second track. Both benefit from an expert combination of a kind of outsider folk sensibility and a willingness to incorporate raw noise as an element that brings warmth and humanity, a sense of analog “imperfection” that makes the music relatable in an instant.
Parker is no stranger to this form of songwriting though many in Denver and elsewhere may know him better for his time in noise rock groups Accordion Crimes and Simulators but it is an evolution into an exciting new direction from earlier forays into more avant indie songwriting as Rebellious Son and in the rock band Raleigh. Listen to “Razor’s Edge” and “Fever Dream Death Kiss” and download the music on Bandcamp linked below.
In Biljana Heights’ video for “Stranger” we see her juxtaposed between dreamlike scenes in a cornfield and those in what looks like a luxury apartment in isolation. In both places she discovered an ashen orb that seems to be a catalyst for change by mere contact. The song is about being a stranger to oneself and rediscovering your identity, your authentic self and figuring out what it is in your life that you adopt to fit in to expectation, the personae and emotional habits one adopts that facilitate a socially pleasing façade and getting lost while paradoxically fitting in but at what cost? The song and its lush and subtle production and Heights’ soulful, sultry vocals are reminiscent of Lana Del Rey’s moodier compositions and with cinematic quality of the video and music together should appeal to fans of the work of Alex Garland and the music videos of Perfume Genius. Watch the video for “Stranger” on YouTube and follow Biljana Heights at the links provided.
Sioux Falls, South Dakota seems like an unlikely place to find left field music but with the independent record store Total Drag bringing in up and coming bands on the underground and indie circuit and the existence of noise rock/post-punk band Off Contact (formerly Lot Lizard) among others it’s difficult to say what you might find. And thus Winter Hell whose Lindy Wise is the singer in Off Contact. Winter Hell is a different sound entirely and its single “High Time” has a bedroom pop chillwave vibe that weaves together elegant and gentle melodies with Wise’s introspective vocals floating in a teaming flow of distorted synth and lo-fi electronic percussion. It has the quality of cassette you might find at a thrift store and not know where it’s from or when except that its sounds have an undeniable charm in how it subtly invites you into a journey into stay at home during a blizzard and get lost in musical daydream energy that would’t work with a higher fidelity production. Listen to “High Time” on Spotify and follow Winter Hell at the links provided.
Listening to “Spirit Machine” by Akts one might imagine a top 40 dance pop performance show that exists in an alternate universe of kawaii anime. The playful rhythms are a truly realized fusion of glitch pop, IDM and hyperpop. Even though the lyrics are all but impossible to suss out they convey meaning and when the song chills out toward the three minute mark like a frolic in a park that somehow manifests mid-song or taking a break out to get a drink in a pop-up cafe that will disappear in mid-moment with the logic of a stream of conscious video game where the utility of a material object only lasts as long as it’s necessary. There is a fresh energy to the song that as alien as it is in some respects it’s the kind of alien experience in music you want to have because it’s hype without being overwhelming. Listen to “Spirit Machine” on Spotify and connect with Akts at the links below.
“Aliens” by Miami-based hip-hop artist schnoz sounds playfully mysterious like the alternative soundtrack to the video game Metroid. But when his vocals kick in with a story about being a “bonafide alien” he brings a bit of swagger to a story that could be a surreal take on what it must feel like to be a classic alien coming to earth via means not familiar to us humans and how even if you aren’t coming with nefarious intentions, human beings will act with terror and suspicion about your nature and motives. But isn’t that really also a metaphor for how we too often treat each other when we encounter someone that doesn’t look like our in group (racially, ethnically, socially, religiously, culturally etc.) and how many people will act like they don’t even know how to relate to that person and treat them accordingly. Schnoz identifies what it feels like to not want to start trouble but having it delivered to you merely because you are sufficiently different. Fans of Aesop Rock may appreciate schnoz’s cadence and use of creative beats drawing on mood more than mere rhythm. Listen to “Aliens” on YouTube and follow schnoz’s further exploits on Spotify.
Bondo’s contemplative yet uneasy “New Brain” brings us in with a lonely, spare, borderline atonal guitar line with drums like something born out a creative cauldron in which its players dropped Slint, Codeine, Unwound and Sonic Youth to produce a something melancholic and yearning. Toward the last fourth of the song the once tranquil musical elements come together in a clashing passage of heightened emotional intensity before easing back into impressionistic guitar work and rhythms. The minimal vocals are like neo-Beat poetry, the guitar progressions are like a call and response answer to self in an informal structure like a free jazz piece aiming to take on the quality of water with the tones resonating like droplets creating lingering waves creating interference patterns with one another that somehow resolve into evocative intersections. Its an apt dynamic for a song seemingly about wanting to have a new brain and reset one’s life, one’s habits and one’s possible future trajectory and having to come to terms with that not being a realistic outcome even if it would make everything easier. Listen to “New Brain” on Spotify and follow Bondo on Instagram.
Lynx the Indigo Child speaks for a lot of us somewhere or throughout “Without” in listing a dazzling array of misgivings, frustrations and everyday horror and despair. His expert pacing of lyrics is like an impressionistic journey through American society and culture of the past several years but really the past few decades. But the list of grievances also includes his own shortcomings in the stream of things like medical bills, social media, the fiscal cliff, misogynist media grifters like Andrew Tate, those who would aim to be our masters or gurus like his own anger building and his own outlook that can trip up getting to where you want to be in life. Yet in this flow of grievances Lynx admits vulnerabilities and very direct human needs like how he can’t do without love or respect or “this foolish doubt” that make it easier to stave off the stream of static that can bring you down. The beat in the background of his rap is like something out of what Dilla did for A Tribe Called Quest or Champion Sound—dreamlike and hypnotic in its repetition like a soulful mantra of intent as context. Paired with a song that seems to be about enduring and holding onto hope against the odds it’s a perfect companion to the lyrics. Listen to “Without” on Spotify and connect with Lynx the Indigo Child at the links below.
American Watercolor Movement is a New Jersey band that has taken forays into concepts for previous albums going back to its earliest releases in the late 90s. And its latest album The Odyssey of Captain Vivian Ribbons (which released on February 17, 2023) is the story of a future earth struggling to survive as it sends Captain Vivian Ribbons out into the cosmos to find a habitable planet necessitating transcending the usual mortal human limits of space and time and thus standard physical existence. It sounds like a story out of some universe Hayao Miyazaki might have concocted in the 80s and the the music is a glorious mix of soundtrack pieces, art rock, synth pop, post-punk and various other styles serving the the place in the grand narrative. The single “Onward the Night” is about the Captain leaving earth on the aforementioned mission of hope against hope and the irresistible, driving bass line is motorik in the precision of its rhythms allowing for the rest of the music to anchor off of it. The song stands alone separate from the concept as just an exciting, epic song whose textural detail and great momentum traced in psychedelic tones bring you along for a ride like a song that might have been in that 1980s Transformers movie minus the cheese. The music video is equal parts 1980s anime, Dash Shaw and something one might expect out of a The Flaming Lips production and thoroughly enjoyable beginning to end. Watch the video on YouTube and follow American Watercolor Movement at the links below.
The setting for the Laveda single “Clean” is a beach town in the off season and how those places can seem both incredibly lonely but also free of distraction and a good place to gain clarity and space for your psyche. The song itself is full of open spaces and nearly whispered vocals wandering amid gently strummed guitar and the hint of a background drone. The scene begins at dusk and the female lead, presumably Laveda singer Ali Genevich, journeys through the dark of night and the incoming tide, having a drink on a blanket and unwinding with running and dancing in the sand while offering poetic images of what it’s like to be well into adulthood and coming to terms with how things have changed in life and a desire to return to your roots to make some sense of your present but knowing that you just can’t because it’s largely gone and memories of how it wasn’t always so great and even if your current mindset isn’t some portrait of someone’s ideal or your own that you would rather not go back to a time in life when you didn’t know better, as appealing as it can seem in moments of vulnerability and melancholic reverie. It’s a heartbreaking song in a gentle way that poignantly captures what it feels like to be deeply ambivalent, adrift and needing to trust in where the seemingly aimless flow of your life will take you. Watch the video for “Clean” on YouTube and connect with Laveda at the links below. The group’s new album A Place You Grew Up in drops on April 14, 2023.
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