Cassowaries / Pssprtt
A Ghost With Teeth
(I Know A Lot About Magic;2008)
I’ll start off by explaining that I’ve been sitting on this mini-CD for a very long time. Since Ryan Carter, hereby referred to as Cassowaries, sent me this little EP that he shares real estate with Pssprtt on, both artists have gone on to grow and change as musicians tend to do over time. That being said, this review could be completely moot, and I’m only continuing on with sharing my opinion because of this website’s insistence that everything sent in will be reviewed. The real point I’m trying to make is this: despite the word’s I’m about to write you should check out these two artists yourself and hear what they’ve been doing since this split EP. Awesome. Enough disclaiming.
A Ghost With Teeth, on first listen, doesn’t sound like the work of two separate musicians. Both Cassowaries and Pssprtt (aka Eric James, who’s since changed his moniker to Phantom Youth) sound so heavily influenced by the reverberated compositions of Panda Bear, White Rainbow, and others of the psychedelic/ambient/”experimental” nature that discerning the two was difficult. In fact, I had to request additional liner notes in order to ascertain who actually made which songs. As I listened to the split EP more, referencing the additional notation I requested all the while, I was able to make out some slight differences. The three songs contributed by Cassowaries are driven more by distant beats and warped samples while Pssprtt’s chunk of music is more of a vocals-and-guitar-in-a-massive-hall sort of affair. The distinctiveness of each artist is strong enough to warrant personal separation, but the sounds they seem to emulate all rest on the same sets of shoulders.
The songs heard on A Ghost With Teeth are mostly 2 minute experiments, save a 4 and a half minute mini-epic each. No track stands out greatly from the others in terms of sounds or composition, but each have their moments. I’d say the EP is a nice introduction to both North Western musicians, anchored with equally positive and negative aspects. This doesn’t sound too much like a review, more like an artist’s bio, but I prefer it that way in this case. You’ve got some references now, a little bit of opinion, and you’ll find some links pretty soon. This time around I’m leaving you, the reader, to make final decisions based on your own critical thought. Thankfully, you’ve got some free download options care of the release’s label, I Know A Lot About Magic. God bless the internet.
– Patric Fallon
Posted in ambient, electronic, EPs, experimental, indie, noise, psychedelic, split releases
Tagged ambient, electronic, experimental, indie, noise, psychedelic
(Ascension Records / Pretty Blue Presents;2008)
I’ll be honest. When I recieved October Rest in the mail I was in absolutely no state to objectively listen to and review the kind of slow and loving music that Casey Chisholm recorded for the EP. I was dealing with my own heartbreak and couldn’t separate what Casey was playing and singing about from what I was going through in my personal life. I almost decided to not review the CD myself until I realized that October Rest was precisely what I needed to help mend my wounded soul. This isn’t music meant to drive you deeper down, this is meant to lift you up! This music isn’t made to perpetuate the feeling of love lost, this is here to remind you of the love you’ve found! October Rest is an upper dressed in downer’s clothing.
The kind of positivity found in Casey’s music is a rare breed these days unless it’s shrowded in religion or a creedo of some sort. Instead of finding his happiness in a lifestyle or a higher power he celebrates life because of the people he has a chance to share it with. My favorite example of this is a lyric from the song “Alive” that goes ‘Isn’t it nice that you and I will go through life/At the very same time/Isn’t it nice we both laugh/We both cry’. That kind of genuine sentiment is what I find so alluring about October Rest, but the music is just as equally wonderful.
The sounds here are primarily electronic, reminding me of early M83 in it’s grander moments and Casiotone for the Painfully Alone in it’s more personal moments. Though synths and drum machines are the meat of the songs, Casey also utilizes live guitars, percussion, and ambient room recordings that all compliment the core of the music quite well. One of the best moments comes about midway through the EP’s longest song “If Only” when the chorus of synths and vocals slowly gives way to a parade of distorted synths, reverbed percussion, and harmonic guitars. This ending goes on for three minutes, and not once do I ever want it to stop. October Rest is a short listen, but you feel that Casey showed you everything he needed to in those 20 minutes. I look forward to hearing what he has to share in the future.
– Patric Fallon
cities vs. submarines
(Gold Robot Records, 2008)
The debut EP by railcars sounds like it could have been recorded in Jamie Stewart’s kitchen. Imagine Jamie Stewart’s kitchen! He’s both a brilliantly bonkers aesthete and a multi-media extravaganzist whose principal outfit, Xiu Xiu, is practically a genre unto itself. Anyway, I envision Jamie Stewart’s kitchen containing things like a neon green, clay stove and talking cookie jars he designed himself. (– Ed. note: It’s probably normal as hell.) Full disclosure: cities vs. submarines was actually recorded in said kitchen and includes all the smash and grab you’d think that might entail.
Employing drum boxes, effects pedals, sketchy noise and distorted vocalisms, cities vs. submarines is primarily a cover for Aria C. Jalali, who likes his letters lowercase and his song structures non-linear. His EP isn’t noise per se, but it was still recorded in Jamie Stewart’s frickin’ kitchen. Even the linoleum has stories! Jalali used to perform under his own name; the live edition of railcars incorporates various helps from assorted besties, but the general thrust belongs to Jalali. Besides the debt owed to Stewart/Xiu Xiu, railcars cops from other sonic semi-radicalists like the Spencer Krug Affair, my own sobriquet to cover Wolf Parade/Swan Lake/Sunset Rubdown/whatever other band he might be in. When he brings his A-game Krug produces music that can shut down your central nervous system. There isn’t anything as totally arresting as that on cities vs. submarines, but Jalali is at least reasonably good at burying his hooks. That may sound as no-good a tactic as burying the lead or as redundant as the term “freak-folk”, but there’s something to be said for subtlety and for the joy of repeated listening.
Track 1, “there is ice; it is blue”, despite reminding me of that idiotic “Violet Hill” lyric about the white snow, is railcars’ strongest Sunset Rubdown credential. It’s got the choppy back beat, hand claps, and air-raid guitar that Krug put to such mad use on “Shut Up I Am Dreaming”. Next is “saints are waiting for me (outside my door)” which is essentially Jalali ‘luving the valley-oh!’. “concrete buildings” gallops off thinking it wants to be a Frog Eyes cut. “through the trees lay smokestacks” is an under a minute instrumenta-lude that inexplicably contains a lot of wolf-like yelping. cities vs. submarines ends with its best song “bohemia is without a sea”. If a song can safely be said to chortle, this one does. It’s so cheerful you can practically see the cookie jars dancing.
On cities vs. submarines Jalali hits and misses, but the hits are when you tear up the cheap, snaggy, loud carpeting and discover a pretty rad hardwood floor. To put it another way, it’s like with the best electronic music; how bells, whistles, bottles, and bedsteads on top of songs create diversions that only the impatient get lost on. You have to dig a little. You might be thinking I like cities vs. submarines more than I do; railcars has a ways to go. Then again, it’s only a ten-minute EP.
– Anthony Strain
The Instant Messengers
(self released, 2008)
If you can’t tell from the hip hop group’s name or the title of their recent EP Slammers!, the three emcees and one DJ that make up The Instant Messengers are children of the 90s. Vocalists Alexander Spit, Cambo, and Cheshire Darko present themselves as the voice of this up-and-coming generation when they rhyme about being the last age not completely immersed in technology or the salad days of their Power Ranger and Pog influenced childhood. The Instant Messengers are more or less like Jurassic 5 in their generation specific nostalgia, but instead of relating with the B-boys and early DJs of the 80s they reference the swing craze and other fads of the 90s.
The music production and vocal delivery of Slammers! are equally solid, and as far as the usual range of hip hop lyrics go, The IMs has a unique bone to pick with modern day life. However, I can’t always be sure what their point is. When the music screams that it wants to move the party, the lyrics take aim at the creative process of writing or the state of our environment before they explain how they’ll steal your girl from you. Despite their lyrical desire in “iHuman” for more than the current over-synthesized era has to offer, I can’t shake the irony I see in the debunking of technology despite their obvious use of it.
Regardless, The Instant Messengers write fun songs with arms wide open to listeners of all ages and walks of life. Though they reminisce about the “good ol’ days” in their lyrics, the group still brings current and interesting beats to back up what they have to say. They take their music seriously (hence a recent move from SF to LA), and if you see them live you’ll know they come to the stage with real energy, ready to move the most stubborn of listeners. I’m not predicting any particular fame or fortune, but I wouldn’t be surprised that with time and persistence The Instant Messengers will truly take the place of Jurassic 5 as the next generation’s old-schoolers.
Posted in EPs, hip hop
Tagged hip hop
Pigeons or Panthers
(Pretty Blue Presents, 2008)
Pigeons or Panthers know exactly what they’re doing. In the six songs they self-recorded for their Helen EP they present us with complex-yet-catchy melodies played with studied precision on a large arsenal of varied instruments. The influences are wide ranging, from hints of calypso to short forays into disco, but they could all be summed up in comparisons to bands like Man Man, Islands, or The Black Heart Procession. While I enjoy all of these songs, both individually and as a whole EP, I find myself left with a puzzling feeling that something isn’t right. I say puzzling because I think these are creative and original songs arranged with style and performed with technique that adhere to an overall cohesive sound. So what’s missing?
To preface, this website is called What I Think About Your Music. These reviews are written under that name because they are all the sole opinion of the writer and his/her thoughts about music and how it should sound. That said, in the opinion of this reviewer, I can’t feel a shred of sincerity or conviction in the songs on Pigeons or Panthers’ Helen EP. When they sing about the apocalypse in opener “Twenty Twelve” or the imminent end of all things in “Socratic Death” I hear no fear or, alternately, acceptance in their voices. On “Chimpanzees” I can’t feel the absurdity implied by comparing our modern life to that of a monkey’s. Everything I hear on this CD is done perfectly by the book, but without any heart. Is it because of the lack of intensity in the vocal delivery? Is it because of the self-recorded, self-mixed, self-mastered sound quality? Is it because of the fledging status of the band? I can’t say exactly why this important element is missing, but I can say that it is.
The music featured on Helen EP is unique, enjoyable, and occasionally even memorable. The members of Pigeons or Panthers have innovative ideas about what experimental indie music should sound like, and they execute their ideas across the 6 songs of the release with great care. As a whole, however, the songs sound like emotionless exercises in music instead of visceral experiences to be shared with an audience. The members of the band most likely mean every note they strike and every word they sing, but, armed only with this EP, you couldn’t convince me of it.