Tag Archives: Captured Tracks

Naomi Punk: Television Man

 

Naomi Punk’s sound is intriguing. It cuts short, in so many more ways than one. Aggressive tracks often feel collared and yanked every time it edges to the point of tempoed rage. You find yourself wanting to go full on into that volcanic landscape, only to find Naomi Punk trudging along at their own Frankensteinish pace when you expected them to be alongside you. It moves so slowly, in fact, that one wishes for a push towards doom metal instead, so as to stretch those yards of pollutive muck into a good pudding—but they settle on a grunge-level of fuzz and dour-ness instead. They’re a curious trio, accustomed to these sort of comments before, and accustomed to saying “Nah, it’s fast enough for our purposes.” Television Man is much of what I hope grunge will be, should it resurface.

Criticisms of their self-recorded 2012 debut The Feeling were leveled at the oppressive pacing bordering on pure monotony and a melody delivered at a molasses pace. What they attempted (successfully) with their sophomore album is laudable for its elegant tenacity: Naomi Punk stripped all minutiae of joy, stayed the course in terms of the pacing, but injected everything with a crackling new energy—and like a reanimated corpse, the formula of The Feeling shuddered to life and became Television Man.

The riffs are more interesting this time around, blending drudging strums with mercurial arpeggios, and changing rhythms even more jarringly than before. The extended pieces now become that much more ingestible; I certainly found myself trancing out to certain sections, like the beginning of “Eon of Pain.” It was sonic sunbathing. The quality of recording has left the garage, yet all that newfound cleanliness reveals is more grime, more inhospitability, and clarity, instilled with a hypnotic power that couldn’t come through on their debut because of the profoundly lo-fi aesthetic. Again, I have to applaud them for being able to say to their detractors “No thanks—our way will work itself out.”

Naomi Punk delivers vocals like a choir’s monotonous chant, and the consistency of it act as your sonic anchor. I imagine it’s a bit like hearing sailors belt out their own funeral dirge in the midst of an unpredictable storm they know will end their life; and all around that baseline sound, the riffs come rolling and pummeling, so ruthlessly in place, a military march to a demonically lopsided beat that feels designed to taunt intentionally. Certain phrases linger on for the sake of its own psychotic logic, daring you to break eye contact with its intensity. Against this, the human element is so small as to induce claustrophobia.

Not that I’m saying Television Man isn’t a worthwhile listen because it’s so restrained—tracks like “Eleven Inches” are absolutely explosive, a simmering and cindering first half with the hack-and-slash of a latter portion giving way to a gaudy end of times. Having an insane kinetic quality that reminds me of the drumming on Hendrix’s “Machine Gun,” delivered in spurts to mimic gunfire salvos.

Other highlights include: “Linoleum Trust #19,” in which the pace lends itself a story of a sun-allergenic trying to escape the light. “Song Factory,” punches on through the air at a garage-punk pace and seems several times faster than it really is.

The vocabulary of the album is decidedly industrial and synthetic this time around, with track titles like “Song Factory,” “Plastic World No. 6,” and “Linoleum Tryst #16”; and the filler tracks “Plastic World” and “California Truth” mess with the theme by clever contrast. These respite pieces take a melody found in another track but are presented in the skin of infomercial background music, complete with electronic drumbeats and synth leads/pads most commonly found in 80s closing credits. Along with their brother-tracks, they represent the two extremes of the uniform rural/industrial. One is overly commercial and palatable. Palatable for all and so relatable to none; the other is too personal for comfort, as though trapped in a mind that reminds itself of Mad Max movies and spewing with rage. I wouldn’t even call it filler at this point, since it performs an admirable role—providing contrast to a purposefully limited palette.

In my music library, I’ve filed Television Man away under ‘alienating space-out’.  It occupies a nook below the freneticism of noise rock but, above ambient krautrock. It’s not a space I frequent, but when I do, Naomi Punk will satisfy a need that few artists can.

Television Man is out today via Captured Tracks.

 

 

Craft Spells: Nausea

Craft Spells: Nausea- In my research leading up to this review, I came across a list; a list consisting of 11 words from other languages that have no direct English translation. A few examples include the German word “waldeinsamkeit” (say that five times, fast) which describes the feeling of being alone in the woods or the Indonesian word “jayus”, which is slang for when someone tells a joke so poorly and is so unfunny that you can’t help but laugh. Another word featured on the list was “komorebi” which loosely translates to the interplay between the light and leaves as sunlight shines through the trees. Komorebi is also the title of one of the singles off of indie pop project Craft Spells‘ new effort, Nausea. The poeticism like the kind that went into naming said track can be found over every inch of the sophomore LP from Justin Vallesteros and crew. In the three years since Idle Labor, the band has matured sonically and has ventured into less obvious territory to create something that is just as charming as their previous body of work but with a refreshing new take.

In recent years, Brooklyn’s Captured Tracks have cornered the market on dreamy, bedroom pop. A great deal of their success has been in locating outstanding individual talents who, when joined by a supporting band, are a force to be reckoned with. Vallesteros holds his own alongside some other talented frontmen (Jack Tatum, Dustin Payseur, etc.). The great thing is that with each new release, we get to see each songwriter grow and discover more about their individual sound. In our recent interview, Vallesteros said of Nausea: “It’s more like my idea of composing an album rather than writing a record.” It shows. Vallesteros has looked past relying solely on hazy guitars and dreamy synths and has incorporated more varied instrumentation (flutes, strings, horns) to create sounds that are fuller and more broad on this new record.

The album kicks off with titular track, ‘Nausea’, which eases the listener in rather than diving in head-first. The mellow tone sets a precedent for what is to follow. Despite the obvious growth on the album, Vallesteros is smart enough to know that there are certain aspects of previous releases that fans really responded to and loved and has made a point to hold onto specific characteristics of his songwriting that make Craft Spells what it is. The relaxing nature of his music being one of those characteristics. Even tracks that have a bit more of an upbeat kick to them like ‘Laughing For My Life’ or ‘Twirl’ still manage to capture a peaceful element.

One of the tracks that stands out the most on the album, also happens to be the shortest. Clocking in at one minute and 47 seconds, the track is entitled ‘Instrumental’ and as you can guess, there are no vocals. What makes it stand out is exactly that. This is the first time Craft Spells have included an instrumental on an album and does everything a good instrumental track should do; it acts as a nice transition between songs and stays true to the overall sound of the album.

One of the big stand-outs on the release, other than the title-track, is the first single, ‘Breaking the Angle Against the Tide’. This is another song that ventures into new territory for Craft Spells with vocals layered in a way that is compelling to listen to and pairs a traditional indie rock guitar sound against some of those newly incorporated strings. With an album that, as a whole, moves at a relatively chilled out pace, ‘Breaking the Angle’ ends things with a bit more oomph.

With Nausea, Craft Spells have managed to strike the perfect balance between experimenting while staying true to a sound that made for a powerhouse debut. Soothing melodies, earnest lyricism, and well thought-out composition has made this sophomore LP a fine addition to the Craft Spells catalog and yet another building block to rising career in the world of indie music…9.7/10

‘Nausea’

Profile: Craft Spells

CraftSpells2_CameronGetty

The title of Craft Spells‘ new album is quite the anomaly. The second full-length LP from the dream pop group is entitled Nausea but the melodies featured are so serene and lovely, nauseous is the last thing you’ll be feeling upon listening. It has been three years now since the endearing debut, Idle Labor, with an equally accomplished EP shortly following. Fans have been eagerly awaiting the new album as well as a chance to see the Captured Tracks darlings live. Violent Success was lucky enough to catch up with frontman and founder Justin Vallesteros before their stop at Chicago’s Township and chat about shifts between albums, major influences, and his best live show experience.

Violent Success: Between albums, have you noticed any significant changes in your songwriting process?

Justin Vallesteros: Sure, sure thing. On the first record, I really didn’t own any of the recording equipment that I used. So after three and a half years I acquired a lot of recording equipment and the sonics are a bit more broad- more atmosphere to the songs. And three to four years of life in general, I have more to bookmark into songs. So lyrically, there’s a big change as well and just the tone of everything now that I’m 26 years old; in and out of Seattle and San Francisco and just kind of found myself in a place where I’m a bit more confident in what I’m doing and what I want musically.

VS: So what do you think sets Nausea a part from Idle Labor or Gallery?

Vallesteros: Well the whole tone is completely different. It’s a lot of atmosphere. It’s more like my idea of composing an album rather than writing a record- a rock record. So that’s the biggest difference, really.

VS: Who would you say are some of the artists or bands that have influenced you in your own music?

Vallesteros: In the old music?

VS: Yeah

Vallesteros: Oh yeah, a lot of that C86 stuff and you know, the Factory Records stuff. The Durutti Column, New Order, The Cure…stuff like that. Pretty obvious things. Not much of shoegaze. I do like shoegaze but people have called that record “shoegaze” and I don’t remember any of that record sounding like shoegaze.

VS: Do you have any dreams collaborations? Anyone you’d really like to work with?

Vallesteros: Yeah! There are two Japanese composers, I don’t know if it’ll ever happen, but there’s this dude named Cornelius, he used to be a part of this band called Flipper’s Guitar. He makes music by himself now. His Wikipedia says he’s influenced by The Beach Boys and Beck and he’s a part of the shibuya-kei scene which is like jazz and trip hop-sounding music or kind of like city music. And that’s like what I love and I would love to work with him. And in the same case, Ryuichi Sakamoto is this Japanese composer who’s a part of this band, Yellow Magic Orchestra. Greatest contemporary piano player, to me and it would be a dream, for sure, to work with someone brilliant like that.

VS: So when you are writing songs, do you tend to focus more on your own personal experiences or things that you observe happening in the world around you?

Vallesteros: Both. I mean that all exists together. From the beginning, everything that I’ve done recording-wise has been kind of like a bookmark to my life. Each song is something to remember eventually, and a record is a good representation of someone’s time over a certain amount of years.

VS: So what’s your favorite part of getting to perform the material live?

Vallesteros: When we played Brooklyn at the beginning of this tour it was a 1500-person capacity place and it was so nice that everyone didn’t touch their phones. I didn’t see one cellphone and that made me so happy. It was almost like we showed up and then all of a sudden, we took everyone out of that world that they’re in and brought them somewhere else and that was really special to me. So I guess that was something new for me. Really taking people out of the mundane and bringing them to a new, whimsical world.

VS: So you’re on Captured Tracks which has a lot of rising talents like Wild Nothing, DIIV, Beach Fossils. Have you noticed if any of your labelmates have been influencing you at all? Do you guys get ideas from each other or collaborate?

Vallesteros: No. There are definitely some instances where you chat each other on G-chat, or whatever. But we just send songs to each other, we never tell them “you should do this” or “you should do that.” And when we all got signed we were kind of on our own. We were found by Mike Sniper at different times and didn’t know each other really so we have our own sound. It’s cool though, the first releases for all of those bands- we had this aesthetic that was like this huge group of bands that really had this vision and sound that was kind of relative. Over the years- most of these bands have a singer/songwriter that does everything in the band- it’s cool to see everyone branch out by their second record and just push the sound. It’s nice, in that sense, everyone’s branching out to their own thing. So it’s groovy. No one’s ripping off anyone yet. Not yet. I’ll call ‘em out.

VS: When you first started out making songs in your bedroom did you ever expect this project to turn into what it is?

Vallesteros: No, no. I’m originally from a town called Lathrop, which is kind of near Stockton, and the only band that really came out of their was Pavement. So that set a pretty high standard where everyone really didn’t make plans to get signed one day or tour or whatever. Yeah, I never expected it. So I had about five songs on Myspace, when Myspace was still a thing, and Mike Sniper randomly messaged me for mp3′s. All he wrote was: “MP3′s?” After that, I had a record done and that was it. So it was very natural and I’m still weirded out by it today, so it’s pretty cool. It still makes me happy, which is groovy.

VS: Say you had to describe your sound to someone who’s never heard Craft Spells beefore, how would you do that?

Vallesteros: Yeah, I think it’s relative. I’m a normal dud like everyone else. I’m not a personality, like “that crazy songwriter guy.” A real dude with feelings and that’s something people can generally associate with in their mid-20′s or even when they’re younger, however they wanna interpret it. I think I’m just relatable in that sense. It’s hard to describe the whole sound in general, but it just feels like your world.

VS: What do you want fans to walk away with with when they listen to your music or say, come see a live show? What do you want them to get from the experience?

Vallesteros: I want them to feel relieved from the oversaturation of just everything in this world. Relieved that you got to escape for like 45 minutes and relieved that you can actually listen to a whole record and read to it or work on your art to it. Instead of trying to focus on, “is this hip enough?” or “is this cool enough?”

(Bottle breaks nearby)

Vallesteros: That’s so sick! I hope that’s on the recording.

VS: (laughs) Probably

Vallesteros: Groovy

VS: I’ll be sure to include it when I’m typing it all up: sound of glass smashing!

Vallesteros: Yeah, cool. Perfect! But yeah, I hope they’ll take it and feel relaxed, finally. No anxiety.

Mac DeMarco: Salad Days

Mac DeMarco: Salad Days- Hearing the phrase “Salad days are gone” is such a bittersweet feeling.  The years of your youth pass you by as you slowly wade into the pool that is adulthood. It’s definitely not an easy thing, and Mac DeMarco’s album captures that feeling in an admirable way.

“As I’m getting older, chip up on my shoulder/Rolling through life to roll over and die” are the lyrics that boldly begin the first track of the album also titled ‘Salad Days’.  It’s quite bleak, but at the same time, that’s what makes me appreciate his honesty. This song, in particular, reminded me of being in a post-graduation haze; just having graduated college and getting your first 9 to 5 job, one which you particularly don’t care for, but you still have to pay the bills. To me, it characterizes a time in your life when you’re just trying to get through the days with your dignity still intact because you know that better opportunities will come your way.

All of the songs on the album contain lyrics that are pretty straightforward, with each containing a nugget of advice that one should consider taking. The song ‘Goodbye Weekend’ is a great track that is all about being so comfortable with yourself  that other people’s opinions don’t affect the way you choose to live your life or as the song says “If you don’t agree with the things that go on within my life/ Well honey, that’s fine, just know that you’re wasting your time.”

DeMarco’s voice is so chill and laid-back that I became very mellow upon listening to the rest of the album. His voice is great. It sounds tired and kind of fed up, like he’s gotten so used to how things are that he’s at the point of not caring anymore, which I think is a great match with the somewhat psychedelic vibe his music gives off.

I also thought I detected a hint of reggae while listening to the music, which might have attributed overall to the mellowness of the album. At times, the melody of the songs  were so vibrant that found myself seeing colors, especially when I listened to ‘Chamber of Reflection,’ a moody, atmospheric  track that had me seeing streaks of blue ,green and purple. The track’s prominent use of the drums and the keyboard was executed in such a brilliant way. It was heavenly. The album also offers softer, more acoustic tracks like ‘Let My Baby Stay’, which  is sure to be appreciated as a nice step away from the myriad of kaleidoscopic tracks.

The album Salad Days plays on the themes of nostalgia and the angst that comes with being a young adult when you have come to the realization that you now live in a world where your mistakes actually count against you, adopting an “in the grand scheme of things” mentality has seemed to become the norm, and that bittersweet feeling of your salad days being behind you that will always remain in your heart… 9.5/10

Goodbye Weekend

 

Blouse: Imperium

Blouse: Imperium — New York label Captured Tracks has built up quite an impressive roster. With artists like Wild Nothing, Beach Fossils, and DIIV, Portland-based trio Blouse find themselves in good company. Whether this is positive or negative for the group is another question. Having talented labelmates is desirable, of course but in a class with so many dynamic acts there is the risk of your own projects winding up seated in the back of the room, failing to speak up. We come to Blouse’s sophomore release, Imperium. By its own merit, the album has a dreamy charm to it that is likable enough. The main issue being that in a sea of such extraordinary and unique talent, Blouse’s new effort fails to “wow” or really set itself apart.

There is a definite shift in sound on the second album from their initial self-titled debut. While lead vocalist Charlie Hilton’s hazy vocals are still a key element of their style, they have replaced 80′s pop-inspired synths with much more modern guitar rock sounds. Take for example the first track and namesake of the album, ‘Imperium.’ Kicking off with a great deal of emphasis on a grungy bass line that would fit right in on a song by one of their Captured Tracks cohorts, with small touches of distortion and feedback that make for a compelling contrast set against Hilton’s soft, feminine voice.

The transition into the next track, ‘Eyesite,’ is sudden and rather jarring. Immediately as ‘Imperium’ ends, ‘Eyesite’ begins with with an echoe-y, song-like chant, reminiscent to something you would hear if you stepped into an old cathedral. Aside from this, most of the transitions are pretty smooth. Each song blends into the other in a way that is more bland than it is seamless.

If there is a standout track on the album (other than ‘Imperium’) it would have to be the second-to-last track, ‘Arrested.’ It is at this song that the album picks up the pace and really gets you to take notice, which is something that the songs prior fail to do. It is a track that is fun, engaging, and well-crafted.

There is an evident amount of talent on Imperium. I am not disputing that, nor am I arguing that the album does not have its place in an indie fan’s music collection. The point I am arguing is that that place may just be as background music. By no means does an album need any bells and whistles or gimmicks to make it good. If anything those sorts of things tend to venture into the realm of tacky. That being said, an artist or band does need to know how to execute in a way that their album overall does not become a monotonous experience for the listener. Imperium does tend to lag here and there but also has so many great elements working in its favor. It is a piece of work that is nice overall and is so close to living up to its full potential. It just needed that extra “oomph”…7.0/10

Arrested