RELEASE DATE: 28th April 2017
RECORD COMPANY: Grimoire Records
From Baltimore in the USA comes the deep humming roar of Alter, whose core sound consists of the delicate layering of everything cold and aesthetically pleasing: alt-rock, post-rock, ambient music, shoegaze and even some sort of wild and loud dream pop thrown in there for good measure. Pendulum consists of six dense and spacious tracks laced with reverberating echo and drowned out vocals; offering the sound of envelopment to listeners in the form of some kind of snow drenched village off in the middle of nowhere. For some it will be a sluggish slog through the at times thick and murky waters of alternatively loud guitar music that Alter push forth from their instruments; for others the flood of noise and the hushed echoes of the vocals will provide some kind of beauty through the snowstorm of sound; for your sakes I hope it’s the latter. 'Pendulum' was released via the Baltimore based independent record label 'Grimoire Records' back on the 28th April 2017 and it is available to buy/download right now from grimoirerecords.bandcamp.com
Pendulum by Alter
'Pendulum' opens with ‘False Mirror’ a brilliantly heavy track with subtle hints of post-punk in there for good measure. The beginning of the song makes one immediately think of the quiet, slight post-rock music that they’re about to hear; that is until the churning, loud guitars and cymbal heavy drums arrive into the mix. From there the most intriguing element of the song comes in; the vocals… sporting the aforementioned touch of post-punk. The vocals remain deeply layered under the walls of noise, but unlike the much rehashed shoegaze production technique that many of us are already familiar with, Alter’s vocals sit in a higher register; offering up an almost contrast to the music and the sound on the song. ‘False Mirror’ pans out into a cymbal lead breakdown before turning full circle back within itself. ‘Momentary’ offers up a similar slow beat that concluded ‘False Mirror’ except with a more obvious touch of post-rock evident in both the song writing and the mixing. The dynamics alter awkwardly throughout ‘Momentary’, especially the galloping drums on the second half of the track, but it seems to be the most 'by the book' that the band play it; although it still holds the same beauty as the other tracks around it.
Following on, the band turn in one of the EP’s best and most moving songs; its title track. The slow, drum and guitar combination roll slowly in the background of a fantastically harmonious vocal performances; even when the song moves back into borderline noise-gaze anthemic guitar, the catchy and dark alt-rock stlye chord progression stays along; forming the song into a complete package of heavy and emotive beauty. Special love and interest should be given to the songs second half, after the slight silent break, where the bands and instrumentation becomes even more extensive than before. ‘Inner Eclipse’, while at the start sounding like the heaviest the band will go, turns out actually to be a brilliantly weird, almost math rock based charge of cymbals and thick reverbed guitars. Bouncing back and forth between walls of sound lead by the bass and guitar, and the more groove orientated riffs that lead into the songs heavier sections, the vocals hold everything together again… Except this time they are much clearer. All these elements mix together to create a fantastic blend of post-rock/shoegaze amplification.
‘The Storm’ is also a definite EP highlight; its downtrodden and icy sound connects the sounds and styles of the title track with the previous and more formless ‘Inner Eclipse’ to create a piece more melodic and drawn out. Of all the heavy, weighty tracks on the EP, ‘Lost Instinct’ offers up the substantial size of feedback laden reverb and soundscapes for the listener to hear. It begins with borderline droning guitars and drums, backed up by the soundscaped noises of guitar feedback and, eventually, the wavering and floating vocals that have played such a pivotal role on other tracks throughout the EP. The wild, open feedback ridden landscapes of Pendulum make it difficult to say whether everybody would be a fan. But for those who appreciate the kind of melodic heaviness that can only really fit comfortably with post-rock and ambient texturings; then the EP is for you. Alter shine greatly when they display their strengths wisely; those being their attitude toward filling up the entire canvas with noise, the dynamics of sound in context with the instrumentation, the smart mixing and production, and perhaps most importantly; the vocals. Thankfully for almost the entire EP, the band do in fact display their strengths wisely offering a sonic piece of noise meditation, created through production, performance and sound.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Cam Phillips is a writer and above all, a music lover, who seeks to gain experience through writing and listening. He is also an avid film viewer and art and literature junkie who enjoys creative writing. His most recent published work was featured on Baeble Music and Culture (USA), Sounds and Colours Magazine (Latin America, London), Easterndaze (Latvia) and the Australian based heavy music blog I Probably Hate Your Band.
by Primal Music
ARTIST: Painted Mirror
RELEASE: Painted Mirror EP
RELEASE DATE: 3rd March 2017
RECORD COMPANY: Unsigned
Baltimore, MD-based Painted Mirror have just issued their self-released and self-titled 6-song debut, a statement made all the more impressive by the fact that its release signals the band's first anniversary. Vocalist/keyboardist Sam Morgan, bassist Brian Fee, drummer John Theuerkauf, and guitarist Jake Smith formed the band in March of 2016, with a mission statement to create pop songs with an undercurrent and atmosphere of post punk and darkwave music. To that end, their sound is very much rooted in the darker alternative sounds of the mid- to late-80s, complete with keyboards playing a prominent role, as opposed to taking their inspiration from the more guitar-centric bands of the early 90s as many of their contemporaries do. The EP can be purchased via paintedmirror.bandcamp.com
Painted Mirror by Painted Mirror
The lead track on the EP, "Hearts", begins with a shimmering, cascading guitar line and icy stabs of synth strings, supported by a strong bass tone and the steady percussion of drummer John Theuerkauf. The song immediately harkens back to those dark, 1980s dream pop ballads we slow-danced to while clinging to our cherished sweethearts in a dimly-lit middle school gym; wanting so much to be loved and understood, but fearing that this time will be exactly the same as all the others. Sam Morgan's voice here bring to mind the emotive vocals of Duran Duran's Simon Le Bon, particularly in the impassioned pleas of the chorus. The complexities of relationships and the longing for connection are the focus here, and this song ends with the lyric "hearts aren't always on display / we buried the truth in the dark". Sometimes the dark is the only place left to leave our feelings when it all goes wrong. "Crystal Clear" unfolds layers of '80s New Wave, its loping drum pattern and funky, throbbing bass line recalling the New Romantic-era, while Smith's guitar shimmers in reverberating bell tones and Sam Morgan's Gahan-esque vocals flourishes round things out nicely. "Inside Out" brings the band's post-punk influences to the fore, featuring a very prominent bass line and harder-driving drum beat than the band had thus far utilized. Jake Smith's guitar work creates a hazy-gazey atmosphere that snakes its way around Morgan's lofty vocalizations, which again harken back to their roots in 1980s alternative music, when nearly everyone on both sides of the Atlantic seemed to have adopted an English accent.
The second half of the EP opens with "Rumors", a song that dials back the forward-driving momentum of the previous track and creates a softer, sensual atmosphere thanks to some very emotive guitar dynamics from Smith. The tone of the song is the perfect support for Morgan's vocals full of heartache and lyrics that explore the pain of a love that is falling apart. "The Fix" again brings Duran Duran to my mind, particularly their 1982 single "Save a Prayer". The rhythm section lays down a dancefloor-friendly framework, while exotic keyboard flourishes and a straight-from-the-'80s guitar tone create an otherworldly quality that might be the high-point of the EP for this reviewer. The closing track, "Tell Me Maybe", is pure dream pop slow burn. The longest track on the EP, it starts off languid and dreamy and in its final moments builds into a wall of sound powerhouse that any modern shoegaze band would be proud of, all feedback squall and driving, post-rock rhythms.
With its darkly personal exploration of love lost and love gone wrong, Painted Mirror's self-titled EP is a very impressive debut from a band barely a year into their career. I look forward to hearing where the next year will take them.
Marc Dooley is a Nashville-based writer, musician, visual artist, freelance video editor, indie comic book collector, film buff and lifelong music connoisseur with an ever-expanding music library of nearly 6,000 CDs, 250 vinyl records and over a TB worth of music in digital formats, in a multitude of genres ranging from alt- and classic country to underground hip-hop and electronica, shoegaze and classic indie/alternative rock, 1960's and '70s psychedelia & pop (domestic and international), post-rock and metal to classic jazz, blues, soul, funk, reggae and afrobeat.
RELEASE: Lemonseeds EP
RELEASE DATE: 23/06/15
‘Morels’ hail from Baltimore, Maryland & have a unique collective sound that is sometimes melodic alt-rock, sometimes noise-pop mixed with a hint of fuzzy impressive shoegaze & intertwined with post punk inspired vocal arrangements. But what interests me the most about this band is their ability to evoke melancholic snapshots in time of hazy youth, warm summer days & full on fuzzy shoegazing. Made up of ex-members of both Bad Liquor and The Warlocks plus members of The Flying Eyes/Bad Lung they have just released a stunning collection of tracks on the aptly named - ‘Lemonseeds EP’.
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The ‘Lemonseeds EP’ opens up with a straight laced indie rock inspired stalwart of a track entitled - ’Honeybee’. On first listen this track has an early 90’s feel to it with its vocal tones & production effects intertwined with an edgy musical undertone. Its a happy, jangling, floating 3 minute affair with addictive guitar parts & a solid drum pattern but to me it does exactly what it says on the tin. This kind of stuff doesn’t normally float my boat but ‘Morels’ have my attention! Check it out:
[bandcamp width=100% height=42 album=3263982632 size=small bgcol=333333 linkcol=e32c14 track=2668155528]
At first the deceiving opening drum pattern on track 2 leads me to believe that we’re on a similar voyage to a land of tame run of the mill indie rock. But boy was I wrong! ‘Morels’ open up a swirling maelstrom of beautiful shimmering guitars, immense drums, addictive bass lines & what I think is a synth progression running just under the madness that reminds me of very early ‘Cure’. There is also a subtle hint of mid/late 80’s post punk in the vocal too on ‘Raygun’ that just sucks you in and keeps you interested & fixed on the track. This is a sublime wall of sound that is simply beautiful. You need to check it out:
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Track 3 ‘Lemonseeds’ floats into the musical atmosphere with a hazy laid back alt rock vibe surrounded by swirling synths & yet another brilliant vocal performance. This is what I mean when I say that ‘Morels’ have the ability to evoke memories. This track just washes over you & takes you with it as it tells its story. A triumph, musically!
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The closing track on this latest 4 track EP from Baltimore based noise merchants ‘Morels’ is possibly my favourite on the entire release. ‘Communion’ is a full on menacing ball of energy with its 80’s inspired emotive synth swells, Sisters of Mercy / Cult esq vocal arrangements, impressive drum patterns & full on walls of swirling droning guitars. This track alone makes it all worthwhile. You need this in your music collection! Check it out below:
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Del Chaney has spent the last two years not only fronting popular Irish Electronic duo Analogue Wave but also dedicating his time to uncovering the best artists in the Unsigned or Small Independent Label based Shoegaze Dream Pop Post-Punk & Post-Rock genre’s of music from all over the globe & reviewing them for this blog - The Primal Music Blog. His other arm - Primal Radio - has gained considerable respect from bands and promoters alike since its conception in 2013 & has hepled him in actively promoting a genre of music that he is passionate about. Hailing from Dublin, Ireland, he is a keen Vinyl Collector, Tattoo Fan & all round good guy! He is a self confessed music freak & is never far away from a studio console or a turntable.