helicopter cam

helicopter cam

When “1000 Year Plan” is being described to you by someone it’s easy to file it under an easy dismissal.  After all how many bands out there today travel in the same twisting math structures with a hard rock style? Lets just say the 90’s are reasserting themselves in a big way these last couple years with a flood of time signature consciousness groups.  Having said this I can say with all certainty that this group is something special and I felt a fool for having those above stated thoughts.

Seconds into the first song on “In Theory and Practice” it is blindingly obvious that these 3 gents really know what there doing.  Bassist Tom Yagielski seems to split half the time dualing off of guitarist Joe Kepic like a second lead and the other half holding down the fort with the equally spastic drumming of Brendan Kuntz.  Its nice to see a bass player actually stepping it up and presenting some interesting interplay especially with music this complex.  Not to down play the often strangely melodic passages of Kepic who seems to delight in harder post-hardcore style riffs and almost classic rock with an attitude sounding lines.  Though not ones to be pinned for too long, songs will bend into slower areas when the feeling calls and is really a nice break.  The two guitars it should be noted as well really do a great job of running together and apart.  In their favor this telepathic interplay keeps the album sounding fresh and lively.

Structure wise they manage to succeed in one of the hardest things of this style of music, transitions.  Yes they do flit from one idea to another but not at the detriment to the piece.  Thankfully these guys know when to stay on a great riff or conversely to play it once and move on, something that a lot of bands could learn from.  But really please stop reading this right now, go out and purchase this record as its pretty much an order at this point.

Rating: chicken nuggets. now im not talking fast food style im talking some gourmet nuggets here.  Of course with your choice of dipping sauces if you feel so inclined

http://www.myspace.com/1000yearplan

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can you see my time changes strange eye?

can you see my time changes strange eye?

When I think long standing math-rock bands of the 2000’s it isn’t hard to immediately think of our ever line up shifting boys in Upsilon Acrux. Dont let their morphing fool you though, time in and time  out they have never let this stand in their way by releasing solid recordings each and every time.  Now stripped of every member except for the ever constant Paul Lai and adding in a new keyboard element (Phil Cobb of Bad Dudes) this is a group that has never sounded so vital.

To be honest though previous releases while excellent and tech. brilliant can be a bit taxing to pay attention to and enjoy all the way through.  Melodies that stick were never something that they’ve traveled to often in opting for rapid fire ideas and guitar drum warfare.  Unlike other bands of their ilk Upsilon has always been completly relentless with their instrumentation which can be good or bad depending on how your tastes run.  Radian finds a more thoughtful group willing to divide time between the prog math of old and a new sense of melody where an idea might break the 10 second mark and repeat.  This is an excellent development that lets you stop and think about what your hearing instead of it constantly being torn away in record time.

Words must be said of Phil Cobb’s contributions on keys as well.  As anyone even vaguely familiar with his work in Bad Dudes knows that he plays a rather large roll in their sound and composition.  Here he gives the instruments ample room to breath and try new ideas without being confined to highly shifting rock.  At times the group takes on an almost ambient form as far as they go.  Its good to see that extra depth added as it certainly helps out the 28 minute “transparent seas (radio edit)”.  This might be one of their best works as it never gets old and always introduces fresh ideas while staying true to the composition.

Really nice to hear from this group since their last effort was back in 2007 (Galapagos Momentum) which in itself was a very solid disk. Hopefully we’ll be hearing more from this new line up in the future as I’m excited to see what curves they can continue to throw our way.

Rating: a nice hamburger with just the right amount of extras (tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, onion)

bull fighter meet magical bull

bull fighter meet magical bull

When your group is formed around the basis of reconstructing rock and roll music and keeping only essential elements id say you have some serious work ahead of you.  For US Maple’s 1995 first full length it was a chance to prove just that. 

Recorded by Jim O’Rourke it can certainly be a slightly challenging outing if your not used to squigly guitars.  Not to mention Al Johnson’s crazy vocals that fluctuate between hauntingly soft, to odd moaning then to loud histronics. If that doesn’t sound very rock and roll your right it really doesn’t. After a couple songs though and you’ll really start to get the feeling that beneath everything theres a rock and roll heart pumping.  Even arguably the album’s best song  “Letter to ZZ Top” is an homage to classic rock. 

As far as points of reference this certainly has the 90’s guitar rock feel to it however loose it might be.  The math rock term is of course thrown around with this group and is fairly applicable.  Although not as precise or fast as most math groups it certainly holds true.  Royal Trux put in a blender with Jesus Lizard and mixed at varying speeds might put you somewhere near their sound.  Releases that followed would slowly morph them toward more “conventional” structures but no less interesting.  This is one of the best.

Rating:”Ants on a Log”(celery, peanut butter, raisins) an odd combo that at certain times can be very delicious but no less weird.

Sounds Like: When you get too drunk and things start to blur together.

O LUCKY MAN!

O LUCKY MAN!

You mean to tell me this takes its influences, internalizes them, then adds their own character to it? God after sifting through many of the new vangaurd of pointless math rock this is a welcome breath of fresh air.  At times reminiscent of Hella at their most frantic and Cap’n Jazz when things cool down but without sounding like either one too much, this is serious stuff.

Guitars, while maybe not as incredibly complex as some peers, use space well and only clutters (clutter in a great way) notes where it seems needed shifting between  pretty runs and almost blues influenced playing.

Now these drums for me are the gem in the sceptre.  They dance around the guitar at an inhuman speed litering these pieces with devilish fills.  9 times out of 10 if the guitar is playing some chunky chord progression the drums are pouring hot lava over them playing like an unhinged mad man.  Although even the drums know how to reign it in for slower sections with the help of keyboard (played at the same time) which works to the groups advantage.

You can talk about influences all you want.  The fact is this is a band thats only going to get better and better with each turn.  Truthfully I just wanted to write “please go to myspace and buy this” because its really that good, do yourself a favor you deserve good music in your life.

Rating: A Breakfast Pizza, because lets face it they are delish but when was the last time you had one?

Sounds like: Awesome

myspace 

theres cloud in the name?! oooooooohhh

theres cloud in the name?! oooooooohhh

 

Listen I’m going to start making these quicker and stronger. 

Style: Math-Metal

Youve heard this before and done better. Its a guy that records it on his own and posts it for free, sweet no problems there. The music is without dynamics.  I have no fucking clue why blog hoppers are losing there shit over this, because theres no cookie monster vocals? who knows.  Its worth it to check out obviously since a lot of people are and its free but take some pride in your prog metal metal whatever you wanna call it.  harmless enough but do we really need harmless metal?

RATING: Store Brand Tomato Sauce in a Can. Yea it gets the job done but come on! make your own or get prego or something for like .50$ more.

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now thats a japanese album cover

now thats a japanese album cover

 

Theres a typical world that math rock guitar riff’s fall into, and that is one purely for rhythmic purposes.  Exceptions can and are made but they are rare ones.  Bands become far too caught up in the interplay of dualing guitars and constantly changing time signatures to care about the most important function of the guitar in a rock enviroment, melody.  My whole point to bring it into relevance is that the japanese tend to stand at the head of these exceptions.  What better band than the Zazen Boys to illustrate this.

Led by ex Number Girl front man Mukai Shutoku, this group brings a lot of elements to the table.  Where previous efforts focused on funk, hip-hop, pop, and math-rock, this ep is strongly in the math rock end.  This could also be why it is my favorite release of theirs.

Lead title track sets things off with all its hitches stopping and starting with guitar and drums locked in step.  Eventually all the elements come together with Shutoku’s crazed hip-hop style phrasing.  While its a little off putting not being able to understand him its used primarily as another rhythm instrument along with drums.  It takes great skill to be able to tastefully lay vocals over music like this but once you hear them it wouldn’t be half as interesting without them. 

“Hentei Terminated” follows a similar pattern but amps it up with a seriously demented funk guitar riff at .12 seconds that mutates eventually into a fast ascending lick.  In the end all parts come together to create a quick run through of everything youve been hearing, its pretty impressive. 

At five songs (two rerecorded from their first two albums) this ep is full of energy and exactly what the rock community needs which is a little diversity.  Its amazing to me that more math rock bands dont take advantage of funk as it certainly adds a more lively quality to the music. Unfortunatly their album after this (4) failed to pull through with promises made on this ep. It was a mostly scatter shot work with some really stand out tracks and others that just dont seem to know what they want.  

 

RATING: Coleslaw that has just the right amount of sweet and vinegar.

 

in the running for worst album cover 2009

in the running for worst album cover 2009

 

Chicago four piece Them, Roaringtwenties are relativly new on the circuit but have drummed up a lot of talk in their wake.  Focusing mostly on jazz based math-rock its hard to get excited about yet another contender for the non existant math-rock crown.  These boys do try and stand out in several ways, some more effectivly than others.  Overall a very fun time.

Most math rock you will likely find rarely takes itself too seriously (see don-cab’s song titles) but not to the level that is achieved with Future Sandwhich.  Not only featuring ridiculous song titles but also completely odd lyrics and confusing use of auto tune.  Granted they are used very sparingly across the songs it really doesn’t add much of anything in my opinion.  In fact id say it takes away from the instrumentation a bit.  The strange thing is that the more you listen to it the more you’ll start to warm to the strange vocals about sandwhiches and womens “hair” styles.  Sampled childrens story book audio is also used in the first couple tracks but just ends up a little too gimmicky.

Honestly though do you really care about math rock vocals? because i sure dont.  As far as instrumentation goes it is actually more impressive than i had anticipated. Track 2  “Harry Carry Frontier Guide Hawkeye” blasts out of the gate and rarely lets up using tightly wound jazzy guitars.  Harmonica also makes an appearence and is used really well to dance over the controlled hoe down math rock stomp.

 The one thing i noticed about this group and its hard to notice unless your paying close attention is one guitar always seems to be playing something rhythmic but atonal and the other something melodic.  Often times switching which guitar does which or joining the other in unison.  It really shows that there is a high value for varied instrumentation as some songs pull out some pretty big time changes.  Drums stick pretty close with the bass but are expertly played with well placed fills and open hi-hat use.  They dont typically add to the guitars but it sounds like it might be a bit hard to compete with those flying guitars.

Aside from the vocals another stumble which is really only a minor gripe is when the group chooses to slow things down it gets a bit “Kinsella” if you know what I mean.  This wouldn’t normally be a problem if it wasn’t such a shift from fast slightly inventive melodies.  Those boys do tend to have a monopoly on pretty math styled offerings as they are incredibly prolific.   As I said a very minor fault as they are very nice portions of the songs, I could have dealt with something a bit more original. 

For better or worse the vocalist and keyboard player ended up dropping out of the band recently so we will see if future releases will find them replacing that aspect or not.  I have a suspicion though that they will probably go instrumental as most of their songs are already that way.  Will be looking forward to a proper full length.

 

RATING: A NERD ROPE.  Very pretty to look at and tastey.  A little too sweet at times but satisfied in the end.

http://www.myspace.com/themroaringtwenties

speak

"the shallow end of a creepy futuristic building"

 

The great and mighty Damon Che (of Don Cab fame) drummer supreme and…..lead singer? guitarist? Yes, so what type of math rock super twisted structures do we have here? well none to be honest.  This is indie rock and to be more specific indie rock meets Van Halen.  Now I’m sure at this point some might be grumbling (which i was when i first heard this years ago) but give it a chance and you’ll find an album full of rewarding songs and some serious guitar.

Its a shame that this band was never given the proper chance (it was featured in Rolling Stone for god sakes and went no where).  Really to get right down to it these are epic in the style of some kind of alternative indie band giving way to their 80’s pop rock demons.  As it is not as clumsy as that description there are some seriously catchy songs on this release.  I’ll come out and say previous releases were plagued by bad production and songwriting. This their last album finds a band finally comfortable with its place and exploiting it to the fullest.  It could also have something to do with Che playing almost all of the instruments here as opposed to other releases but who’s to say.

“I Wear Glasses in the Most Brutal Sport Ever Invented” tricks you into thinking this could get a little don cab esque with odd timed riffing but just as suddenly the song gives way to “Menopause Diaries” which stands as a prime example for what you are in for.  Riff rock with pretty vocals, memorable guitar lines all equal out to some  nostalgic 90’s melodies.

In my opinion though the best part is the vocals which really suck you into the grooves.  Unfortunatly all is not perfect as a  problem later in the album creeps up as songs start stretching to longer lengths and vocals become less present.  To say these extended songs are  horrible would be incorrect but a little aimless would be more like it.  Incidentally there is also an extended album version  that almost doubles the album length.  Thankfully we are only treated to the best portions on the normal release and do not miss anything from the extra intros, bridges and outro’s on the extended version.  One other thing id like to point out and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out but this is pretty much 90’s indie guitar rock with some extras.  So if things feel familiar its ok as its also a part of the charm.  Gladly i can take these missteps with stride and at times i do even enjoy them.  Its funny how well it has with stood the test of time while other 90’s rock has mummified.

Speaking Canaries is the perfect vehicle for Damon to flex his guitar muscle its just that maybe his guitar muscles aren’t as big as his drums ones.  Still an excellent last album for Che who now seems content to resurrect the ghost of Don Cab.  There are many times I wish he would come back to Speaking Canaries and I doubt that I am alone.

 

RATING: A Twinkie you’ve been saving for years. Still good.


http://www.myspace.com/thespeakingcanaries

the classic "rock out bend" technique

the classic "rock out bend" technique

Sometimes a bands last effort can be a transformative affair.  Other times it finds them run down and beaten into the ground.  All I have to say is thank god for this swan song by The Fire Show.  Sadly, for as much press in online publications that this band has recieved they were forgotten by time even before they went there seperate ways.  I hope to let more know of this great album.

A post-punk band in the loosest of definitions, Seth Kim-Cohen and Michael Lenzi make a beautifully controlled racket on Saint the Fire Show.  With Brian Deck (Califone) behind the boards you know your going to get some excellent percussion sounds.  Programed drums along with live kit playing, introspective lyrics, sampling, buzz saw guitar and a low end that provides a thundering bed for the rest to flow on is the area which these boys inhabit.  This is certainly not your daddies post-punk.  If your wondering as a point of reference musically it  has shades of Wire, Public Image LTD and This Heat sprinkled throughout.

Between three records this one happens to be at once their most “challenging” and their most “diverse” release.  “Making of Dead Hollow” starts off the album with lone vocals giving way to sparse instrumentation.  For the musically closed minded this track wont be your cup of tea (I think its a great lead track) although the next “Rabbit of My Soul Is the King of His Ghost” turns it around 360 degrees.   Starting with a soul crushing bass riff and countering guitar until the drums signal a change into some sort of deadly funk groove with sharp lyrics.  This is one of the best tracks on the album.

Not to sell the rest short of course which all tracks contain at the very least one memorable lyric or guitar line.  This is what makes this record so hard to not make it all the way through.  Each song has there its character and story thanks to Michael Lenzi’s poetic singing, where previous releases found him focusing more on drums, here he is the unofficial star of the show.  Drums are certainly not ignored and while sparse, giving the sampled bits and guitar room to move, they are by no means unimaginative.

This release is always on rotation for me and for a lot of people i show this to it remains the same.  I really can not say enough good things about this release.  It is truly a portrait of a band at its creative peak and would beg to question “where would the band go from here” I am somewhat thankful I dont know the answer because cliche or not it really doesn’t get much better this high on the mountain.  Be your own judge though and seek out “Saint the Fire Show” you will not be let down.

RATING:8oz Strip Steak with Mashed Potatoes

Magellan Was A Felon

zoobilee zoo

zoobilee zoo

 

The UK’s This Town Needs Guns are starting to garner some pretty notable press these days.  It isn’t hard to see why as they play a suddenly now back in fashion math rock/ indie rock lite made popular in the 90’s by the Kinsella boys (Cap’n Jazz, Joan of Arc).  The four piece made quite a good impression on a lot of people with their first effort and split with Cats and Cats and Cats. 

Animals finds them with a more stripped down layed back approach that lends itself fairly well to Stuart Smith’s soaring fallsetto but the band seems to have lost there previous fire dropping the more distorted guitar work for a more clean toned dexterous finger picked and tapping style.  This certainly sounds more interesting and in theory and listening it is but once you step away its hard to recall anything you just heard.  Exceptions are made as on the album opener “Chinchilla”, which has a sort of middle eastern feel and an excellent structure. 

Major fault should not be placed on Tim Collis though as he does add his own style and flair to the proceedings. It just seemed like his runs should be more memorable and sometimes that cant be helped. Singer Stuart Smith’s performance however i believe to be the true culprit.  Its frustrating because on previous outings Smith sings with conviction, this release he sounds subdued and lifeless. This is a bold claim and what a lot of people argue about when it comes Animals.  My thoughts are that he recycles the same long drawn out notes and melodies for each song.  While the guitar and drums are locked in battle Smith is content to sit back and croon.  This really hurts the individual songs.

This is an album i really want to like and have listened to it so many times for the simple fact that it includes excellent guitar work,  fast technical drumming, and tasteful singing.  These are a few of my favorite things…hmm where have a heard that before?  I understand a lot of people like it and i understand why but the faults are just a bit too much for me to stomach.  A good follow up but not where they could be with more variety, heres hoping.

 

RATING: French fries that while hot are tastey, if not a bit too salty. Unfortunatly start getting cold faster than you can eat.