(Pretty Blue Presents; 2008)
Maus Haus is a band, like many others these days, that not only embraces technology, but also utilizes the medium with ingenuity and precision, giving way to beautiful results. Their debut album Lark Marvels succeeds in being an interesting and all together rewarding listen because of the bands’ reluctance to hold back their plethora of seemingly endless musical ideas and the technical abilities they use to harness them. Chances are that throughout any given song you couldn’t count on two hands the different instruments and sounds used to drive Maus Haus’ music home. This kind of instrumental decathlon songwriting brings to mind artists like Menomena and Architecture in Helsinki, but one word can easily break Lark Marvels away from those other bands and their music. Tension.
With their off-kilter timing and penchant for ambiguous melodies, Maus Haus envelops the listener with a sound that radiates a strangely cool urgency. More often than not there is no light at the end of their enjoyably dark tunnel. This technique works greatly in their favor, giving that much more importance to the brief yet brilliant moments of release. Sometimes the contrast of their cacophonous tension, minimalistic clarity, and upbeat grooves is jarring, but primarily it goes to support the large number of ideas at work in Lark Marvels. The quick switch between electronic slow burner “Irregular Hearts” and the neo-punk follow up “Reaction” sounds almost like the changing of albums, but that’s just Maus Haus; everything the members love about music quickly and expertly mashed together with loving skill and finesse.
Despite the strange powers at work in the music, Lark Marvels is populated with surprisingly accessible songs. “Dead Keys Drop” opens with one of the coolest grooves I’ve heard all year, and the songs’ sing-a-long refrain, “Your speed is not like our speed/La La La Laaa/La La La La La La Laaa/Ride the bullet like a banshee/ La La La Laaa/La La La La La La Laaa”, is a prime example of the hidden catchiness found all throughout Maus Haus’ debut album. After recieving this music for review I spent somewhere over a month getting to know Lark Marvels. In taking my time I’ve discovered a lasting album from a band that I’m sure will be populating the independent music community’s “Best of” lists in years to come.
– Patric Fallon
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Blap to the Future Megamix
In lieu of their first and proper debut EP on LA’s digital B.E.A.R label, San Francisco glitch-inators Lazer Sword have been kind enough to those that know better by whetting our appetites with a 48 minute mixtape chock full of crunchy, cut up remixes and edits that intermingle their signature dissonant space-synth and broken glitch-beat assault with top 40 rap acapellas. While this is far from an original concept, Lazer Sword prove their worth in space credits on this popular medium by sticking to their not-always-so-easy-to-dance-to style and showing both the glitch and hip hop world that they know their way around a wave file.
The tracks on this mixtape follow a linear path straight to bangerville, but the sounds never come across as boring or tired. There are too many screwed up layers and sudden changes in Lazer Sword’s production to allow loss of interest in where they’re taking you with every song; even if it always feels like you’re in a spaceship to planet hyphy. They treat each acapella with almost a hall of fame sort of reverence, allowing the raw vocals to propel and sometimes even carry their tweaked instrumentals. This respect is necessary for Blap to the Future‘s separation from the many other producers that use the electronic-music-with-rap-vocal format. Though it may help them to have popular vocal tracks to help nod your head along with their music it’s by no means a crutch. Instead of sounding like they giggle at each “nigga” or drug-peddling reference over their oscillating synths, you can rest assured knowing that Lazer Sword was nodding their heads to the original tracks before choosing to screw these songs into sweet oblivion.
In short, Lazer Sword is telling you to get ready. They have a lot of ideas, both new ones and revised standards, but if you think they’re going to let them all loose on a mixtape you’ll be happily mistaken. You can tell that Lazer Sword is only just warming up, and, if you’ll take my word, we’re soon to be all the more fortunate for the extra time they’ve taken in crafting their first solo release. In the meantime, enjoy the hell out of Blap to the Future by taking advantage of one of the mixtape’s best qualities; it’s free download available on Lazer Sword’s Myspace page. Peep impending glitch-hop game, son!
– Patric Fallon
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From Here to There
(Around Town Collective, 2008)
Don’t you just love structure and simplicity in music? Doesn’t the straightforwardness of a voice, a guitar, and maybe a drum or keyboard just allow you to lose yourself in the ideas and emotions the music is trying to convey? Isn’t it awesome when a singer/songwriter is so confident in what he/she has to offer you that they don’t have to shroud themselves in a veil of superfluous sounds and aimless production tricks? Well, whether or not you agree with my point of view, I know at least one person does. His name is Zach Zeller and he just released his third solo album. It’s called From Here to There and I think it’s wonderful.
Armed with standard, yet beautiful stories about friends, family, and faith, Zeller presents us with a record that conquers territory we’ve followed brilliant artists like Will Oldham, David Bazan, and Sam Beam into. He heads straight into the thick of his personal contemplations on “Bluejays” before sharing the tale of a girl headed nowhere on “A Faded Light”. Sounding like a young Johnny Cash, we’re sung a story about abuse from a drunken father on “Oh My Son” with the same quiet reflection we remember from the now deceased musical icon. Even when the music aims for the more inflated styles of The Wallflowers or Coldplay, Zeller skirts on the edge of going overboard before coming back to us with a warm, banjo-tinged ballad to his unborn child. This love of the basics is what draws me in so close to the songs on this album.
Zach Zeller displays true ambition with his dedication to musical simplicity and could-be-your-life storytelling. Whether or not his guitar and banjo style appeals to you is almost irrelevant. It’s Zeller’s voice and the words he chooses to share with us that are the true epicenter of From Here to There, a marvelous solo album that couldn’t force itself to be more true and welcoming.
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Up Mine, Sunshine
(self released, 2008)
First, I should be clear about something. Since I am a musician and very involved in the music business/scene/whatever, I have a lot of friends interested in being reviewed on this website. Reviewing a friend’s music is difficult for obvious reasons, but when you’ve been involved in releasing that friend’s music those difficulties are amplified. Things get even trickier when the music has changed into something different than when you were previously involved. All these factors have come into play in my review of Up Mine, Sunshine’s debut, self-titled album; a weird amalgamation of psychedlic electronica weaved in and out of vocal samples and carried down Jodorowsky’s Holy Mountain on the back of cutting bass lines and hard hitting beats.
Let me quickly brief you. The Up Mine, Sunshine I once knew was a writer of bass driven post-funk, pop that wouldn’t be the least bit out of place in Factory Records’ catalog. The Talking Heads meets New Order music that was once solely composed by Matthew Beck is now a Panda Bear meets the soundtrack of Zelda styled collaboration of Matthew and his wife Ashley. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to love and enjoy in this new Up Mine, Sunshine, but you’ll have to pardon my reeling. I’m still getting used to my dad having shaved his mustache.
Okay… Let’s move on. This album is great! There are so many layers in every track that work together to put you in a blissful trance. Each song is propelled by bongos, shakers, and tambourines while arpeggiating synths dance around the polyrhythms of bass and drums, textured field recordings, and beautiful female vocal harmonies. On occasion the layers go a bit over board and reach the precipice of ADD-ridden repetition, but that usually signals the climax or end of a song. While some of the music on the album leans towards the movement of the dance floor, even delving into the pop-sensibilities I used to know on “I Love What I Love” and “Away From My Little Bones!!!”, this isn’t club ready music. These songs are what you play while waking up in the morning to get you pumped. This is an album you enjoy with your headphones on your head and your pipe in your hand. This music deserves attention that matches the delicate and loving care that went into making it.
Even though I’m positive Up Mine Sunshine’s self-titled album can be enjoyed by many people far and wide, I’d like to think that it’s pressing of a mere 60 copies is a sign that this is music meant for friends. Friends that are interested in what you’re doing with your spare time. Friends that care enough to listen to your album on repeat from start to finish without skipping a beat. Friends that loved what you once were, but are even more excited about what you’ve become.
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(self released, 2008)
Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Pretty much the only word I can think of when this EP starts is “yes”. Every part of opening track “Dethcult” from San Francisco’s Tigon is done precisely, carefully, and, above all, heavily. The guitars and bass chase each other around the smothering drums while the vocals spew from what sounds like the mouth and mind of a man on the brink of a deep, unacceptable insanity. The songs on their self-titled, debut EP are soaked in the legacy and legend of Botch, the filth and disregard of The Icarus Line, and the technical “nerd-core” of Frodus and Drive Like Jehu. Strangely enough, I wouldn’t consider myself a major fan of what most people call heavy music, but when something is good I like it. Tigon is good. I like Tigon.
To get down to brass tacks, you can tell Tigon put a lot of time and energy into the sound of their solid, debut EP. The recording has no superfluous production tricks to hide any short comings, and the mix and master of the music is beyond impressive for being self released. This attention and care for their sound pays off. You can hear every hammer on and pull off in songs like “The Feeding” as if you were sitting next to the amplifiers. The kick drum in “Suneater” punches you in the chest as if it were driving home it’s point in a fierce argument. The vocals of ranting interlude “The Path” get into the middle of your skull like the singer wanted you to go insane as well. These sounds were executed and arranged perfectly, and we, the listeners, are better for it.
If the opportunity arises for you to see Tigon live, you need to grab the chance by the horns and make it your bitch. If you don’t have such luxury please find a way to buy this self released EP through mail or download. Tigon are what heavy rock n’ roll need, and I say yes, Tigon. Yes.
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Who Calls So Loud
(ADAGIO830 / Sorry Records, 2008)
Featuring the drummer from screamo kids Funeral Diner, Who Calls So Loud isn’t a far cry (haha… get it?) from the now ex-ed band. Their self-titled debut album (exclusively released as a double 10″) is heavy and intense as fuck with the yelping screams one would expect and hope for in music such as this.
As their world tour indicates there is still a demand, or atleast strong lingering appreciation, for bands of this genre. Thankfully, these kids have a few idiosincracies that will set them apart from the rest of their peers. The slide guitar that makes a handful of appearances on the album, as well as the delayed guitars and occasional ambient sound sample, gives Who Calls So Loud a strong Young Team-era Mogwai sound. In fact, the comparison is close enough to say that had Mogwai asked the singer for You and I or Saetia to do an album with them back in the day you’d probably get a sound almost exactly like this. That just might be something to call home about.