SBTRKT review

SBTRKT – SBTRKT

“…let the music speak for itself.” – Aaron Jerome

Out of London, England comes one of the freshest new names in the dance scene, that really isn’t a name at all. Aaron Jerome’s alias is about “giving them (DJs) a record as an anonymous person and seeing whether they like it or not. If they play it, they play it.” A cunning move in today’s scene, where it seems everyone wants to be a household name, SBTRKT even wears tribal masks and headdresses to portray himself less as a person and more of a spirit. He has been behind some noteworthy remixes in the past, and SBTRKT has taken a different approach to the process, using various vocalists with their own distinct personalities in his

His self titled album opens with a banging remix that’s almost 20 minutes long. “From Arctic To Alpine” is a bonus track full of alternate versions and all-new material. It’s forward thinking, and unlike most tracks now labeled “dubstep” it isn’t just about sounding like electronic power tools. “Hold On” evokes the other end of the mid 90’s house anthems, focussing on bass beats and chimes. Trials Of The Past” has a cool, relaxing feel, while personal favourite “Wildfire” is powerful and empowering.

The whole album is quintessentialy ideal for after hours fun, the perfect soundtrack for the late hours of the night and the early hours of the morning. The BBC’s Natalie Shaw has described him as a potential successor to Timbaland in terms of production value and possible demand, an enormous accolade for someone that only started up in 2010. Dubstep is definitely in, and SBTRKT has reworked into something beautiful rather than boisterous. The trick is making almost a lack of grinding noise and cacophony, and using the minimalism to tell its own story.

Theophilus London – Timez Are Weird These Days review

He’s rap, he’s hip-hop, he’s soul, he’s funk, he’s pop, and he’s an extremely versatile new artist. Theophilus London has gone from making music in Brooklyn, New York, to releasing his debut full-length album “Timez Are Weird These Days” with Warner Brothers record on July 19th.  I first heard of Theophilus London sometime in 2010 when he released a mixtape called “I Want You”. The big breakout song that most people know him for is the cool and collected “Flying Overseas”, which has well-known artist Solange Knowles singing along in the course.

From his seemingly odd old school fashions to his genre-bending music and expert lyrical skills, Theophilus London is definitely an act to follow. London has managed to take everything that I love about today’s urban music and mash it together with my grandmother’s dream playlist; he’s really onto something. Nylon magazine has gone on to call him “Hip-Hop’s newest cool kid”, and with Timez Are Weird These Days, I feel the title is very well deserved.

The album as a whole never gets dull. Each song sounds fresh and new while somehow managing to keep a familiar feeling to each track.

The first song on the album is the lead single called “Last Name London”. Last Name London is a banging club ready track in which he basically states who he is and lets it be known that he’s not going anywhere.

“Love is Real” brings out London’s more pop side as he tells a tale of falling in love with a “disco queen” with help from Holly Miranda. “All Around The World” is definitely the album’s best. It sounds as if the fame and success is finally hitting him. He raps about kissing his proud mother and telling all of his friends before he embarks on a never-ending tour around the world.

Theophilus London proves his versatility and that he is the next big force to be reckoned with Timez Are Weird These Days. It seems pretty much set in stone, this guy is going to blow up big time, the only question this album leaves unanswered is which A list musicians are going to show up on his next album.

Pictureplane – Thee Physical review

Admittedly, when I first listened to Pictureplane’s sophomore album Thee Physical I didn’t know what exactly to think about it.  I missed out on 2009’s Dark Rift leaving me to navigate the cacophony of electronic influences found on Thee Physical without any sort of contextual bearing.  But there is so much going on in this album musically that there really isn’t much need to clutter the mind with themes, comparisons, and deep insights.

What Travis Egedy, the mastermind behind Pictureplane, has managed to do with his second major label album is create a sound that’s distinction is borne of its diversity.  In my cursive research for this article I found descriptors ranging from gothic to dark wave to synth-pop and all of these have some element of truth to them.  There is certainly a very progressive edge to the album but at the same time it hearkens back to the days of more innocent electronic music.  Back when artists unapologetically used synthesizers and computers to make music that was new, and fresh, and fun.  After 20 or so years of that there seems now to be a need to dress up electronic music with ridiculously complex composition, a featured hip hop artist, or a deep, resounding message that Pictureplane just doesn’t seem to have any interest in.

The only thing remotely resembling a motif on Thee Physical is that of the blurring of gender and sexual roles and the convergence of man and technology.  Just look at some of the song titles.  “Body Mod”, “Sex Mechanism”, “Post Physical”, “Techno Fetish”, and “Trancegender” all allude to some combination of humanity and machinery.  None of this comes across as preachy (or coherent, really) and these recurring ideas are more a sign of the zeitgeist than any sort of message that Egedy is trying to push.  Clearly, the album struck a chord with some listeners as a post from Pictureplane’s Twitter feed just last night read “A lesbian just bought me a drink, kissed me, and told me her girlfriend fucks her with a strap on to my music”.

Thee Physical is by no means a seminal work in the history of electronic music but it is certainly worth a listen.  It comes across as more of a playlist than an album and the whole thing could easily keep a dance floor moving for the duration.  The second half of the record does get a little murky, and without a real standout track to be found a certain monotony can set in.  Nonetheless, Pictureplane has created another solid album and has definitely elevated his status again in the electro world.

John Maus – We Must Become Pitiless Censors of Ourselves album review

Honestly? I couldn’t really get into John Maus’ long-winded ‘We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves’ – an album released in June 2011. The same instrument – possibly an organ or some ancestor or cousin thereof – dominates this collection of music, making it incredibly difficult to hear Maus’ possibly Morrissey-sounding voice (which can only be a shame).

John’s voice is like a faint, annoying noise in the background – like the humming of a computer or white-noise. While every song sounds instrumentally different, his vocals remain stagnant and uninteresting. I’m a huge fan of vocals and lyrics, so when they’re oppressed and hidden behind instruments, it gets to me. You know sometimes when you’re at a concert, the sound sucks and the singer’s voice is all muffled? That’s kind of how this entire album sounds – this might be because he’s singing into one of those old, enormous plastic microphones from your childhood. Or is he? Beats me.

‘Streetlights’ is first up. It opens with some generic, repetitive techno beats, and then Maus begins to mumble his way into your first impression of him (which isn’t a good one). Plus, once you’ve heard this song, you’ve pretty much heard them all. Well, as far as technique, tone, and ‘suck’ go. I have never been a huge fan of music where the instruments overwhelm the singer themselves, so I guess I’m biased in that sense.

The following song is extremely annoying, appropriately entitled: ‘Quantum Leap’ – because that’s exactly what this entire album needs to take… right off of a cliff. Some phony over-the-top, try-hard beat leads us into this let-down of a song. Boo.

‘Cop Killer’ is another song, which repeats: ‘Cop Killer, let’s kill the cops tonight, kill the cop killer.” After that it’s more mumbles that aren’t even worth the effort it would take to decode them. Neither instrument, technique, nor tone has changed.

The album ends with ‘Believer’ and I could actually stand this song. Well, the first eight-seconds that is, before that loud and irritating ‘organ’ thing started playing. My verdict for this album? Mundane. I feel like John’s stone isn’t going to do much rolling, my bet’s on the accumulation of ‘Maus.’

James Ferraro – Night Dolls With Hairspray review

The debate over the boundaries and definitions of what can be considered ‘art’ has been raging without conclusion for literally hundreds of years, and in today’s technological climate it’s easier than ever for so-called artists and musicians to make noise that is to them alone considered music.  One such culprit in this crime against true artistic expression has been the birth of a slew of genres focused primarily if not solely on the idea of finding sounds throughout our world and combining them in some allegedly planned-out amalgamation combined with screaming or chanting some semblance of vocal trash over the top.

I’m not claiming that these genres are completely devoid of interesting or even creative gems as I firmly believe that any style of music will be riddled with at least a few luminaries that set a relatively un-touched standard of true artistic greatness.  Sadly, however, this is not the norm.  I’ve recently come across an album by an artist named James Ferraro that has left me simply stunned for almost all the wrong reasons.

His most recent release entitled, Night Dolls With Hairspray is a painfully lo-fi, endlessly frenetic example of what I consider to be seriously unfulfilled potential. It’s clear that Ferraro has an ear for catchy melodies and rhythms and “Buffy Honkerburg’s Answering Machine” is one place where those favorable traits break through the overlying rubbish, however the sonic quality of the album as a whole leaves much to be desired.

Furthermore the musicality on this release is embarrassing.  With the sheer power of today’s digital editing platforms, there is no excuse for edits that even in the days of analog editing would have stood out as the worst of the worst.  Rarely on this album does a song end with anything more than a simple cut-off at a seemingly random point and time after time the listener can hear how poor placement of samples noticeably interrupts the flow and groove of otherwise decent tracks.

With most music I am able to find at least one thing I can appreciate, however this album proved to be an enormous and ultimately unfulfilled challenge.

Dope Body – Nupping album review

The Baltimore-based noise-punk foursome, Dope Body, released their third record, Nupping, as claimed by their Tumblr page. Most likely one of the only bands courageous enough to list Rage Against The Machine as a guiding influence, they have created an innovative and exhilarating rock album these days.

It is somewhat hard to put a finger on what to say about Nupping. Influences on their press release note nu-metal, Beach Boys and Michael Jackson. Yet, the newest record does not give the slightest hint of any of these influences.  However, Rage Against The Machine is more than evident, especially on the beginning of tracks, such as “Bangers & Yos.”

Dope Body borrow from amalgamations of nu-metal, punk-funk and even spazz-core. The quartet adopts the distinctive music of the alt world appended with loops, askew beats and pedals driving listeners into obscure absentmindedness. It’s striking that Nupping contains a track dubbed “The Shape of Grunge to Come”… perhaps a reference drawing from Refused’s The Shape of Punk to Come ?

Nupping is as close as it gets to replicating Dope Body’s live performance. The album is impeccable in terms of encapsulating Dope Body’s eruptive onstage dynamism. Opening the record with “Enemy Outta Me,” lights a match with a characteristic off count loop, but is hastily coated in blistering rock riffs. Zack Utz, bass and guitar, multitasks with balancing his guzzling stoner riffs against mob of electronic babbles. Yet, where a colossal guitar solo would fit, a static and electrifying squelch fills its place.

If you didn’t sense a Rage influence yet, it is sure to strike you on “Bangers & Yos.” As if playing a rubber band stringed guitar, conjuring up images of “Bulls on Parade,” thankfully the track is disconnected enough to be steps away from a Rage lawsuit.

Dope Body tease and play with signature rock music; wrenching guitars out of key and fabricating vigorous rhythms only to flip the bird when confronted with fist pumping emotional release. Even if Utz’s glitchy breakdown of Tom Morello’s distinctive riffs with his comprehensive pedal system, secretes creative aspirations, deep down Dope Body still give off that punk aroma.

Vondelpark – NYC Stuff and NYC Bags EP review

If you’ve ever thought to yourself “I’m kind of annoyed, but not really. I’m more melancholic than annoyed, but I also have a large desire to sleep” than Vondelparks ‘nyc stuff and nyc bags’ EP is perfect for you. It’s slow and sad in a way that isn’t despairing. Yes, the world can be oppressive, and yes, people have their faults, but tomorrow is a new day. That seems to be the primary feel of the entire 5 song collection, which is a mesmerizing swirl of downtempo beats underneath ambient synths and disconnected vocals; haunting, to say the least.

The highlight of the album is the aptly titled “outro for nyc’ which is the final song on the album. It has a lovely bass line which gives way to a minute and a half of effective minimalistic beats and aforementioned airy, haunting, ambient vocals. Most of the vocalizing on the album is in the form of indecipherable Gregorian-esque chanting, although some track, such as the opener ‘TV’ offer a fairly hearty refrain of “you’re a tv,’ which offers quite a few interpretations.

This little gem of an album is best saved for days where simply relaxing won’t do; when your mood is dark yet you want to revel in it without making it darker. Whether cloud watching or stargazing, these songs seem designed to be listened to while one is at rest, staring into infinity with little care for anything. They’re existential without being too heady, dark without being depressing and simple without being stupid. Overall, definitely worthwhile for anyone who is a fan of a slower Pretty Lights or Gorilla’s more chilled out songs.

Cut Off Your Hands – Hollow album review

The newest album from Cut off Your Hands retains the post-punk influence of “You and I,” but explores the more melancholy side of the genre. Think the Cure’s evolution from “Japanenese Whispers” to “Disintegration.” What started as a modern Indie band with heavy influences from the Smiths and the Talking Heads is taking a deeper turn. Still, it would be unfair to say Hollow is anything but a pop album. Cut off Your Hands proves, just like the Cure did, that pop doesn’t have to be superficial to be catchy. The album works because confessional lyrics are set to post-punk beats.

Whether Hollow does a better job of this than 2008’s “You and I” is a matter of preference- “Hollow” isn’t as catchy and upbeat, but it is more personal. With tracks like, “I’d Rather Be Down and Out,” Cut off Your Hands leaves the break up songs behind in favor of more honest tracks. The new album is moody and introspective, and offers no concessions for its angst.

Cut off Your Hands doesn’t need to make happy music to find a fan base amongst pop listeners, as #21 album in New Zealand “You and I” proved. Still, “Hollow” takes a risk in that it diverges still further from major keys and pat lyrics. Their hooks are still catchy, and their beats still fast. It’s the energetic post-punk drums that really save the album from being a downer. The end of “You Should Do Better” could have been straight off an early-80’s post-punk record, blending into the opening of Nausea (which sounds almost like Just Like Heaven…). “Hollow” knows how to be honest and have mass appeal at the same time.

The flipside of blending pop with introspection, is that the more one listens to the album the more one can hear the meaning. The first time through it’s a dance album. But playing the album on repeat, you can hear the melancholy in every song. This is what makes “Hollow” the perfect play for the last few hours of a party, when there are still a few left dancing but you don’t know quite what to do with yourself.

Cut off Your Hands makes pop out of moodiness without wallowing in it.

The Airborne Toxic Event Announce World Tour Dates Band To Play On The Tonight Show on September 30

The Airborne Toxic Event Announce World Tour Dates Band To Play On The Tonight Show on September 30

Los Angeles’ The Airborne Toxic Event announce dates for their world tour today. The tour finds the band playing shows in both the U.S. and Europe for the remainder of 2011 bringing their dynamic live act from Anchorage to Amsterdam. Their hometown show in Los Angeles will be in front of an audience of 6,000 at the Gibson Amphitheatre. The band have earned their reputation as an aggressive touring act, known for playing more than 350 dates in support of their 2008 debut album release, supporting Kings of Leon, Franz Ferdinand, and many others. For a complete list of tour dates, please see below.

In addition to the live show, the band will be performing on NBC’s The Tonight Show With Jay Leno on Friday, September 30th. The band have already played on The Tonight Show earlier this year, as well as having appeared on CBS’s The Late Show With David Letterman, Conan, ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and CBS’s Last Call With Carson Daly.

This tour comes in support of their successful and acclaimed sophomore album, All At Once, which was released in May on Island/Def Jam to resounding praise. BBC calls All At Once “a crushing classic,” while SPIN called it “the rock’n’roll equivalent of a tear-soaked novella.” Drowned In Sound hailed it as “a resolute triumph in the face of adversity.” The Guardian noted the album’s “instant, stadium-size anthems,” with Paste proclaiming “All At Once matches a stadium sound with a Barfly Soul,” concluding that it is “a kick-ass record.” The record comes not a moment too soon for the Huffington Post, who stated it is”a gorgeous, expansive album. Just when you think stadium bands are dead, here comes The Airborne Toxic Event to make you reach for your lighter.” This is joined by a choir of praise from the band’s hometown of Los Angeles, with KCRW calling the album “passionate, dynamic, anthemic…their expansive sound is too large to be contained,” and the Los Angeles Times proclaiming “this is the sound of a band willing itself into stadiums and Grammy nominations.” Q Magazine noted the powerful genre-bending nature of the album’s tracks, noting that All At Once “Combines U2-esque balladry, glam stomps, rabble-rousing folk and soaring FM pop…it’s just about perfect.”

“Changing” the album’s first single was a juggernaut at alternative radio, landing at #4 on the format’s chart.

Upcoming Tour Dates:

US: Fri Jul 29 – Detroit, MI – The Majestic Theater
Sat Jul 30 – Syracuse, NY – Krockathon
Sun Jul 31 – Rochester, NY – Bonzai 2011
Tue Aug 2 – Burlington, VT – Higher Ground
Wed Aug 3 – Albany, NY – Northern Lights
Thu Aug 4 – Hartford, CT – Webster Theatre
Fri Aug 5 – Pawtucket, RI – The Met
Sat Aug 6 – Philadelphia, PA – 104.5 Free Summer Block Party

V FESTIVAL: Sat Aug 20 – Chelmsford, UK – V Festival – Union Arena
Sun Aug 21 – Stafford, UK – V Festival – Union Arena
Fri Aug 26 – Del Mar, CA – Del Mar Race Track

US: Thu Sep 1 – Anchorage, AK – Bear Tooth Theater
Sun Sep 18 – Austin, TX – Austin City Limits Festival
Sun Oct 9 – Denver, CO – Fillmore Auditorium
Mon Oct 10 – Fort Collins, CO – Aggie Theatre
Wed Oct 12 – Houston, TX – Warehouse Live
Thu Oct 13 – Dallas, TX – South Side Music Hall
Fri Oct 14 – New Orleans, LA – Howlin Wolf
Sun Oct 16 – Pensacola, FL – DeLuna Fest
Fri Oct 21 – San Francisco, CA – Fillmore
Sun Oct 23 – Los Angeles, CA – Gibson Amphitheatre

EUROPE: Wed Oct 26 – Cologne, Germany – Luxor
Thu Oct 27 – Berlin, Germany – The Frannz Club
Fri Oct 28 – Amsterdam, Netherlands – Melkweg
Sun Oct 30 – Hamburg, Germany – Uebel & Gefährlich
Mon Oct 31 – Brussels, Belgium – Botanique
Tue Nov 1 – Munich, Germany – Muffathalle
Thu Nov 3 – Birmingham, UK – HMV Library
Fri Nov 4 – Sheffield, UK – Leadmill
Sat Nov 5 – London, UK – Shephards Bush Empire
Sun Nov 6 – Dublin, IRE – Academy
Mon Nov 7 – Glasgow, Scotland – Arches

US: Wed Nov 9 – Chicago, IL – Riviera Theatre
Thu Nov 10 – Minneapolis, MN – First Avenue
Fri Nov 11 – Kansas City, MO – Beaumont Club
Sat Nov 12 – Indianapolis, IN – The Vogue
Sun Nov 13 – Columbus, OH – Newport Music Hall
Tue Nov 15 – Toronto, ON – Phoenix
Thu Nov 17 – Baltimore, MD – Ram’s Head Live
Fri Nov 18 – New York, NY – Terminal 5
Sat Nov 19 – Boston, MA – Orpheum Theater
Tue Nov 22 – Washington, DC – 9:30 Club
Wed Nov 23 – Charlotte, NC – The Fillmore
Sun Nov 27 – Atlanta, GA – Buckhead Theater
Tue Nov 29 – Tampa, FL – Ritz
Wed Nov 30 – Orlando, FL – Beacham Theater
Wed Dec 7 – Tempe, AZ – Marquee Theater

Guitar Virtuoso Joe Robinson

AUSTRALIAN GUITAR VIRTUOSO JOE ROBINSON
SETS SUMMER 2011 FOR NEW RELEASE

GEARS UP FOR SERIES OF FALL TOUR DATES

GUITAR PLAYER MAGAZINE 2010 READER’S POLL “BEST NEW TALENT”

Acclaimed guitar virtuoso and singer/songwriter Joe Robinson has returned to the studio to begin work on his third cd, slated for release summer 2011. Songs from the forthcoming set were recently showcased in Canada and the U.S., which included a return to NYC for the third time this year. Recording is underway in Nashville with CMA & ACM Award winning producer Frank Rogers (Brad Paisley, Darius Rucker). The as yet un-titled collection will mark the first time ever Robinson will include vocals; he has penned all the tracks and enlisted the well-known musicians Keith Carlock (drums) and Michael Rhodes (bass) to join him in the sessions.

Following two acoustic releases, Time Jumpin’ and his debut Birdseed, the 20-year-old Australia’s Got Talent star and Guitar Player Magazine’s Best New Talent Reader’s Poll winner noted, “I’m so excited about recording and can’t believe I’m playing with these musicians. This is the album I’ve always dreamed of making, it is a huge leap for me personally and as an artist. I can’t wait to share it.”

Earlier this year, Robinson toured major cities where he performed to packed houses. Highlights of the tour included an interview with NPR’s Talk of the Nation and a feature in The Boston Globe, which cited, “A true wonder from Down Under, Joe Robinson has got fingers of fire. You can see why he won first place on ‘Australia’s Got Talent’ and has made fans out of Steve Vai and the late Les Paul.” Guitar World Magazine recently featured Joe in a full feature in their September 2011 issue. He also has recently met with and played for The African Children’s Choir during their Nashville stop.

Born in Australia and almost completely self-taught, Robinson has performed with some of the biggest names in music, including Les Paul, Steve Vai and The Wailers, among others. He has already headlined shows all over the world in places such as London, New York, Sydney, Milan, Rome, Bangkok, and Tokyo, among others. In June, 2010 Joe was invited to perform at the prestigious Bonnaroo Music Festival.

Joe Robinson contributed his self-penned “Daddy Longlicks” to Lee Ritenour’s 2010 6 String Theory album, also featuring BB King, John Schofield, Slash, Pat Martino, etc. Guitar Noise called Robinson an “amazing young Australian acoustic guitar virtuoso,” and Guitar International said his performance on the album “is of particular note” and “showcases his solid groove, inventive musicianship and incredible technique.”

In 2008, Joe became the first place winner of the popular televised talent competition “Australia’s Got Talent.” He then went on to become the youngest and first instrumentalist to win the 2009 “World Championships of Performing Arts” in Hollywood, a competition which included over 70,000 contestants from 47 countries. Reflecting on his almost decade-long career, Robinson says “Turning into a lyrical and instrumental songwriter, and not just being a young guitar virtuoso is teaching me a lot about myself, and I’m really excited about this development process and where it will lead. I’ve got a feeling I will be a completely different person 6 months from now. Exciting times.” We couldn’t agree more.

Tour Dates:

September 2, 2011 The Red Stone Room Davenport, IA
September 3, 2011 Shank Hall Milwaukee, WI
September 4, 2011 Minnesota State Fair St. Paul, MN
September 5, 2011 Minnesota State Fair St. Paul, MN
September 6, 2011 Schuba’s Chicago, IL
September 8, 2011 Hoyt Sherman Place Des Moines, IA
September 9, 2011 The Capitol Theater Madison, WI