Category Archives: Lo-Fi

Orchid Tapes Angeltown II Showcase

We all express a sense of uniformity when we discuss niches, eras, and begotten circles of social inquiry and debacle. Whatever the hell you would like to refer to the intestines of culture and mass society, these places and times and people are kept preserved in solid moments in time by certain people, collectives, and instruments to progressing this sensational philosophical shift, paradigm change. Orchid Tapes, a label who was created by the impeccable team of Warren Hildebrand and Brian Vu, has come a long way since its beginning and Saturday Night’s Angeltown Showcase exemplifies that enthusiastically. As people cued for a place inside the compact warehouse, a considerable amount of the goers were already inside as I journeyed to the back of the line. In fear that I wouldn’t get to see the first act I showed up about half an hour early and noticed a beautifully placid man standing outside by a tree. This man was none other than Mathew Cothran (Coma Cinema/Elvis Depressedly). A good way to gauge how a show might be is to see how the musicians look, and whenever I talk to an Orchid Tapes band they are more thrilled to be performing than the audience is to see them perform. When an atmosphere like that is spawned, it not only radiates positive creativity that should be harbored but, it also dissuades one from thinking that music has become something it has fiddled with being over time; Better than its audience, celebrating itself, and trying to be gaudy in intellect. The reason Orchid Tapes remains one of the most emotionally impactful and intelligible labels is due to its artist roster. Ricky Eat Acid, Foxes In Fiction, Elvis Depressedly, Alex G, The Bilinda Butchers, RL Kelly, Happy Trendy, to name a few, have all built repertoires around some of the most poignant, sophisticated, and profound works I have heard in my life. I have failed to not become emotional over any one of the act’s pieces. It is impossible, and I feel that sentiment is shared in abundance with the rest of their audience. Their musicians are so artistically captivating and intelligent that, dare I say it, Orchid Tapes has become the new 4AD. I’ve never salivated so much over showcases and releases since Captured Tracks was conceived. Saturday’s showcase was yet another testament to the foundation that Warren and Brian have built. It touched upon their prolific catalogue, and gave insightful compositions to their young audience; Who I’m glad to see have picked up the torch from the first generation of listeners that spurred when Orchid Tapes began. Four Visions was enigmatic, giving hauntingly devoted orchestrations that seemed to creep up with bombardment and subtly wash the painstaking gaunt of tortured mentality. Foxes in Fiction’s performance was more than just a fantastic set, it transcended and showed off Hildebrand’s music genius. Which so serenely fits in between Shoegaze, Dreampop, and indie pop. All of which create a verbose array of personifying tonal melodies that fill the room with warmth, glow, and self-reflection. The Bilinda Butchers kept the ambience flowing , with bopping, swooping Shoegaze that made the entirety of the warehouse begin moving like intricate mechanics. A traditionaly Shoegaze band who have the essence and minds for the genre. Something that fixs but, finds itself growing and experimenting with itself. The Butchers are a compliment to their Creation and 4AD contemporaries. They were so brilliant, it started to rain. To end such a beautifully etched night of music, Elvis Depressedly/Coma Cinema undertook a clenching set. Beautiful and short, Cothran orchestrated a wellcrafted set, for which matches the one he played almost a year ago at the first Angeltown Showcase. Thus, we now stand with our last two musicians of the evening. Rachel Livy and Alex G. Unfortunately I could not stay for Alex G, and I’m eternally in regret over that, luckily he may (heavy emphasis on the may) return to Los Angeles *hint, hint*. Rachel Livy is one of my favorite performers and seeing half of her set was still a privilege I won’t forget. Any time I see her she livens a room, and drags energy out of people. To this, I’m sure Alex G accompanied a great set after her’s. As I said once, Alex G is one of the best songwriters, comparably to that of Elliott Smith, James Murphy, Ian Curtis, and label mate Mat Cothran. Speaking in assumptions, I can only imagine that his set was nothing short of emotional and outstandingly impeccable. Thank you Warren, Brian, and the bands for curating, again, another Showcase which will be reminisced and discussed for many years to come.

Four Visions

Four Visions

Four Visions

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Foxes In Fiction

Foxes In Fiction

Foxes In Fiction

The Bilinda Butchers

The BIlinda Butchers

The Bilinda Butchers

Elvis Depressedly/Coma Cinema

Elvis Depressedly/Coma Cinema

R.L. Kelly

R.L. Kelly

Alex G

Alex G

Alex G

Photos: Destiny Moran

Alvvays: Alvvays

Alvvays: Alvvays

No one knows how important first impressions are better than musicians. As a listener, you never know what you’re going to get with a debut LP or EP. A delightful surprise has come to us in the debut album from Alvvays, a likable indie pop outfit from Toronto, Canada. The sincerity in their songwriting makes for an introductory effort that is endearing. Combine this with frontwoman Molly Rankin’s soft vocals and fuzzy guitar-pop melodies, and you have the start of something  wonderful.

Following suite with bands like CHVRCHES or DIIV,  Alvvays’ unconventional spelling is actually pronounced “always.” I’m hesitant to call their relaxed sound “carefree” because it is evident that each song on the album is carefully-constructed and thought out. Alvvays kicks off with “Adult Diversion”, which immediately recalls “Crazy for You“-era Best Coast.  The successor track, “Archie, Marry Me”, shares the same light, a summery feel and lyrics dripping with sweetness as well as being relatable, “You’ve expressed explicitly your contempt for matrimony/You’ve student loans to pay/you would not risk the alimony.” Rankin sings.  She then continues on to sweetly serenade the song’s leading man, Archie, in hopes that he will change his mind and marry her.

Though most of the album sounds pleasing to the ear, not all of the content is exactly light. Take “Next of Kin,” one of the standout tracks from the album. The tune is upbeat and catchy but, the imagery leans on a darker aesthetic: “No color to his skin/inform the next of kin.” The immediate follower, “Party Police” is another standout and carries a sweet sadness to it.  Rankin’s voice grasps with earnest heartache and longing as she recounts two individuals finding comfort in one another.

“Party Police” transitions seamlessly into “Agency Group”. It is on this track that their is a blooming resemblances to the equally hazy and dreamy Camera Obscura.  A beautiful aspect of this debut is that, so early on in their career, Alvvays is already managing to carve out a stylistic sound of their own. This is the first we as an audience have heard from them, and yet we’re already seeing a very clear picture of who they are as a band.

Lyrics that are as endearing as they are poetic, melodies that are infectious and heartwarming, and an overall sound that somehow creates a lasting sense of nostalgia. Alvvays has all the ingredients and are most assuredly an act to watch…

9.1/10 

Stagnant Pools: Geist

Stagnant Pools: Geist – Indiana two-piece Stagnant Pool‘s musical influences are easily heard through their music, particularly on their latest album Giest, (giest being the German word for spirit or ghost). The two members of Stagnant Pools are brothers Doug on drums and Bryan Enas on vocals and guitar. Geist comes two years after their debut album Temporary Room released on Polyvinyl Records.

The name, Stagnant Pools, conjures strange images of a body of still water, somewhat disturbed by the potential algae infestation, and somewhat at peace in the stagnation of its being. Listening to Stagnant Pools is a comparable experience. Geist is a collection of lo-fi drone jams, at times dangerously still and others a peaceful hum of fuzzed out guitar and driving drums.

The album starts out slow with, ‘You Whir,’ a operatic piece that follows Bryan’s droning vocals with similar droning instrumentation. The second track, ‘To Begin’ kicks off the album melodically and rhythmically. Take a listen – if ‘You Whir’ doesn’t strike your fancy ‘To Begin’ just might, and if you like that track, you are sure to enjoy the rest of Geist. The album in its entirety carries a similar tone, all songs crafted in the same vein.

Title track ‘Geist’ appearing in third place on the album, takes a more creative turn with its multi-layered guitar riffs and distinguishable vocals that break at times from monotony into harmonic crescendos around the staccato drums of the song. Stagnant Pools have in the past been compared to lo-fi giants Joy Division and Sonic Youth. While the comparisons are not inaccurate, they are perhaps a lazy comparison. Stagnant Pools possesses their own distinctive sound, unique from both Joy Division and Sonic Youth. While it is clear that Stagnant Pools is influenced by these bands, they do not necessarily follow with their sounds.

‘Intentions’ is the fourth track on Geist, and perhaps the album’s strongest. A distinguishable verse-chorus format is heard, and the layers of guitar work in a synchronous melody instead of clashing against the powerful, ever present drums. Props to Stagnant Pools for the composition of the album – they save their best, strongest tracks for the middle and later half, so the introductory songs slowly ease the listener into their style, which allows one to enjoy their stronger tracks all the more.

‘Filed Down’, track five, breaks down nicely about halfway through, allowing a full intermingling of fast drumming and layered guitar riffs to interact and play out before diving back into the vocals of the track. ‘Ever So’ slows down the pace, with a slower tempo for the beat-keeping drums and easily audible vocals. The following track, ‘His Head Was Warm’ keeps the slower pace, a peaceful balance to its fast-paced predecessors. ‘Dots and Lines’ is slightly reminiscent of English post-punk group, Editors, with the droned-out vocals soaring over the heavy drums and guitar.

Penultimate track ‘Decoder’ solidifies Stagnant Pools distinct sound as a culmination of the other tracks on Geist. The guitar riffs are more fuzzed out, the vocals less audible. Perhaps Stagnant Pools demands the addition of a bass player to add some variance to their sound. The final track on the album, ‘Brute’ begins strong, with a simple guitar riff (using an effect besides distortion) and an easy to follow drum beat. The song is one of the better songs off the album.

All in all, Geist is simply a lo-fi jam album, for those who wish to plug their headphones in and literally drown out the rest of the world (and maybe take a nap as well?). Stagnant Pools is a new act, fresh to the inception and creation of a full album of coherent tracks, and this perhaps shines through in Geist. Some varied instrumentation in the future would also be appreciated. However, not a bad sophomore effort from brother duo Stagnant Pools…7/10

‘Intentions’

 

White Reaper: White Reaper

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White Reaper: White Reaper — The classic punk number is a single scrap of an idea captured in about 2 minutes (3 more recently, advances in technology, y’know); the lengthier the track is, the more it runs the risk of proselytizing, of *gasp* believing in something, and hence shattering the illusion that the present moment is the pinnacle of fun and fanfare. The songs on White Reaper‘s phenomenal self-titled debut certainly fit this bill, and then some–they sound completely full, completely developed, and not just because they’re loud and fast like drunken wolverines on bicycles either. There’s a completely development of ideas, a flurry of melodies and elements that all pack enough punch to make you believe you went through a journey of twice the real-time length.

There’s a compliment I rarely deliver – “I don’t even know, man, these songs sound kinda . . . long . . .”, but imagine I’m saying it with my mouth slightly ajar and with one eyelid tensed and suspicious of what I’m hearing, rather than with a blase tiredness. White Reaper is a never-ending burlesque of street fires and chest-drumming mojo, with moments of gravitas that prevent dismissals of shallowness. The riffage is constantly profuse, the bass bouncy and insistent, and drummer Sam Wilkerson, Odin Almighty– he sounds like he could breast-stroke a liferaft to safety, with the towing rope gritted in his teeth. He hits with an intensity you wouldn’t expect from the hummingbird-schizo pace he operates at; there’s gotta be lead weights tipping those drumsticks or some such nonsense.

It’s a little bit nuts to try to pick a standout, every track seems like a how-to for succeeding in punk, six ways to success–opener ‘Cool’ is your catchy, nonsensical, Ramones-sing-along; closer ‘Ohh (Yeah)’ (love the parenthetical there) goes at a pace at once danceable, yet resembling the lurch of an electrified corpse, thanks to a thrumming bass courtesy of Sam’s identical twin Nick, and to the raw enunciation of vocalist/guitarist Anthony Esposito; and ‘Conspirator’, though it mostly pounds with a No Age sort of urgency, has these dad-rock moments of designed crowd-pleasing that avoids hamminess.

The tracks just seem to vibrate in their own little envelope long after they end, and the album as a whole begs to be repeated–it just hurtles on and on, like six tops spinning endlessly in a box. Not bad at all for a trio of under-agers…8.8/10

Funn

WTCHS: It’s Not a Curse, It’s a Cross!

WTCHS_CrossCurse

WTCHS: It’s Not a Curse, it’s a Cross! – Is it improper to look beyond an EP to the live show it represents? Not that It’s Not a Curse, It’s a Cross! is a bad release, it’s just a case of animals able to be animals only in the wild. WTCHS by now have quite a following in Hamilton, Ontario, for their doom-swamp live shows, all turbid with gnashing riffs, dynamic percussion that slave-drives the Salem parade along and vocals like Tom O’Bedlam howling in a sandstorm. Judging what I may from videos, the stage is certainly their natural habitat at this point, and I’m taking the EP as one would a travel pamphlet to a DMZ: quite informative, but incomplete without extrapolation.

There were a couple clues leading me to look beyond the wax release. For one thing, there’s the absolutely glowing live reviews of the group going around, and for another, there’s a weird but not unpleasant mash of misanthropic post-punk with Modest Mouse-type angularity (damn that word, but as Modest Mouse is the poster child for it, I’ll use it here). The opener ‘Young Girls’ is certainly the shaggy, moss-haired beast I keep reading about, all tectonic bass drum and the mad blizzard shrieks. But then there are moments in ‘Top Prize’ where the dissonance takes on a lighter feel, reminding me of mid-2000s indie acts like Bloc Party, or even Franz Ferdinand. Before fans crucify me – these are just fleeting moments. In fact, it’s a damned interesting spice to their type of aggression, these moments of levity, like flashes of human remembrance in a werewolf. But fear not, noise fiends: there’s always a return to chaotic terrain, as in the battling, twanging plucks of ‘Top Prize’ and the volcanic haze of closer ‘Nell’, probably the high point of the album for me. The spastic interludes where the riffs break and loop atop sliding yelps, these are sound injections.

For those wanting some breadth to go with their dreary post-punk jams, WTCHS are definitely a group to keep on your Twitter and Songkick. If nothing else, the sound reminds me of the witch-prophecy in MacBeth, a doom that falls surely as rain. Check out It’s Not a Curse and the slew of other excellent recordings on their bandcamp…8.1/10

Nell