Thursday, February 28, 2013

Madame Machine/Twenty First Century Fox Split Seven Inch

The demise of the Louisville band Venus Trap in 2009 was definitely a glum moment for me. VT's proggish blend of unpredictable melodies and rhythms minced with two strong female vocals that weaved around each other and then met in some electrical state of stainless harmonies made for some of the most imaginative rock in this town. Carried within the quartet were some of the best musicians in Louisville, and luckily the group's split became one of those success stories that has produced several offshoot projects that are as interesting, or even moreso, than the original company.

The Venus Trap family tree has grown over the last couple of years in the form of several bands. Vocalist/guitarist Stephanie Gary played out with The Frequent Sea in 2011. That same year, drummer Stephen Shoemaker and bassist/synth player Salena Filichia started Madame Machine with guitarist/vocalist/synth David Cundiff (of Lucky Pineapple). In 2012, Stephanie and Salena reunited to create Julie of the Wolves. Vocalist/guitarist Miranda Cason joined and recorded with She Might Bite, released her solo recordings under the name Danica Ransom, and finally went on to form Twenty-First Century Fox. A lot of great music has come from the four musicians that made up the final version of Venus Trap.

Saturday March 2 will see the release of a split seven-inch between Madame Machine and Twenty-First Century Fox. This will be Madame Machine's second seven-inch and Twenty-First Century Fox's debut release.

The Madame Machine (MM) side of the record sees the band position itself further into it's own self-created levee of creative modern prog-psych. On both sides, Salena's bass acts as both lead guitar and backbeat binder, keeping an ear to and playing around current drummer Forrest Kuhn's hustling spherical percussion. "The Greagle" hints at a Rush lick that levels into a groove that follows David's unhurried vocals with a shimmery vocal even slightly reminds me of acid-tripped Geddy Lee. The bass gets meaner and the beat hastens into a screeching end that makes me crave to see this live. David's synths swell meaner into the feedback. "Suspicious Animals" almost reads like a volume of lush breadth, with Salena again providing a warm creek of rhythm that streams into a build that meets up with a synchronized power riff that embraces the leisure of the song.

The Twenty-First Century Fox side (TFCF) begins with "Falcore," a pyromantic push that barks the band's three guitarists -- Miranda, Laura Quimby and Sean Gardner (of Neighbor) -- straight into the drive of drums sounded by Gregory Ward (of Karass). Quimby takes lead vocals for this track, followed into the chorus by Miranda's harmonies. This is aggressive tight rock that sways with a catchiness and stays fast-paced. "Juicy's Bowl" cross the switch, with Miranda taking the "lead" plush vox, Quimby harmonizing, all of it beginning with a cool sparse synth intro that is joined by an almost new-wavish noted guitar. That plushness leads to a brittle nodding shift that breaks and crunches, then pulls back and rejoins itself again. This is an impressive debut for this band. Looking forward to their future.      

Both Madame Machine and Twenty-First Century Fox are exploring some heavy escapes into interesting concepts that twist the hairs between complicated slants and straight loud explorations. Definitely recommended.

The seven inch is available through Noise Pollution Records. The release show takes place at Third Street Dive on Saturday March 2.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Animal City - "See You in the Funny Pages"

Here's the thing about Chicago quartet Animal City: I was going to pay my electric bill last week, realized I didn't have the money, and decided to listen to "Worst Kind of Crush" to cheer me up. Is it because they sing about doing drugs with your friends? I don't know. Well, yeah, it is. This is pop music made that goes into dark places with a sense of humor. Or maybe it's a sense of humor that can go into dark places. Mood lifting shit that makes sour milk go down easier. 
My brain is in a weird place today, and I think the band's main songwriters Sal Cassato and Dakota Loesch's brains were in that weird place, too, when writing material for their second album "See You in the Funny Pages." This recording is decorated with deviceful and pictorial  lyrics about making mistakes and bad decisions, living in a confused state, and sometimes I don't know what all, thrust through a fieldglass of mod postures that span a novel of musical influences. Sometimes I swear I hear 80s-style pop tunes meshed into college rock. I mean, what, I can name drop to try and describe this sound, but its a broken levee that lets original ideas and creative twists and turns on songwriting that belies a cliche for what is pop music. Fine, I will name drop. Animal City sounds like Huey Lewis writing songs for the Magnetic Fields with members of the Pixies arranging the songs. No it doesn't. But that did jump into my head while listening to this album.

There are loose harmonies and trumpets. There are guitar sections and drum beats and electronic blurts that make you want to dance in your office. All of this all mixed up and tumbled with those lyrics that make you smile when they dwell with earnestness in a cache of sometimes twisted humor that is probably real life. I mean, songs about being high with your girlfriend and passing time lying around with her in her bedroom, leaving your coat at her place on purpose, knowing all the boys she's been with and knowing she flips out sometimes, hanging out in you're birthday suit, looking for drugs, smelling bad, feeling like your not worth anything, not sleeping and then making out, these are things I relate to. These are hot summer nights in the winter.

I bet this album is probably the best road trip album in the world.   

Out on Sophomore Lounge.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Neighbor - "Neighbor"

The self-titled debut CD from Louisville trio Neighbor is a quick run through pounding, pounding and pounding. Seeing this band live is like a mountain buffalo kicking your chest, and the CD envelopes that size and punch that the Neighbor people are.

The Neighbor people include bassist/vocalist Adam Kirby, drummer Aaron Sortman (both formerly of Zombie Chickens from Outer Space) and guitarist Sean Gardner (Twenty First Century Fox, Bu Hao Ting). Part punk, part thrash and part noise, "Neighbor" is a machine that never stops the pulleys from moving. Ten songs at close to 21 minutes, it's impressive how powerfully and rapidly the album slams open and never fucking subsides its push. Most of the songs poll in at around two minutes, never hovering more than to deliver the point. I appreciate that kind of aesthetic, and it keeps the album on this scale of move that never bores or lessens.

 There are moments of a KARP or Harvey Milkish sludge on these songs, with Sortman's toms and Kirby's dirtily distorted bass hammering rivets. Kirby uses the bass as much to hold the rhythm in the backbeat as he does to serve as an underlying beefy bearer of the riffs. Gardner's guitar is impressive as shit, acting as a beehive of unrelenting noisy anchor that drops into and weaves around the songs, going all aggravated staccato, then flying off somewhere into an intricate speed note space, to come back and bandy the song back into the ground. And Kirby's low, throaty, growling vocals are perfect in this setting.  

 The breakdown in the latter half of "Two Shadows" is representative of this monsterfest: intricate fastpaced riffs pushed into the red and played with enough paganism and volume that the technique never threatens to drift leeward from the punk. And you can hear the madness that is Sortman's drumming. "Hordes" clocks in as their longest opus at 3:35, and acts as epic bullhorn on the album, almost anthemic.  Gardner's nimble lead on "Gunjumper" falls into an almost tricky hardcore thrash tune. "Televangelist" jumps between a catchy pummeled bass line and a mound of shredding. This whole thing is a great, loud, fast thing.


Neighbor will celebrate the release of the album this Friday, February 8, at Zanzabar with guests Anwar Sadat.