Band Overview: Polvo

May 26, 2009

polvo

polvo

Biography:  The four piece from Chapel Hill, North Carolina played a indie noise rock all their own in the 90’s.  While being accused at times of sounding like sonic youth, pavement or anyone of their art rock contemporaries they jammed to something a bit different.  Indie noise rock, heavy use of alternate tunings with eastern style riffing and yet still a good melodic sense within “structured” rock songs.

Whats the big deal?:  Polvo has informed a lot of our current underground music today (The Joggers have even taken similar chord progressions from them).  They brought together a pop rock sense of structure to otherwise left field chords and beats.  Attributed also to “math rock” due to off kilter rhythms (ive never been one to label them as such but they frequently are) As with many bands like them they never were keen on the labeling.

Albums:  Cor-Crane Secret,* Today’s Active Lifestyles*, Exploded Drawing, Shapes

News: Polvo has reformed and after 12 years is currently working on a new album! Not only that but cytunes has made me aware that theres also a live album on sale with proceeds going to brain cancer research.  For 7$ and a good cause you cant beat that. Link below.

cytunes

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.

download

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First Tera Melos and next up on drummers to fly the coop is Behold… The Arctopus.  While Tera Melos have found their missing link in John Clardy it might be more of a process for Arctopus.  Drummer Charlie Zeleny (who left to focus on work as a session musician) was a power house behind the kit and easily able to travel the labryinthine structures of Colin Marston and Mike Lerner.  A posting on their myspace is of course fairly specific for what they are looking for in a new drummer.  The most daunting aspect though for any drummer seeking this position is that you must be able to read notated sheet music.  Normally this wouldn’t be a problem but for music this demanding it certainly can be.  Good luck

original post via myspace.

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.

 

Thomas Bonvalet

Thomas Bonvalet

Say that you like math-rock but some is just too video gamey and on the other end its just too cutesy and not as technical, enter Cheval De Frise.  A french duo of acoustic guitar and drums that play some seriously excellent music.  The closest as far as bands go would be the obvious choice of Hella, and at times i would agree but its really a lazy comparison just because they have two members and change time signatures throughout a song.

Thomas Bonvalet’s guitar style is extremely varied in its attack.  Moving from gentle sporadic plucks to hyper composed math style riffing.  The overall melodies that he seems to favor are more spanish guitar type in comparison to the more obvious metal or indie style math rock that is more widely used.  This gives the music more of a relaxed feeling even through the faster sections. If i had to sum them up in a few words id say “crazed gypsy band that discovered hard bop” and even that falls short.

Vincent Beysselance can seemingly play anything anyone has ever imagined on drums.  This is (probably) untrue but listening to him play is really something that goes beyond impressive.  Sometimes he plays with the guitar and sometimes its as though he’s playing his own thing but it never sounds forced or bad.  His playing style is incredibly natural and flows just as well as thomas’ guitar.  If ever two people were meant to play together its these two.  Although they have sadly broken up it means nothing as they’ve left several releases of excellent material.

This is sporadic type music though with little in the way of structure so by no means go in thinking that its going to follow any sort of patterns. These guys take preexisting ideas and extend them for their own means, which is what i look for in my music.  Not a sense of breaking new ground because I cant even recall the last band to do that as it is certainly a rarity.

Both members seem to thrill in throwing musical curve balls in at every turn playing wrong notes on purpose or just dropping the beat entirely.  This is the kind of stuff missing from today’s musical climate.  Sometimes its more in what you dont say musically than what you do.  Honestly though isn’t surprise the thrill of art?  I tend to believe so and if i can get my art with some sick riffs and fills then even better .

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

ak

 

This new section is not ment to hurt or suggest that I do not like the mentioned band.  It is just to voice my opinion on some artists that once stood tall but I feel have started a downward spiral into flawed releases.  First up is the alternative psych folk band Akron/Family.

When i first heard Akron/Family it was in 2005 after the release of their self-titled full length, an impressive mix of classic psych rock with certainly some bedroom folk leanings heavily compared to Animal Collective.  Honestly what music wasn’t compared to Animal Collective then in 2005? Tracks like the “Running, Returning” and “Afford” off this self-titled remain some of their best work to date.  Even their split with Angels of Light (to which they are the backing band) was full of some really inspired jamming (“Raising the Sparks”).

Heres where things start to get iffy for me.  Meek warrior is structurally and sound wise everything the band has ever done, it just doesn’t raise the bar in any way from previous releases.  If that were the only problem i guess id have a large beef with 85% of all music but this is not so.  Songwriting has taken a turn to excess shoving in way too many ideas.  “Blessing Force” starts well enough but just gets lost in its own meandering.  Even the folk end of the album (“Gone Beyond” “Love and Space”) just falls short of anything catchy or worthwhile.  2007’s “Love is Simple” suffers from pretty much the same problems while sounding even less inspired. 

 Its hard to exactly pin point what could be going on but my guess is that while Akron/Family have always had there classic rock and jam band influences it seems to be taking its toll.  Also with so many ideas its hard to cram them all into a song and put it together coherently.  These problems coupled with not progressing musically can certainly slow a band down.  I’m not sure if im the only one that feels this way but it seems pretty glaring to me.  There is a new album out missing founding member Ryan Vanderhoof perhaps this will mark their redemption.

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

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A brisk evening at The Haunt brought in three acts this saturday, Technicolor Winter, Summer People and Tera Melos. 

Technicolor Winter was up first and didn’t really do much for me unfortunatly. Made up of five members, this young rock group from Binghamton did try their best but it was evident that further work had to be put in.  They were at the best however when all members were playing in tandem, sadly there saxophonist and keyboard player seemed left out of the formula. 

Summer People fared much better in my mind.  A large indie rock band with several guitarists and two drummers the team mustered a lot of energy and passion from the crowd who in turn shot it right back.  My girlfriend found this group tonights winner as she danced through the whole set.  A favorite song of mine though was there more left field take on a fast blues number with tumbling drums and shouted vocals.  Certainly keep an eye on these folks as they have a soon to be released album on Red Leader Records.

Tera Melos was the star of the show for me though.  The trio quickly set up despite a myriad of pedals. Nick Reinhart (guitarist) quickly said “hey” and not .1 miliseconds after launched into a sensory assault that lasted for what seemed like 4 minutes but was truthfully more like 40. 

This was my first time seeing John Clardy (ex Fishboy) behind the skins and its interesting to compare old (Vince Rogers) to new.  I think Nick said it best as I chatted with him saying that Vince had a  much more jazz influenced playing than John’s more rock centric style.  It lent well to some of the bands newer songs they played, which seemed to focus on more structured singing parts and more aggresive riff rock than shredding.  This certainly does not mean they have given up their previous chaotic stop start elements as they were in full swing as well. 

Playing other songs from “Drugs to the Dear Youth” and their split “Complex Full of Phantoms” it was simply amazing to watch them blast through each one with amazing energy.  Nathan Latona honestly is one of the most interesting bassists to watch as he practically shreds his fret board doing some impressive movement on the stage at the same time.

Banter between songs was at a minimum but Nick make a comment asking about “sad bar flies” and if they were bumming tonight because he liked that kind of thing.  A girl in the audience also was shouting to them to play songs off their first full length to which he replied “im sure you know those songs better than we do.”

Certainly a band that has to be experienced live i was more than happy and lucky to bear witness to their set.  In hanging out with these gentlemen that night they are truly some of the sweetest guys to sit and talk to.  You can honestly tell that they care about their art and that its not for anything but the love of music.  It means a lot and i think it reflects back to each and everyone that has ever seen them play.

nate