Tag Archives: Depreciation Guild

Profile: Ice Choir

If the name Kurt Feldman rings a bell, there’s a good reason for that. He’s been an integral part of The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart for years and was one of the creative minds behind The Depreciation Guild. While his new project, Ice Choir, bears closer resemblance to the latter, the similarities end at synth-based electro. Ice Choir blends 80s new wave, a touch of twee and tons of swirling synths to make a debut that dazzles the mind. Ahead of Afar being released this Tuesday, we caught up with Feldman to discuss his past, present and future…

Violent Success: How did you creatively approach Ice Choir? Was it a natural evolution from what you did with The Depreciation Guild, or does it feel like entirely new territory?

Ice Choir: It was a pretty natural evolution. At the tail end of Depreciation Guild, I started writing songs that didn’t have any of the NES programming that was featured in all of our other works. As a result, I realized that it didn’t really sound like Depreciation Guild anymore. So, rather than forcing these new ideas on the same listeners, I started over with a new project. It made sense because we were all losing focus and interest in Depreciation Guild anyway and everyone else was looking to do their own thing.

VS: How long has Afar been in the making?

Ice Choir: I wrote this album between October 2010 and May 2011. Between May 2011 and January it was assembled in my studio and then mixed by Jorge Elbrecht.

VS: In addition to Ice Choir, you’re also part of The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. Are you part of any other projects and how do you divide your time between everything you’re doing?

Ice Choir: Besides those two bands, I’ve been focusing mainly on producing/mixing some projects for other people and writing some music for videogames.

VS: What kind of a practice environment do you have? Do you tend to shut out the outside world or are there people who you trust that you like to get opinions from?

Ice Choir: We don’t practice very often and when we do, we do it in my apartment (where Patrick and I both live) at low volume. I shut out most people but there are some close friends and musicians (my bandmates, for example) that I trust for opinions about my music or ideas I might have.

VS: When you’re writing lyrics, do they tend to be more personal or conceptual?

Ice Choir: It really depends on the song. Most of them are pretty high-concept but sometimes those concepts are rooted in reality and then embellished for dramatic effect.

VS: Have you ever had the urge to change the way your music sounds?

Ice Choir: For Ice Choir, not yet.

VS: Who would you want to sit in the studio with, even if it was just for one song?

Ice Choir: I’ve always admired Nat Raab of San Serac as a songwriter and producer. I’d love to see how he works out his ideas and records everything. I think I could learn a lot from him.

VS: Which musician(s) did you grow up idolizing?

Ice Choir: The first person I ever idolized was Kurt Cobain when I was in 3rd or 4th grade. Then shortly after that it was Billy Corgan… throughout my teens I fixated on lots of different bands within the general sphere of “American indie rock” and then in high school, started branching out more into British, Japanese, and synthesizer-based music. Eventually though, I grew out of idolizing specific musicians and began to simply respect different ones for their individual contributions to my musical upbringing. Nowadays I find myself latching on to certain producers rather than musicians. I love going through the catalog of artists a specific producer has worked with the goal of finding a narrative thread; the elements of style that are constant throughout their releases.

VS: Finally, when writing an album, who or what do you typically find yourself thinking of most?

Ice Choir: All of the things that inspire me to make the song I’m working on and the ways in which I can deviate from them to make them my own.

Eight Nine Ten

For all the records that August and September 2010 have brought us so far, none have been more noteworthy than those I bring you today. I’m highlighting a few bands that I have some history with as well as a couple of newcomers. I won’t bore you with the details just yet, but lets just say it didn’t turn out as nicely as I would have hoped in all cases. In fact, emotions range from absolute disgust to positively pleased. And we’re walking…

Les Savy Fav: Root For Ruin– For the last 14 or so years, Les Savy Fav have pretty much rocked the face off of everyone they’ve come across. Even today they can still be classified as edgy post-punk as much as they were when they first came onto the scene. Root For Ruin is everything I hoped it would be and completely lives up to the rest of their work in every respect: Creative, slightly unpredictable, full of energy and all Les Savy Fav. At times it even reminded me of 3/5 and Go Forth as far as their energy level goes. My only significant complaint is that its probably going to take another couple of years before they put out another great record like this. Hopefully LSF can continue their great song-writing ability for years to come…9.1/10

Sleepless in Silverlake

Frontier(s): There Will Be No Miracles HereFrontier(s) combines the talents of Chris Higdon (formerly of Elliott) and little else. Coincidentally, 2 months ago I was listening to False Cathedrals by Elliott and thinking to myself, ‘I wonder what these guys did when they broke up’. Well as it turns out, they weren’t doing anything for the last few years until just recently when the aforementioned Higdon decided to re-brand himself as the lead of his new band, Frontier(s). This got me really excited and I immediately downloaded their 2-song EP. Sure it was just okay, but I wanted to give them the benefit of a full-length review… Let me just say that this is in no way like Elliott other than Higdon’s vocal style and typical song structures. Other than that, its not what I expected. Not since Jeremy Enigk‘s OK Bear has the title of an album unintentionally said so much about it beforehand… and in case you’re wondering, OK Bear? Just okay. There are 2 major problems with this record: 1) The drummer is one of the worst I’ve heard in quite a while. Everytime this guy tries to do a fill, I cringe. Not only because he fails and comes back in late half the time, but also because he obviously loves doing them– as if he were good at them or something. And 2) This whole band is a blatant attempt to revive Elliott and all the success they had when in fact, this sounds like a sloppy garage band. Also, the closed parenthesis on the S in Frontier(s) is just fucking stupid… I don’t know, I think I’m just angry now. I suppose if this were Higdon’s first band and there weren’t any expectations attached to it, this might score a couple of points higher, but thats simply not the case. This record is pedestrian on nearly every level and a real punch-in-the-stomach to fans of Elliott and what that band was…3.6/10

Poor Souls

The Prids: ChronosynclasticThe Prids are based out of Portland, OR and though they’ve been around for awhile now, they’re pretty new to me. With that in mind, Chronosynclastic is a guitar-driven pop record with harmonized slacker vocals that combined with subtle underlying keyboards makes for a pretty awesome listening experience. Taking influences from that of Sonic Youth and The Pixies, The Prids have come up with a sound that is as distinctive to themselves as the aforementioned bands sounds were to them. Chronosynclastic flows very smoothly, almost as if it were a shoegaze record, when in fact its much more powerpop than that. With a cup of 90s drone rock and a dash of punk, Chronosynclastic is one of the most surprisingly delicious cakes this year…8.8/10

Desolate

The Clientele: MinotaurThe Clientele write 60s-era pop songs and have accomplished multiple spectacular albums over the years and literally surprised the hell out of me that I loved them as much as I did. In short, I couldn’t quit them if I tried. Minotaur is a slight departure from other things they’ve done in the past and for the most part, this EP sounds largely experimental for them. The songs on this album don’t really seem to gel as much as their past works did and it almost sounds like an album of B-sides. Everything they’ve pushed the envelope with in the past is pushed even further on this record. Whether it was the ‘heavy metal-esque’ solo on Gerry, the mysterious piano concerto No.33 or the odd audiobook-like story(with sound effects, of course) of Green Man, this left me scratching my head as to how these were supposed to be smooth transitions into each other. It was just all a bit strange. But, as a whole, despite all of the oddities that seemed to be strung together to look like a single piece of work, the songs themselves were as heartfelt and beautiful as anything I’ve come to expect from them…7.2/10

Nothing Here Is What It Seems

Film School: FissionFilm School have been crafting moody indie pop for the last few years and in that time released 2 records– one that subsequently improved over the last. Fission continues that upward trend, but in a slightly different way. While their first 2 releases focused more on indie pop creativity, their focus has shifted towards not only crafting great songs, but also focusing on the atmosphere and mood of this record more. The result is less indie pop and more dream pop. This suits their sound much better because while I really liked them before, they really didn’t make as big an impression on me as they could have– something was missing. As it turns out, it was atmosphere. They’ve mastered it on this record and I couldn’t be happier with the result. In fact, most of these songs could be remixed with a drum machine and just as easily be categorized as synth pop in the vein of Depreciation Guild or Deastro if they wanted to be. In any case, Fission is a significant improvement over their last record that I didn’t expect or want, but am glad they made…8.8/10

Still Might

Catch-Up, Ketchup Or Catsup

If you come by here from time to time, you’d have noticed the considerable lack of actual reviews lately. Mostly I’ve been using my time off to catch-up on my Mad Men DVDs and hog-tie hobos and blow them up with dynamite on Red Dead Redemption. You know, guy shit. But during that break I also had a chance to listen to a lot of new and noteworthy albums. So many in fact that I’ve had to narrow it down from 15 records to a top 5. Besides, who wants to hear about the last few months without highlights? Not this guy.

Depreciation Guild: Spirit Youth– In the tradition of electronic shoegazers like The Radio Dept., Depreciation Guild which showed immense promise on their debut, In Her Gentle Jaws, have finally realized their potential with Spirit Youth. From start to finish whether you’re looking for hooky guitars, subtle synthesizers or dreamy vocals in your electro dream pop, this album is one of the best. I had big expectations for this record and they absolutely surpassed them in every respect. Well fucking done…9.8/10

Depreciation Guild – Blue Lily

TOBACCO: Maniac Meat– It seems like I talk endlessly about this guy. If you haven’t read anything on this website, let me sum up: Tobacco is an innovative electro experimentalist who is also a founding member of Black Moth Super Rainbow. After Fucked Up Friends, Tobacco was going to have a bit of trouble following up something that off-the-wall, catchy, beat-heavy and altogether hard to understand. And thats exactly why I love this guy. I can’t figure out exactly what he’ll come up with next. But one thing is for certain: You’ll know its Tobacco when you hear it. Seldom do you hear something thats as distinct as this. And with Beck guest-starring on 2 different tracks, you have yet another reason to explore this record and figure out just what the hell is going on inside of this guy’s head…8.7/10

TOBACCO - Mexican Ice Cream

Deastro: Mind Alter EP– After writing a few songs(like 200, I think) Randolph Chabot aka Deastro has decided to follow up his sugar rush-induced sophomore LP Moondagger, with a toned-down and relaxed Mind Alter EP. Now, if you’ve followed Deastro’s releases at all, this won’t surprise you in the least. In fact, Moondagger was more of an anomaly than this release. Mind Alter EP is Chabot going back to the basics in many respects and not so much slowing things down as much as doing what he does best. The only difference this time is that hes signed to Ghostly and actually making some money rather than giving it away for free. Overall, when considering all of this, it didn’t particularly blow me away but it did keep me coming back for more which is a quality he’ll never lose so long as he stays true to his roots… which this EP truly does…7.4/10

Deastro - Mowgli The Lynx

Mountain Man: Made The Harbor– The concept behind this ‘band’ is almost too simplistic. Imagine three women singing acapella with an acoustic guitar to original folk songs in the vein of Joanna Newsome or Alela Diane. Thats it. No, really. For me what really makes a song worth listening to, no matter how simplistic, is if the artist can hypnotize you to a point where you forget where you are and all that there is is the moment of that song. Multiply that by 13 and you have this record. Completely surprising and positively stunning…8.9/10

Mountain Man - Animal Tracks

Magic Bullets: Magic Bullets– For a band on their 2nd LP and 3rd release overall, its kinda weird that they’d only now have a self-titled album. I guess thats just me thinking aloud. Yes, this is Magic Bullets‘ 2nd full-length and if you’re not familiar with them, lets just say that they’re a modern version of The Smiths. I hate to limit them like that, but this record forced me to do it. Their first 2 records actually stood on their own and although I could definitely hear a Smiths influence, it wasn’t nearly as apparent as it is now. That isn’t to say that this isn’t a decent record because it totally is. The thing is, compared to their previous albums, it falls a bit short at times. I think the biggest shortcoming of this album was my preconception of it. What I’m trying to say is that they led me on and they broke my heart– just a little. I’m not sure if this is just a moderately-paced version of themselves or if this is their new general direction, but I do know one thing: I like their previous work more…7.2/10

Magic Bullets - Lying Around