ARTIST: SPC ECO
RELEASE DATE: 22nd August 2107
RECORD COMPANY: ELaB Records
It seems like only yesterday I was sitting down to give a listen to the latest release by legendary producer Dean Garcia and his daughter Rose Berlin aka SPC ECO. The release in question was 'Under My Skin' and it was awarded a 5/5 by yours truly; a feat not so easy to come by. Garcia and Berlin had come together to create something as dark as it was beautiful: ethereal vocal performances were combined with shadow-filled synth passages and lyrics, all topped off neatly with drum programming and a crisp clean production. When I heard that the duo were releasing a follow up full length album (entitled Calm) I thought two things: one, it will great to see what SPC ECO have churned out this time, and two, could they keep together over the length of an album? There was only one way to find out, I guess?
Calm by SPC ECO
'Calm' opens with the MBV shoegaze-influenced fuzz of ‘Out of Sight’: its deep and rumbling walls of static back up Berlin's siren-like calls and humming. Behind the mix, Garcia twists knobs and presses buttons to give the music a focal point, hip-hop like beats guiding the rest of the instrumentation and music along slowly. Although it is a fantastic 90’s-ish track and perhaps even an album highlight, there is something blaringly obvious: this is going to be much denser, louder and wild than 'Under My Skin' (not that that is a bad thing). Somehow Berlin and Garcia follow an album highlight with yet another album highlight: the slower, but still as dense, ‘All the Voices’ utilizes a breathy performance by Berlin, backed up by a borderline industrial soundscape of the instruments behind. All the while as the track plays, brilliant ambiance and drone seeps in through the mix, making things heavier and more beautiful. ‘Rising Up’ stands as another absolutely fantastic track: the guitars again create a wall of technical fuzz and feedback, a drum beat again guides the music, but it's vocals are perhaps the most haunting found on the entire release. Things turn into some sort of wildly dark and exotically evocative dance party: equipped with songs you can dance to and songs you can have a neon-lit knife to at the same time.
‘All I Had’ captures a slower and a somewhat more sensual vocal performance by Berlin; meanwhile Garcia turns things down to a trip hop level, creating a mix of loud, noise filled dream pop-esque music. It's placement on the albums track list is also ace. Perhaps my favourite song on the entire album is the stellar ‘Pearls’ in which the vocals and instruments meet in a beautiful kind of harmonic pairing to create a downtrodden afterthought of dream pop. It’s an emotive mixture of contemplative ponderings and long winded passages of sun covered beaches with the texturally white backing of clouds amongst a blue sky. ‘Who Are You Now?’ is, however, much, much darker… Somewhat evil as well I guess. Its slow trip-hop inspired drum beat is accompanied with a creepy sample of bottles clanging together or something? Ambiance and atmospheric strings also add to the landscape even more thoroughly. ‘Ghosts’ is where things start to taste a little over-done: another slow tempo drum beat with breathy vocals make this song one of the more forgettable on 'Calm'. The more upbeat and soundscape inspired ‘When It Moves’ turns things back around, thankfully, injecting some of the elements that made previous tracks an invigorating , engaging and unique listening experience. ‘Get Lost’ is another album highlight, especially its massive, hi-hat trap inspired chorus, which underpins a sweep of ambiance and sampled noise over another brilliant vocal performance by Rose Berlin. Garcia truly turns up the ambiance on this track, weaving thin and slow instrumental sections with larger and more heavier passages of more colourful sounds.
‘Over’ seems to feature the most heavy percussion on the release: the programming with which the band uses is as thick and heavy as ever before. Behind the beats and vocals lies a bizarrely enjoyable sneaking sound of what could be the introductory music to a British detective series, full of rain, shadows and the occasional dash of neon lights. ‘Hours’ seeps all the atmospheric reverb, noise and ambiance into one melting pot of music; creating a dense and somewhat murky soundscape with which the song plays out. Berlin's voice fits well within the context of this kaleidoscopic tornado of sound, proving her graceful voice is a positive point of originality for SPC ECO.
While some elements of 'Under My Skin' (and perhaps SPC ECO themselves) are evident on 'Calm' (think the atmospheric and somewhat trance-inducing instrumentals, as well as the waveringly beautiful vocals), overall it seems the duo have created something somewhat noisier and denser than ever before. Where 'Under My Skin' relied on the atmosphere of each song (which it did very successfully) 'Calm' instead pulls down any filters that Garcia placed over the music previously; opening a flood gate of wall of sound type feedback, and more intricate and involved instrumentals throughout the album. Because of this, 'Calm' is at times more difficult a listen than 'Under My Skin', and while I champion noise, feedback and wall of sound song writing; I can understand why some listeners just may not connect with the album. Similarly, each tracks basic foundation (with some exceptions) is the same: a slow(ish) programmed drum beat plays over soundscapes while Rose Berlin smoothly dances between her upper register and mid-tone, spoken word style sensual vocal deliveries. Thankfully, I can acknowledge and see where the difference between tracks lies, and furthermore how much skill is required to write such music… I just assume some will not. Garcia and Berlin remain as beautifully beguile as ever: some tracks sound as though they should be on film soundtracks, some tracks sound like they should be played in the most warped and harrowing dance club in the world, others just sound completely and utterly mesmerizing in their beauty. Besides, it all really comes down to the artists and the music: a well seasoned and ridiculously talented producer doing what he does best, accompanied by some of his equally talented and interesting friends… And his daughter, who happens to have the kind of pipes that you can play at a demented carnival or a hypnotic lounge-type dinner party. Together they produce a strong, original and commendable album, achieved through programming, production 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: Under My Skin
RELEASE DATE: 10th February 2017
From the mind of CURVE genius Dean Garcia comes the ridiculously good, cold air beauty of SPC ECO; a duo consisting of Garcia and his daughter Rose Berlin, who are set to release the mesmerizing, slow yearning five track EP 'Under My Skin'. It’s honestly an EP I wasn’t exactly bending over backwards to hear as I wasn’t a huge fan of Garcia’s previous collaboration S T F U. But I revoke such reservations to conclude that 'Under My Skin' is in fact a 5/5 EP. It’s choir/orchestral like moods combined with the slow daze of trip hop and a touch of dark wave, helped along by the trance inducing-beauty of Berlin’s vocals make it a slow moving, heavy classic; showcasing the genius of Garcia’s as a producer and acclaimed multi-instrumentalist.
Under My Skin EP by SPC ECO
'Under My Skin' opens with the moving title track that establishes the sound of the project. Built around a slow dream pop inspired keyboard line and the utterly brilliant vocals of Berlin, the song moves into a sweeping orchestral key and remains heavy and drowned for the tracks entirety. The lyrics aren’t anything substantial, but coupled with the music, they make fantastic and meditative tones for the listener. ‘Meteor’ is the duos greatest streak at trip hop; the song builds around a similar group of sounds as the opener, albeit slightly more upbeat, though this time said sounds are reinforced by the slow hits of a drum machine, programmed slowly and swinging in time with the music and the soundscapes within the song. ‘Meteor’ sounds less cinematic than the opener, switching out the orchestra swell for a more synthetic sound; which does wonders for the song.
This beat/darkwave style of synthetic/programmed sound continues on 'Creep In The Shadows' which is perhaps the least significant track on the EP. That’s not to say, however, it doesn’t have its positives; the synthetic notion of the music is enhanced to include a neat reverbed bottle rattling sound in the background of the drum pattern that sits comfortably behind a confusingly auto-tuned/vocal FX enhanced Rose Berlin. And that’s exactly why I feel this track to be less significant than the others; because it is perhaps a little too comfortable. Thankfully Garcia and Berlin turn things in a different direction with the deep electronic track ‘Let It Be Always’; a song that revisits the projects earlier tinkering’s with dream pop but abstracts it using neat and intelligent experimental production techniques.
‘Found’ is the most meditative, dreamy and soothing song upon 'Under My Skin'. It’s truly beautiful stuff; slow and spacey, echoed and hovering vocals hang over the mix. The instrumentation and production turns minimalist while the lyrics suggest of gentle contemplation, of discussion and speech between Berlin and somebody or something that has lost its way. It’s a song about light that doesn’t actually hold much light within itself; ‘When you get lost and found/ And when you get lost for a noun/ Like I lead you there/I will lead you there’ sings Berlin, as she offers a kind of shimmering light to counteract the darkwave undertones of 'Under My Skin'. It’s intro and outro are as slight as each other, and when Berlin's vocals sway away, it’s as if the listeners been gently touched by the singers voice. A truly fantastic song.
Apparently 'SPC ECO' have had the title track featured on MTV’s popular show Teen Wolf, a show that I don’t watch. The main thing that I can deduce, however, from that decision is that for the most part the producers must have very good taste. So good of a taste in fact that I applaud them for featuring it on their show and hope that from doing so, more viewers and listeners out there go out searching for 'SPC ECO'. They definitely deserve it. For this EP deserves recognition; whether it’s for the stellar and professional production, the sweeping instrumentation, the stellar arrangements and instrumentation or if it’s for the breathtaking talent and stature of Rose Berlin’s vocal deliveries. After a few listens of the EP I can say that the father/daughter combination of music and vocals/instruments and lyrics is a 5/5 collaboration that highlights everything creative and interesting about dream pop, trip hop and a genre I generally don’t listen to much of - darkwave! This collaboration puts their strengths forward and creates an engaging and musing piece of music, achieved through top notch production, performance and sound.
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 the Australian heavy music blog, I Probably Hate Your Band.
RELEASE: Red Rooms
RELEASE DATE: 17/07/16
RECORD COMPANY: Coypu Records.
Following on from their stunning full length album release entitled ‘Historias de Frió’ back in 2104, the brilliant Barcelona based darkwave outfit ‘Sexores’ have returned with a blissful six track release entitled ‘Red Rooms’. With an intriguing sound thats full of noisy ambient swirls, ethereal vocalisations and dark repetitive percussive arrangements all gloriously intertwined with soaring walls of layered reverberating guitars, ‘Sexores’ have the ability paint stunning sonic pictures with their music. The band are made up of Emilia Bahamonde - vocals/guitar/programming & David Yépez - drums/programming with various touring members and guest musicians (including Alexander Kretov of UMMAGMA fame) appearing on the album. ‘Red Rooms’ was released back on the 17th July 2016 via Coypu Records and is available to buy/download on various formats right now from: sexores.bandcamp.com
READ ON -
Red Rooms by Sexores
Ethereal vocals coupled with a wall hazily layered guitars announces the arrival of track one ‘Sasebo’ and we’re instantly pulled into a beautiful world of sneaking drum patterns, underlying synth swells and hypnotically cascading piano progressions. The vocals are simply mesmerising as they cut through the swirling instrumentation and instil a gentle calmness over proceedings. Up next, ‘Sea Of Trees’ is a classic slice of beautifully arranged dream pop thats centred around a cascading synth line, a repetitive drum pattern and another blissful vocal performance courtesy of Emilia Bahamonde. ‘Me And The Void’ saunters into earshot riding an explosive drum pattern, dark throbbing bass frequencies and synth swells to die for. Emilia’s vocals shine as they pulse wave after wave of golden hued frequencies through the controlled reverberation and on into the maelstrom of fuzzy tempestuous guitar lines.
‘U.S.S.R Girls’ leans more into the realm of dark electronica with its sequenced synth progressions and repetitive drum patterns whilst the albums penultimate track, the impressive ‘Daywalkers’ instantly flatters with its floating boy/girl vocal attack, courtesy of Emilia & Alex Kretov (Ummagma), coupled with those beautifully arranged synth lines & its glorious instrumentation breaks. The album closes out with the highly atmospheric instrumental piece - ‘Loner’. A dark & foreboding reverberating drone opens proceedings before we’re treated to a slow, repetitive drum pattern and stuttering piano stabs. ‘Loner’ sounds like it belongs on a late 70’s sci-fi soundtrack as it deftly meanders through ambient sonic peaks and throughs, never losing its edge and all the while building slowly into a stunning cacophony of blissful atmospheric noise.
A fitting end to an absolutely stunning album!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Del Chaney has spent the last four 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, DreamPop, PostPunk, PostRock & PsychRock genre’s of music from all over the globe & reviewing them for this blog - The Primal Music Blog. He is also a contributing writer for The Sound Of Confusion. 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.