Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mirage Montage - "Letters to Long Lost Loves"

About a month ago, I meandered into a party I was sort of invited to at the last minute. As soon as I stepped through the apartment door around midnight, a seven foot man with a beard, eyeshadow and witch hat sat at the piano to the left of me and started belting out clangy blues/folk tunes that seemed to be rooted in a New Orleans-via-gypsy gospel momentum. He was quickly joined by a chorus of women singing behind him and they serenaded the party apartment with these tunes late into the night.

 Afterwards, I found out this was Mirage Montage, a band led by the songs of the man on the keys, Noah Church. And this was a rehearsal for their (at the time) upcoming show celebrating Mardi Gras and the release of their debut CD, "Letters to Long Lost Loves." Thankfully, I attended that show on January 18 and grabbed myself a copy of this album.

 Besides Noah, Mirage Montage features a group of musicians that are some I know from being formerly involved in other bands, and some who I've only see impressively perform since. Members of what has become my favorite family band in Louisville include percussionist/vocalist Katherine Slaughter (former She Might Bite), singer/accordion and saw player Lucey Guthrie (Reading Group), old time music banjo player/vocalist Heather Summers,  vocalist Sazi Thomas, singer/songwriter Alex Udis, as well as guitarist/bassist/keyboardist/drummer/vocalist Chyppe Crosby, vocalist Rose Bell and fiddler Anna Kripenstaple.

These are songs that contain public acknowledgments of lost love, whether that be through the rigors of snuffed romance or the pruriency for the company of someone lost forever from other circumstances. This album follows a leap through what seems a cycle that may have lasted weeks or a year or a life of joy, grievance over loss, and then the acceptance and triumph of the walls it sometimes takes to scale and live again. The sound ain't in anyway similar, but it reminds of the toll and times described on Willie Nelson's "Phases and Stages." The searching ("Rippin and Runnin"), the meeting ("Lovespell"), the exuberance ("Sugar Poison"), the loss and hurt ("Lady Love," "Lovesick Heartbroke," ), the renewal ("Thru with Blu").

There's a boast of vaudevillian showmanship from Noah's vocal delivery, musicianship and definitely in his live performance. This is bowed with his obvious sincerity in the lyrics and presentation of the arrangements and music itself. Noah's vocals sometimes lilt into a piano-based Dead Milkman belting with a heavenly chorus mixed with a little Tim Roth, 60s girl groups, Hedwig, Gordon Gano, Harry Nilsson and Jeff Magnum. Either way, it succumbs to its own original sound.

The heavenly chorus becomes such presence into and of itself so well in songs like "Memory of Now" and "Rippin' and Runnin.'" 

There's a certain Tom Waitishness, at least from my perspective, smattered through some of these tracks, in both on the style, instrumentation and lyrics. Heartbreak can be like lead poisoning, and this album displays it in songs like "Lovesick Heartbroke" and "No One's Got a Love Song (For Me and My Man)," which are as close to true poetry as you can get when dealing with unrequited love and heartache. That song takes the cake as one of the best tunes of the year. "Thru with Blu" resides in the same plateau, bragging punkish Violent Femmesion resilience to said heartbreak and then  rises to a such a jolly chorus about losing the blues tonight.

 This magic happens the most with the CD and live show closer "Alone with You," a gospel-fed piece featuring performances by each vocalist in turn taking the concept of the love that exists in even in its own absence. The fiddle of Kripenstaple carries the end chorus through the skinned woebegone battlefront of hurt into some semblance of the crash that says "it's ok."

Spiritual. Recommended.

Available at Underground Sounds in Louisville.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ma Turner and Bonemoss - "The Vibrant Light"

Much like the cover art of this recording, music on "The Vibrant Light" is a scarce collection of crookedly crossed lines of melody representing the moodiness and overall fucked-up nature that is Ole Kentucke. This seven song release is Ma Turner's followup to the 2011 album "My Wheels Are Your Wheels and Your Wheels Are Fire". This time around he is joined by the trio Bonemoss, who add guitar and "backups."

The album is concocted of three cover songs and four originals that join together into a mass of pieces that mesh a journeyed pensiveness with a raid through the unpredictable wandering that is Turner's mind. He expressed to me that "The Vibrant Light" was a response to certain levels of grind that have presented themselves within his life during the last two years. This EP is the result of one of the most interesting and prolific songwriters I know in the area running plainly on a musical purging here. Heart displayed visibly on a cathartic sleeve.

Turner's style can vary considerably from project to project. "The Vibrant Light" can bear relations to times to certain slower and darker moments hidden within his band Cross, it never bellows into the Sabbath-attacks that can populate their recordings. Instead, this EP shares more in common with some of the earlier recordings from Turner's Warmer Milks project, as well as the "My Wheels" album. In fact, "Vibrant" almost serves as a sequel in particular minutes and notes, sharing a similar pruned aesthetic, although in a more minimalistic setting.

"Lost in Heaven" sets the tone as heavily strummed acoustic guitar accompanies Ma's voice that swims in a deep and almost morose reverb, ending in a watery electric solo that leads to a half-chant. Turner breaks Judas Priest's "Heading Out to the Highway" down to a sparse psychedelic acoustic version that sounds like something the metal band would have done if they had recorded the song in 1974 rather than in 1981. Waylon Jennings' "Ride Me to the Highway" is broken into a ballad sung for broken people in a living room at 3am. "Floridian Affair," one of Turner's songs, is an instrumental with both a slow tempoed rhythm line that is eventually panicked by the overlayered lead with quiet spoken lyrics in the background. Television Personalities' "A Picture of Dorian Gray" becomes the prettiest piece, finding some peace in its lyrics. "Christ in a Garden" is a dreamy but disconcerting and drooping perspective on love leading to the close with the darkly frantic bluegrass instrumental "Kentucke Stoic." 


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Rude Weirdo - "No Pink"

Rude Weirdo is not a band that stays in one place for very long.  I've seem them play punk shows, swing headlong and fearlessly into modern R and B, sidestep into garage, then make-out with synths and change it all up all over again. They have no fear of trends of musical cliques and make themselves unpinned and forward of any categorization. And they bring the insanity cornmeal with their newest EP, "No Pink," released on December 29, 2012.

Formed in 2007 as the mindstray of songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Eric Ronay, the band has released three recordings, including this self-titled seven-inch in 2011 on Noise Pollution, and now this new collection. There is a full-length that was recorded with Louisville drummer Tony Bailey two weeks before he passed away in 2009 called "Barnyard Scratch," but that remains unreleased.

This is their sex EP. Or maybe it isn't. It can swing either way, and I'm sure they do. Or maybe all of their recordings are their sex recordings. Rude Weirdo's recordings are the soundtrack to your night out wearing a blue medical johnny gown with your ass fully exposed at some secret seance furry orgy that features an Icelandic novelist juggling cats in the corner. RW takes no prisoners with these five jingles about nipples, gold, and licking.

This is dance music with synths and beats exploding out your ass along with some proudly implosive semi-rapping by Ronay as Pete Sweenis. Guitars and electronics and a cabinet of unpredictable instrumentation jump up and around all over this EP. Sweenis asserts how much the ladies love him from the initial title track, a declaration I believe to be truth. The whole album experiments with party music, going into psychedelic frolic-core. This is fun made for straightjacketed pimps.

My favorite track is "The Trickiest Centipede," with Sweenis proclaiming that he is a "lyrical Hercules" over top a buckaroo whoompf bass, leading into a chorus that is fucking amazing: "WOW KISSY KISSY WOW KISSY KISSY WOW KISSY KISSY WOW." This is my new life mantra. When you see me next, flashing my bucks and winking at the girls, I'll explain it to you. There is no part of this album that isn't bombastically awesome. There is a new way to freedom and it is Rude Weirdo.



Wednesday, January 9, 2013

2012 Music Review.

It was a busy year locally and regionally for original music in and around Louisville and Lexington. So much so, I couldn't keep up with all of it. While this is in no way a complete list of all the great stuff that was released in '12, it's a list of the recordings with which I spent the most time. And as with the American Gloam summary that existed last year, they are in no order whatsoever. This ain't a contest.

Cross - "Die Forever" (Sophomore Lounge): Definitely one of my favorite releases of the year, if not my favorite. R. Clint Coburn's channeling of  Ian Curtis and Jim Morrison through Ma Turner's resinous Sabbath riffs have garnered nothing but repeated listenings on my part. A complete flag wave of influences rechurned into something pretty damned creative and new.

J. Marinelli - "Young Spillers" (Stencil Trash) and split cassette with The Elsinores (Karmic Swamp/Space Cadet): Banging and clanging one man band that goes in the red and seeps out some of the best melodic breaches of songwriting I know from this region. This man is a songwriting machine, and the songs have stayed in my head all year.

Plastic Bubble - "Treble Treasure Chest" (Carpathian Cassette Label) - Louisville power pop that breathes the atmosphere of twee in such catchy manners. A decade long vision realized by singer/songwriter Matt Taylor finally fruiting and well worth the wait. Lo fi orchestrations and brockled with so many shades and colors it's beautiful piece.

Furlong/Sick City Four split seven inch (Gubbey Records): Gubbey's split series continues with this combination of the erect lo-fi of scene staples Furlong meeting the sax-cornet-guitar-drum rumble of the legendary Sick City Four's style of jazz that always seems to explore sound in general.

 Humongous - "Miniature Pinschers" (Black Velvet Fuckere Recordings/Adept Recordings/Consanguinous Records): Up there as one of the most creative rock recordings released this year, Humongous mixes genres and influences into something that is basically undefinable. From catchy country melodies next to frantic cornet rock to exploratory garage jazz, this is one of the most inventive albums released this year. Any year.

  Kirk Kiefer - "Sailing Stones": Singer/songwriter Kiefer's return after the demise of long time band Yardsale, this album is a soulful and blissful mix of catchy and intelligent country/folk/roots-based fun. A layered culmination that shows love for 60s pop defined in a variety of territories that all seem to work.

The Debauchees - "Schrodinger's Cat Is Dead": Self released masterpiece debut from a band of 19 year olds that can only mean insane things to come. This female fronted trio has continued to catch attention with their creative mix of new wavish mirth. They have definitely developed into an original sound that is not present in any other act in Louisville that I've heard. So impressive.

Giving Up - "(Peace Sign/Frown Face)" (Sophomore Lounge): Warbly, energetic, melodic, harmonic duels between organ and guitars that sing-songs through sad and happy in some unreal lo-fi heaven. Really. It was hard for me to stop listening to this album. I'm mad at how good it is.

French Letters - "In Tongues": Not a regional release, but a Seattle band featuring Kentuckian/Ohioan poet/singer Michael Crossley, this is swagger in the form of a bluesy combination of the Stones and the Stooges that is cemented by Mike's mind bleeding and orgasming all over the page. Songs about guns, drugs, girls and the love of fried chicken taken to a religious place.

Tropical Trash: "Fear of Suffering" (Sophomore Lounge): The seven inch of seven inches this year, Tropical Trash confused and melted me with their strange disjointed, confrontational rock. This record reached into my prostrate. I made me anxious and happy with its scariness. Loud destructo-insanity noise.

Ninnie - "Freedom Rings Placed Within" (Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts): Once an outlier of warblish country music that reflected creative introspection on classic female country music (Cline, Lynn, etc), Ninnie's music here grows sparse and oftentimes mysterious, anchored in an electric dulcimer and her voice and her mind, which goes unpredictable places. I liken this to breaching country and instead mining into the drones of Velvet Underground areas.

 Tender Mercy - "The Road to Good Intention Is Paved with Hell":  Mark Kramer's concentrated meld of guitar and voice that creates a lush, moody album that braves through minimalism into a propounded beauty of a project.

 Madame Machine - s/t seven inch (Noise Pollution): A recording of scene veterans Salena Filichia, Stephen Shoemaker and David Cundiff delving into their own frazzle of prog-rock and synthish new wave that blew my mind upon its release. "Snakeface" gets my vote for best song of the year.

The Bottom Sop - "The Bottom Sop": Definitely one of my favorite releases of the year, this debut EP from rests easily in the realm of older, classic country, while still sounding 2012. Sure, full disclosure included that this features my brother, singer/songwriter Derrick Wade Manley, but I've explained that already. I'm completely impressed with his Haggardish vocals harmonizing and dueting with Lindsey Anderson's powerful voice. A recorded honky-tonk.

Seluah - "Red Parole" (Karate Body Records) - The return of Seulah saw the band sink into a noirish setting of Sabbathy thick rock that teeters between Blue Cheer riffs and villainous electronics. At times it almost gets trails into ambience that could be the soundtrack for some unreleased film.

Adventure - "Brou-Ha-Ha":  A wonderful mix of upbeat power pop and great tearjerkers with a lean into country and garage territories, always straddling the line between the two. Both Joe and Phil Medley's songwriting skills are heavily evident all over this disc.

Benanthrope  - "Saddest of Bastards": Intriguing debut from multi-instrumentalist Ben Anthrope (aka Ben Lally), this EP walks through various lo-fi/experimental versions of blues, country and folk. Each song is crafted as a soundscaped house for some great lyrics, all incorporating a variety of instruments.

Whistle Peak - "Half Asleep Upon Echo Falls" (Karate Body Records): Released earlier in 2012, this album offers some amazing experimental pop that soothes itself in a layered pop. Elements of folkish pop bathed in electronics that gets memorably dream-like real fast.

J. Glenn - "Magick Eagle Ate the Magic Snake": Total DIY second release from J. Glenn, formerly a one-man-band, always experimental in his directions and presentation. Glenn's songwriting always gets to me, being founded in country elements, but rarely staying in one place, placing punk and garage in loosely.

Life Partner - "Dogs" (Sophomore Lounge): Based in Chicago, released by Louisville-based SL, this is the pet project of Aaron Osbourne. A down-strummed, distorted acoustic piece that elevates depression and humor onto stilts. Low-burning songs that stay in your head after you hear them once.

Black God - "Two" (No Idea Records): Goddamn awesome real Louisville hardcore. This band does no wrong. They blew my mind at Cropped Out in 2011. The recordings are just as good.  

She Might Bite - "Feral": So good. "Feral" captures the heavy harmonies so well laid down by Tara Kimes, Miranda Cason and Kathryn Slaughter that make this band so unique. All three musicians on this record bring so much energy to their instruments, swinging through plunked bass, surf guitar and pounded drums. I can never get "Gimme Orange" out of my head.    

Again, not even close to a complete list of some of the great stuff that came out in 2012 in and around the area. Check out some of the other summations of the year on these fine Louisville-based blogs:

The Decibel Tolls
Louisville MUSICulture
Backseat Sandbar
Never Nervous

And sorries to the bands I didn't make it to. So many good recordings out of this region this year, it was difficult to stay ahead. Onward.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Opposable Thumbs

What's set forth on the debut from Opposable Thumbs is a punk that's broken down into beaten beakers of some of the best sloppy crud rock ever bridled onto a laudatory synth-monster. It's part party and part sweated garage rock. The band proofs between slushy guitar that swims through heavy bass and a tightened tug of percussion while backboarded by thrashing electronics. "She Rolls It" just made me throw a beer cap at my classical guitar.

OT is not a band that subscribes to one overall leading factor, which makes the CD a nice well-rounded pop to the head. Every instrument is as key and in your face; none overtake the order of the chaos being preached. It's stripped down post-punk that has a almost considerable dance to it. Not dance rock; fuck that. This digs into late 70s/early 80s vibes. I spent New Years weekend blasting this with my frequent collaborator JT Dockery and he threw in that it definitely had a Gang of Four sense, and I agree with that. 

The crud rock reference comes from a genealogy that dates back to the late 90s/early 2000s Louisville scene. Synthist Bill Montgomery goes back to The Shit House Poets and The Heels, two of the first bands I ever knew of from Louisville, back when I was in laudanum land in Lexington and had lost touch with my Louisville roots. He also sports time in Sapat and Lost Subway. Bassist Terri Whitehouse has been present throughout the scene, spending time in the awesome Four Banger. Guitarist Eric Supplee has been a scene staple and lent fucked up guitar to Activated Peat, Whiskey Dick and The Bad Blood. Drummer Andy Matter held court in The Touched, one of the biggest bands in my head of all time, as well as Red Light Relay, Furlong, Mimi Von Schnitzl and The Health and Happiness Family Gospel Band. And singer Jeremy Bauer has been in and out of time with Truckbed Love and Trashy Cougar before bending his voice to this project.

In a way, Opposable Thumbs acts as a super group of crud, brought forth in a futuristic form. It's synth and plunked bass providing a back beat that lets Eric's bent guitar rip and chug through like a chariot on fire and the rest of the players poised in mostly minute and a half atlases of graveling trash rock that travels through time.

Seeing the stage show, singer Jeremy jaunts and waves his brains and arms in preacher-stance,  giving sermons of jagged punk amongst stripped down rhythm and soul. And lo, though he may be delivering words of fire and apocalypse, they come right next to righteous talk of rolling and feeling good. Terri's bass style acts as a potent anchor that bounds through the recording and binds the band. Eric splatters his guitar all over the wall of this record, smearing strings, spilling riffs, and wallowing in somewhere in a wedge of garage and post-something or another. Goddamn it, Andy Matter has been one of my favorite drummers since I first saw him blam behind the aforementioned crud bands back in the early 2000s. He's someone who has always straddled a heavy-handed precision mixed with an unruly fuck-all pounding. And Bill's synths add the extra secret ingredient of OT. Often hiding behind a steel suitcase that makes him look like a secret agent buried in his laboratory experiments, his head popping up in between songs to breathe after submersing himself in pressurized mechanized blurts of terror and fight. I keep expecting him to eventually rise from behind his shielded suitcase of noise and attack the crowd with balloons full of lasers. Only time will tell, I guess.

This band seems to me to be a perfect culmination of a history of Louisville's crud rock scene rolled together and spit out. The unhinged destruction of convention still exists pounded through a discipline that keeps the songs together and groovy. When I listen to this, I want to smell like beer.

Recommended. Out on Gubbey Records, available through their site and all the fine record stores in Louisville.

Opposable Thumbs will hold a record release party for the album at Zazoo's (102 Bauer Ave) on Saturday, January 5.