Monday, May 21, 2018

VHS Review: Slow Normals "realmagic666FM" [PART 2]

$15 //
Edition of 13 // //

Cowboys now.    Loud distortion as well.    And a 900 number for a bank?  That's weird.   American National Bank.   Must be over 18.   I will not google to see if they still exist.   This feedback is coming through quite harsh though, as this spiral eye twirls around over it all.   Zs now as if we're sleeping and some jarbled words.   Music blasts in and out after someone was talking.   Slowed down R&B as we see the Earth from outerspace.   "Let's talk about flying saucers".   A reggae/dub type of feel of keys over what appears to be church and then this constant drilling distortion as well.   Now we see the flying saucers and pyramids.

There is a real sense of art to the way these images come through.   The music is in intervals now as if changing a radio station.  It talks about Washington briefly, Republicans.   For a minute there, the music felt like punk rock.   There is this old Mac type of feeling to these images as well, any part of them could really be sampled and turned into artwork for a vaporwave album.    I see sperms swimming, chess being played.   It's a quieter sound of water now with other racket which could be someone simply moving around and creating those sounds in the audio.

Someone's head is inside of a bubble and it is about to burst.   There is quite the level of static in here visually as well.    The music feels heavier now as the screen says Slow Normals.   It's more of a grinding industrial feel.   There is also a tutorial going on behind all of this.  Dragging and clicking.   Have I mentioned yet that this is trippy?   The Slow Normals text is coming up on the screen like when a VHS tape glitches and there are other colors here.   Sometimes during this I wonder why all artists don't create visuals to go with their audio such as this and it will definitely make me listen to music without visuals differently now.

It sounds like an engine is idling and the computer tutorial is layered over what seems to be some group of people really excited about living in a house together.  It reminds me of "The Real World" for some reason.   Car logos are flying by now.  This looks like Tron.  It is urging me to make my own magic as start and stop skips bring in a chillwave vibe.  A car sits in a driveway.    Someone really likes this house.   It sounds as if someone is reading from a book about skeleton fingers then there are beeps as if we are on the subway.   We are going inside the house now and the top left hand corner says "Play" and has the arrow.

An ominous sort of bell ringing with this static shaking takes us on a tour of some house and it's rather odd but I like the music side.   I say it's odd because it seems to be the first time we spend going for this long without having some image layered over some other image.  This is a nice looking house though.   Now, as a voice says "We'll start with those viles in your pocket" some harsher feedback comes through and the colors begin to bleed into the house.   Other images are spliced in now as well.  We're back at that party from earlier.   A screechy glitching and we're peeping into the bathroom now.    We have gone to that black and white static and now it is much more vaporwave in the singing way.   It says "Play" and then shows that tracking bar and I never know if that's there because Slow Normals put it there or if it's my VCR.

The way this seems to be flipping channels lands on a woman who says drugs don't cure people and we need to understand the cause of the disease to truly help.  I bet Big (P)harm(a) took care of her.   Loud, blasts of distortion are over what looks like a park now.    More scattered distorted tones now while we look at a pool.   There is a windstorm and this picture just can't seem to stay in focus but tracking isn't on it so it must be on purpose.   It's as if this other image is trying to take over the one of the guy cleaning the pool.   We got from a nice city shot to vacuum cleaners and the sounds of people talking in a crowd.

Ha, this is about Kirby now and I almost sold Kirby vacuums once but then I realized it was a scam.   It says to search the tape for a specific one but I'm not sure how easy that would be.   Do you think Kirby hands out free DVDs now with chapters to find the perfect vacuum for yourself or someone you know?   These voices are on a loop and I feel like I keep hearing them saying to get in the fun zone.   It's just kind of funny watching this because of the vacuum parts and realizing how far technology with vacuums has come and in other ways it hasn't.

Racecars, beats and screwed vocals over some definite glitching images now.  I see a snake monster for sure.   Then a Canadian flag.  I feel like this is definitely footage of 9/11 now.   We're almost into the mountains briefly and then a static wave takes us into a still image of the plane right next to the building it crashed into.   The music becomes a little bit more upbeat now, some singing and drums join the static drone but the image is still the same.    This glitches into some woman who is explaining why fast food is bad for us.

A more triumphant marching feel to the music now.  I still see cowboys.  Deeper, almost screwed voices bring out what sounds like children crying and then children talking while this purple-ish version of the Pentagon glitches on through.  "You get outta here" one of the kids says on a loop.   The audio seems to be kids talking in loops while the visual is about 9/11.   Squeals make me feel like we're rewinding now.     Drum beats and video game trill show some animals in nature now.   It's a cougar.   Static crashes begin breaking down as people are shown walking and I feel like the cougar might attack them.

The cougar begins chasing this mountain goat but the people are still shown so I kind of want them to get bit by the cougar.    Musically, this is just a static storm of destruction while the visuals feel like a movie.  The two people seem to have found the goat which was being chased by the cougar so where is the cougar?  I think the people just robbed a cave and now they're running.  They're chasing the goat but I don't see the cougar yet.   Ok, the cougar is back now and this is getting good. 

Record Review:
Las Rosas
"Shadow By Your Side"
(Greenway Records)

$19.98 //
First Pressing of 800 Copies Worldwide // //

Did you ever feel something so intensely that you just couldn't put it into words?  As someone who writes about music, I shouldn't have this problem but Las Rosas brings it out in me.   There is this feeling of classic rock and modern rock (all the way up to something that you could currently hear on the radio) and while all these artists come rushing in for comparison there just exists this strong connection that I cannot fully place the depth of this rock n roll record.

Dreamy classic rock makes me think of Spacehog and Kula Shaker right away.   It has that 1990's kind of known about but kind of forgotten about band feel.  You know, someone like Supergrass that you would know if you were a certain age in the '90's but if you were born after them or just too young (or too old) they'd have passed you by.    Though I just as much feel bits of America, the band who did the "Horse With No Name" song, on here as complex guitars shine on through.

Parts of this remind me of Lucero, though in all fairness I've only ever really got into "Nobody's Darlings" and after that kind of fell off track with that band but I think they're still making music.   It also can have a sense of Fastball, going back to my '90's idea, and then there is even this "Pinball Wizard" growth in here which is of course The Who and goes along with the complexity of the guitars and having a classic feel yet being ahead of its time as well.

"Tax Man"- which is only the second song- has this great radio feel to it.   The lyrics are about money and why you feel like you work so hard and never have any, so in that way it's an anthem of sorts I think most people could get behind (Please don't start a 1% debate in the comments, thanks) because who doesn't want to have more money or at least feel like they should.   At the same time, it's just this groovy indie rock song you could hear on the radio as it brings out some odd mixture of Interpol, Franz Ferdinand, Modest Mouse, X Ambassadors and yet also something all its own.   (And maybe even a little bit of The Killers)

There is a great driving feel to "Christa", with the dark red hair and "Me Myself" brings out some Superdrag by way of The Oneders.   "Nothing's Wrong" ends Side A with what might happen if the Smoking Popes were to somehow collaborate with Buddy Holly.    Just as with "Tax Man", I feel like "Losing No Sleep" could just as easily be a radio hit.   It's this sort of rock ballad that has me thinking of the soundtrack to "Empire Records", which is never a bad thing.   It takes until the last song though before I finally realize that one of the stronger influences I feel coming through as well is The Honorary Title.

As with most of the best rock n roll records, the lyrics give you a lot to quote.  Something seemingly as simple as "I'll be over here I guess" is rather vital when taken in context.   I do like the idea of "I could walk out in the middle of the night but I'd wind up missing you" as people don't seem to reflect that same sentiment as much these days.  Of course the notion of "Why'd you have to fool around and die" can be taken any number of ways towards any number of people really (We probably all know someone we could ask that question of)

Of course the most prominent line I take from all of this is "I don't understand how we're so broke" so "Tax Man".   Not just a commentary on the workforce itself (doing that 9 to 5 thing) and the economy and all of that, but it can be taken as a stance from an artist as well.   That whole notion of "I can't offer you any money but this will look great on your resume"-- that sort of bullshit.   But for me it's more of a reminder about what I've been saying for the last five years about how everything in the arts community seems upside down with the less talented getting the most money and, well, that needs to change.

CD Review:
Eureka California
(Happy Happy BIrthday To Me Records)

$8 //
Edition of 1000 // //

Since finding out about Eureka California I've tried to listen to all of their music that I possibly can and as often as I can.   "Roadrunners" has this style to it which brings out elements of Silversun Pickups but still has that pop and twee feel which I often like to associate with The Mr. T Experience for some reason.   (Something about my past)   A bit of Superdrag can come out at times as well, but this is mostly an energetic CD which I would consider to be mostly upbeat even if the lyrics aren't and you could listen to it in just about any situation.

The lyrics are in many ways make "Roadrunners" what it is, as an album.   This is my fourth time reviewing Eureka California so by now you should know their songs are musically solid-- it's not something like "Oh, they were sloppy before and now they got their shit together".   Eureka California has always been talented at what they do, from what I've heard and I do believe I've heard it all.   So the real question with this CD is just what are they singing about on it?

From getting the launch codes because it's a nuclear option to bringing about surf-like rock guitars on a song about the Buffalo Bills (which is instrumental, but I feel like the title will have people googling the team for those years and coming across the Bills standing for "Boy I Love Losing Superbowls")  there are lyrics which are easily relatable and after a few listens you'll be singing along with them.   I especially enjoy the lines: "Cause you're over it / yeah you're over and out".

"I Can't Look In YR Direction" is such a perfect example of a song I'd recommend listening to it first if you need an idea as to why Eureka California is so amazing.   It has this Foo Fighters feel to it somehow.   Though I do believe at one point I heard the song "Mexican Coke" on SoundCloud and it closes out this album but still remains one of the single best songs I've ever heard. 

"Telephone Tone" feels like Darko the Super is singing on it and if Eureka California had a way to include him in one of their songs it would probably explode my world.    Speaking of exploding my world, there is a song on here called "JJT" and though I reached out to the band to ask them what that meant there was no response as of this writing.  There is a name before it which is crossed out on the back of the CD so it made me rather curious.  I keep thinking it's JTT but alas, that is wrong.

Fun, mystery and not JTT... This could be like an episode of "Scooby Doo".   Everyone likes Scooby-Doo, right?  He's some kind of staple in society and those crazy cartoons aren't just part of my life force, right?  In any case, this is one to put on while driving around, walking, skating, hanging out with friends (If you have friends) or just sitting alone in your apartment while waiting for the mailman.   And, yes, Mexican Coke is way better than what we get here in "the states".

Sunday, May 20, 2018

VHS Review:
Slow Normals
[PART 1]

$15 //
Edition of 13 // //

When this VHS begins there are distorted people in the country and then this electronic looping behind it.   The music tends to come in quieter, ambient in ways and there are images to put with it.   The second sequence, for example, appears to be in a church and then we have these houses as if recorded while walking down a street taped over other images which don't really line up but make for a great combined visual    The audio side of it can become minimal as well, to the point where it is almost non-existant and you must focus on the images.

The thing about these visuals as well is that they look as if they've been taken through an old school camcorder- the type you'd actually put a VHS tape into- and if Slow Normals didn't record this all, then it was likely found through old home movies and such which is just amazing.   I've seen videos before- VHS tapes- where it would say like "Tommy, 8th Grade Recital" on it, most of them were free but I never really watched them.   I like how this has the sounds with the images for certain though.

Someone with long hair and a goatee* dressed nicely comes in and says to "bear with us" and we go into this full on vaporwave type of scene with a song that matches it.   Kids are playing in the snow now.   A woman's face is layered over the snow and I'm not sure what they're doing to her mouth but the jungle beats and banging makes me feel like she's having dental surgery done.   This is wild.  There are layers of different colors over most everything, but at the times when there aren't, there are times and dates like from that old camcorder I mentioned before.

This is definitely a trip and I don't know how many screenshots I should take out of here to use because it seems like it might alter the experience for you.  (And by screenshots I mean me literally taking photos with my phone of the television, as this is a VHS and cannot be played through my laptop)    Two women are on the beach.   A triangle brings out music which sounds like something straight out of the 1980's, like Phil Collins.    It's so different to actually have these images moving while you're listening to music rather than having to conjure them up in your head by yourself.   The difference between a book and a movie I suppose.

I think things like "Could you somehow rip this into a music video, something you could upload to YouTube so people without VCRs could see it", but the thing of it is that this is six hours on a VHS tape.   If you're not down for the spilled oil colors look with electronic glitch looping on the VCR then you're really not down for it.    I have a DVD/VCR combo I could never seem to part with (Even when I didn't have a television) because the VCR side of it worked.  Now that I've had a television for a few months, I'm glad I kept it because it has certainly been proven useful.

A deer is in the woods in black and white, circa 1998.   Someone is talking about 9/11 I think.   The images are sped up, as if they are in fast forward.   This whole thing makes me wonder if Slow Normals has a lot of editing gear for VCRs which would've cost thousands of dollars upon original release but now you could likely score at a tag sale or such for much, much less.    To create these images and match them with the music is something I could never do, so right away I have that respect simply for the craft.

As the fish swim by in one of those "make your tv seem like an aquarium" ideas, the music which brings out some soul and quite a bit of glitch just makes me feel like Slow Normals is really stepping it up a level from other artists.   Granted, I'm not opposed to listening to music and forming my own visuals for it in any way, but being able to sync up the two for the listener takes a level of skill that I don't feel many would possess. 

And the music... I mean, this is making this electronic rhythm now which is really pumping me up amidst the rainbow swirled colors.   This is rather trippy and just as I say that waves come in like we're going to surf and then it's everyone's best friend: the FBI Warning.   Business men in hardhats make me think this was some kind of training video until I see a lot of people exercising and then I think it's more of an instructional video or something to try and get you to go on vacation there.   It's called "City Workout" and there is an 800 number someone should call.

Through this drilling static drone comes a classroom where people are entering anf leaving a room.   I really enjoy how this is layered visually but even seeing one of the layers at this point might be amusing because the 1990's was a funny time.   Much like I would say music of this nature (the droning, the crackling, etc.) is best fit for cassette it seems it also works on VHS to the extent that if this was on DVD it wouldn't feel the same or perhaps even sound the same.   It's not that crisp and modern feel as much as something older and raw and I dig the hell out of that as well.   Especially when it feels as if we are back under the sea and the static is spraying out loudly.

Even when the music cuts out and we have to see a woman eating the images still tell the story.   Drum machines and blissed out tones bring on vocals which sound like they're saying "Round Two" but I don't think they are.  This is all over some kid playing baseball even though the words then tell us about the lotto and our local Mazda dealer.   It appears to be a glitch version of the news now.  Is Frostproof, Florida a real place?  That's a funny name if so.   I really want to feel like this is a video game and he's saying "Round Two" though.   Flying Logos should be a band name though.

Friday, May 18, 2018

"Waves" [Music Video Premiere]
+ [Interview]

Watch the Music Video for "Waves" by clicking here:

1) I tried googling it to no avail.  What is a Hemmit?
I heard a rumor it was the name of a friend of a friend's dog. If that's true, I'm thinking it was a larger dog, possibly with a spiked collar and an owner named Russ.

2) I grew up with music videos in the 1990's.   A lot of times, seeing a new video on Mtv would help me to purchase an album from that artist.  Do you feel like music videos can still play such a vital role in connecting people with new music?

I always like seeing a totally weird and cryptic video from a band -- like WTF was that? Replay! If it's done well, a video completes the song and brings a fresh dimension to it while giving you a peek inside the artist's head. I think the connection comes across best though if the artist had a hand in the creative process. If you just leave it to the director you're going to get a video where he says "OK guys, everyone look left and point, that's super!". I'd rather see something lo-fi and genuine over a big-budget production that has no soul.

3) Do you feel as if the style going into the music video is sometimes as important as the song itself?
The style is the thing that taps into the emotions that drove the song in the first place. It's also another space to tell the story. The look, the colors, the feel of the images -- all that has to be true to the song. If I start getting goosebumps when playing back a cut of a video I'm working on, I know I'm getting to that place. And sometimes you'll find an entirely new narrative for the song that only comes across in the visuals. It's another canvas to throw stuff at.

4) What are some of your personal favorite music videos?
The one that got me inspired for "Waves" was The Black Angels "Currency". Not the performance video, the visualizer one. Check it out, so cool with those video synthesis effects. Courtney Barnett "Dead Fox". A quirky and funny animated video that matches the song perfectly. The Beastie Boys "What Cha Want". Great song and amazing lo-fi visuals. I'm not a big Duran Duran fan, but "Rio" was the quintessential 80's music video. Wearing suits on a yacht, taking a landline phone call from a raft. Classic.

5) What is the music scene like in Portlandia right now?
There are way too many ukelele's, banjos and fiddles around, and overly-earnest music is still worshiped, but thankfully there are pockets of electronica, hip-hop, rock and other genres that are still going strong. I'd say overall it's a pretty supportive environment. If you're doing something you're passionate about, people respect it. On the East Coast (I moved out here from DC in the early 2000's) the question was always "where do you work?". Here it's "what do you like to do?". 

6) Would you ever consider releasing your music on cassette?
I totally would. I'd include a Bic pen with the cassette so if it got eaten by your car's tape player you could easily wind it back up again. 

7) Final thoughts, shout outs, etc... ??

Trust your instincts and do what you love. But don't expect to get paid for it. Shout out to college radio and RBG for all the generous support!

Cassette Review:

$6 //
Edition of 10 // //

This begins with these beats and vocals mixed in which sound very energetic, very raucous.   It reminds me of Atari Teenage Riot, only in a more modern sense.   This takes us into a song that's much more chillwave, closer to the ambient synth beats now.    Words are on repeat but I'm not sure if they're live as I think they are an audio clip.   This could be vaporwave.   Louder beats come through now in a pop way.    It has a tropical, island vibe to it like that crab from "The Little Mermaid" but there are audio samples behind it that make it not quite as pop.

As the pace picks up now, the clips of speaking are still there but this has pumped itself up somewhere between "Weird Science" and "Run Lola Run".   It has an urgency to it, but I still feel as if someone could say "It's allliiiiiiiivvvee" at any time.   It gets a bit of a harsh drone and then all wraps up neatly.   Haunted demon vocals bring about these industrial beats.    This is even borderline instrumental hip hop.    I'm pretty sure he's telling me to give up so why not.    The music shifts to something like a video game but also a very 1980's/early 1990's synth vibe.

The beats are still strong though- whether chill or faster paced.    It seems to alternate now with this track- sometimes it's that really fast electronic that could go into techno and then it just all kind of freezes and feels like instrumental hip hop.    That funky synth comes through next which reminds me a little bit of "Ghostbusters", which I know, given the name is kind of funny.    This has a lot of energy no matter what era of music it's from (past, present or future tense) but I really appreciate that it is on cassette.

If you've ever watched a movie from the 1980's or early 1990's you'll see a lot of musical montages.    Perhaps one of the most famous would be when Ferris Bueller is running home in an attempt to get there before his parents do.   These types of things would occur in most movies though and that's what this reminds me of in a lot of ways before it goes back into this more industrial based grinding sound.    Video game lasers come through as well and this goes back to that lighter '80's feel.

"This is what you want"
         "This is what you get"

Ambient hues take us home, as we briefly have this uplifting experience like one who dies and rises up to Heaven, though in fairness a lot of this cassette has a heavier side to it which would probably summon Satan, so, who really knows, right?  What if you hear those uplifting tones and think "Oh, cool, I'm going to Heaven" but Satan's just fucking with you because, you know, he's Satan.

These songs may feel short but when they're all put together they make this one collected piece that seemingly must be heard.    If nothing else, these songs should leave you thirsty for more and, yeah, that's kind of a play on the label name somehow I guess.

Record Review:
His Name Is Alive
"Black Wings"
(Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records)

$20 //
Edition of 500 // //

One thing people need to know about me is that just because I'm such a big advocate for physical media in regards to music, I have never been opposed to digital music.  I enjoy the fact that people in any country can hear music from any other country.   When I first began writing about music, with AOL and all that being the norm at the time, it felt nearly impossible to get access to music outside of the United States unless it was a major label.   So being big on physical media (as I am) doesn't mean I am anti-digital.    In fact, I often enjoy instances such as with this record when I can hear a song such as "Energy Acceleration" prior to hearing the entire record.

If you follow me on SoundCloud (and if you don't, you should) I gave the song "Energy Acceleration" a "like" and "repost" before I got this double LP.   That happens to be the second song on here, so once I pressed play and heard the lines "In light of creation / send your light to this location" lines I thought, "Yeah! That's familiar! I remember that!" and there was no going back from that point.  I was in.   If you have not had a similar experience with me as this, I still feel there are a lot of ways in which you can find yourself getting wrapped up in this double LP.

The thing, for me, about this being a double LP is that you have to think as each side as their own little album in a way, and yet, you might not want to take them as EPs on their own though.   It doesn't really make sense, but it's one of those things where each of the four sides could stand on its own and each of the two records could stand on their own, but they just feel so much better together.   I suppose it's like a good series of films in that way, but I can't think of one right now except for maybe Kevin Smith's "Clerks".

Side A has a rather light feel to it.   It's angelic with a large focus on the harmonies.   It's like the deserts miss the rain.   There is a feeling of Fleetwood Mac and maybe even Blondie in here (maybe even a tad bit of Enya) but it just has that overall vibe of being something focused mostly on the vocals as they sing with oooh's and ahhhh's behind them, often in place of instruments of other function.     In that sense, there is a certain feel of Wilson Phillips in here as well, which isn't a bad thing at all.

On the flip side (which is B) things start off in a distorted video game way.   Eventually, about halfway through, there are vocals which I believe to be in French, but this is just dreamy.   There are pianos and then for the first time on the record it just kicks into this loud rock like The White Stripes or Hendrix reaching for that higher ground.   There is this killer guitar solo which takes Side B to its end but what you have to understand is that it is quite different from Side A in the sense that it is louder but it also has more of the video game feel overall versus the lighter rock side of what was previously heard.

C just opens up and lets it all hang out with some psych-classic rock.   Big drums come smashing in and that distorted video game feel returns, but mostly, this is just loud and banging like The Who.  (Which at times, I also think of this as being a concept album not too much unlike "Tommy", so, there's also that)   A feeling of a triumphant "Double Dragon" takes us into loud thrash punk followed by these organ tone loops which are eerie, like something out of "The X-Files".    Really loud, wicked guitar riffs can be heard as well and I don't mean wicked in the New England way but rather a little evil.

This takes us back into that wild rock feel as most of C is instrumental.    These tones like a video game are still in here and then the singing does return but only for a little bit.  Darker pianos and only the pianos take over before a classical guitar riff, like something out of Beethoven.     Big rocking guitars continue on Side D while there is this steady rhythm and I'm thinking of the Veruca Salt song "Seether".   Bits of Tom Petty take us into synths with vocals and more of a nice rock feel I can't quite put my finger on but would likely be somewhere along the lines of The Cardigans perhaps.

Acoustic strums and singing which remind me of Foo Fighters bring about a somewhat video game somewhat not loop to end it all on, which really does cement those Who comparisons in my mind, which is not a bad thing at all.    In many ways I feel like they used up a lot of the vocals on Side A and thus the other three sides don't have as many of them and are more instrumental, but yet, even when it's just the piano keys it's still speaking and it has this way where the music just takes control.