Alessandro Cortini – “Scappa”

Alessandro Cortini has just released his “Forse 3” double-LP, which is the third and final installment of a trilogy of “Forse” double-LPs, through Important Records. “Scappa” is the third track on the album, and was composed–like everything else in the Forse double-LP trilogy, on a Buchla Music Easel.

The track unfolds slowly, across nearly the entirety of its 10 minutes, unveiling a beautiful, long melodic line little by little, that dovetails its end to its beginning to create a perpetually growing looped line. Delicate pulsations give this otherwise mostly ambient affair an added dimension, providing a regularity of sorts, or something more for the listener to grab onto in order to orient themselves within the piece. Other timbres are allowed to take shape underneath the main legato melody line, with deep bass fuzz that calls to mind Tim Hecker’s “Ravedeath 1972.”

Personally, I am most impressed and fascinated by the way that Cortini manages to create a work based on a compositional scheme of a consistently growing structure. The amount of forethought, nuance, and technique that needs to go into creating a successful long-form work of this nature can not be underestimated. Creating an idea that slowly develops, and builds up enough momentum to propel the work while remaining engaging the entire time is easy to do wrong. However, when it is pulled off, as it is here, the results are typically awe-inspiring.

It’s truly a breathtaking track, and I would imagine that the entire rest of the 4-sided affair will deliver in exactly the same way. “Forse 3” is available as an extremely limited double-album, and you would probably be smart to grab this now, as the first two installments of the Forse trilogy have long since sold out.

Cloud – “Zen Summer”

Typically when we listen to an album from front to back it’s because we want to be taken on a journey. Things need to be held together with a common thread, while at the same time differentiating themselves from one another significantly enough that we want to keep listening without tuning out. I think that, for me at least, this is the ideal of what an album should be. Unfortunately, that is no easy task for any artist.

Cloud, the recording project of on Tyler Taormina, does manage to do just that though. Across the expansive album that is “Zen Summer” we are taken to several different but interconnected places. From the all out rock of “Sunshine Psych” that moves nicely into the piano ballad buried beneath a wall of noise that is “Mantra One.”

And on “Mantra One” Taormina’s voice calls to mind that of Panda Bear. Even some of the same melodic nuances are there, fitting in perfectly amongst the glitchy electronics and backwards looping guitar tracks. Naturally this track flows neatly right into “Luana,” creating a suite of more or less piano based pop tunes.

Later with “Electrical Smile” the guitar begins to play a bit more of a central role, with its slow slide-guitar descending glissando connecting each of the harmony changes. Continuing through the next phase of the title track breaks everything down to ambiance, while “Tastes Bad” continues to place the focus on the guitar. In my opinion though, the best track of this section of the album, and the best track on the album, is “Sleepy Giant Speak.”

The sound of “Sleepy Giant Speak” combines all the elements of the album to this point; the octave jumping melodic contours, the fuzzed out wall of guitar noise, and the gentle piano just barely heard through it all. “Sleepy Giant Speak” manages to capture the feeling of continual expansion, striving toward some distant goal. It’s great to hear that song, and all the tracks on “Zen Summer” really, continually reach for that distant goal because it makes us all want to continue listening and to continue on that journey through the album.

“Zen Summer” was released on Paper Trail Records back in April, but is still available on very limited yellow vinyl that can be found on Paper Trail’s bandcamp page.

Hello Ocho – “Hello Ocho”

It’s always pretty exciting when a band comes out with an album that is so expansive in its vision that even after listening to the first four tracks you still don’t have much of an idea of what the band is really about. Each track gives you another glimpse into what is possible, and only then can you start to appreciate what is really going on here.

Hello Ocho’s self-titled album actually came out in 2013, and features 13 songs nearly impossible to place into one single genre. I guess we could use the catch-all “psychedelic,” but that doesn’t really make an effort toward clarifying what is really going on here. Songs like “Stickin’ to the Sheets” are created out of a single idea that continually grows over a persistent foundational pulse like what you would expect from kraut-rock inspired minimalist rock. It’s rhythmically driven, and concerned primarily with its propulsion than it is with sticking to a typical, strict song structure.

We immediately shift from the more or less psychedelic, kraut-rock-yness of “Stickin’ to the Sheets” to the bluesy vocal melodies of “Song Gafe’.” There is a considerable amount of focus on the structure here, with an emphasis on more or less refrain based vocals and a pretty catchy hook. Although, that all starts to fall away eventually as the song comes to a close.

From here on out the album becomes a bit more of an instrumental exploration. “Fandancy” and “Charles Romanson” are a bit more experimental, but they are followed by the Animal Collective-ish sound of “Whomp.” Sure, that one is pretty experimental too, but there are also elements of great melodic thinking going on too; once again we’re focusing more on the melodic line here than the structure itself. There are catchy hooks, but somehow outside of the context of a pop-tune format. This works though, it works its strange magic, as everything shifts from one idea to the next, balancing melodic craftsmanship with psychedelic experimentalism along the way.

Hello Ocho’s self-titled album came out in 2013, but there are still copies available in vinyl, both clear and black, available from the Hello Ocho bandcamp page. They also have a bit of a teaser for an upcoming release “In Portuguese,” with a 2 minute sample of a funky, electronic freak out. You can check that one out below. Head to their bandcamp page to get a copy of their self-titled album on vinyl, or as a digital download.

The Cigarette Bums – “Goofs on the Loose”

The Cigarette Bums are pretty much encapsulate the default sound that I’m looking for when I’m searching out new bands to write about here. It’s brash garage rock that’s disjointed (but not too disjointed); it’s not polished, and most importantly it’s just fun to listen to. Recordings like this that are mostly just a live performance lend to them a sense of excitement. Sometimes things sound like they’re about to fall apart, but somehow something manages to keep it all together despite itself. And I can’t help but say a little something about almost every track, because there is just so much good stuff on here.

“Goofs on the Loose” is a collection of tracks that walk the line between old school punk with shouted vocals that are not as concerned with intelligibility and tunefulness as they are with rapid fire shouts from behind a wall of noise. The important thing is that the songs are loud and fast,

“Dick in the Dirt” opens with something resembling the eerie arpeggiation of The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun” before going ahead with a very “In a Gadda Da Vida” influenced riff. That tune becomes somewhat of the basis of the song, buried back there amongst the noise and thrash, with The Cigarette Bums seeming to offer up variations on a theme of Iron Butterfly.

“Bums will Always (The Revolution is Over??)!!!” sports a very obvious Big Lebowski reference in the title and contains that quote in the track, which like the opening track “Nigel’s Journey Through the Terrestrial Plane” is more of a clever diversion than it is a proper song.

After that, though, things start to get really interesting. “Sunrise Over Garbage Field” sounds like Ennio Morricone re-imagined by a garage surf-rock band. I could see this as easily fitting into a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack, with it’s galloping rhythm section and Western twang.

“Stoned to the Bone” moves right on back to proper punk rock thrash, with a power-chord heavy chromatic riff that focuses primarily on two chords. Keep it simple, noisy, and straight ahead. At this point it’s still impossible to even try to figure out what any of the lyrics are, but it also doesn’t seem to matter as you’re bound to be singing along by now regardless.

After one last diversion with “SMTP Sax” we get what I think is the stand-out track on the album, “Don’t Mess Around (With Me).” It’s more developed than anything else on the album, with extended instrumental sections brilliantly dovetailed at the end. The track even tips a little bit to the psychedelic end, which leads perfectly into the opening of closing track, “Strange” which later pays homage to the Rolling Stones.

Looks like I’m getting out way ahead of this one, as the release date says September 8th. Why it’s going to be another 3 months I haven’t got a clue, but until then you can check it out on bandcamp. They do have a limited (very limited) cassette out right now called “Holy Smokes” that you can get from their bandcamp page.

The band also has some gigs planned in L.A., which are shown below:
Jul 06
Silverlake Lounge
Los Angeles, CA
Jul 13
Silverlake Lounge
Los Angeles, CA
Jul 20
Silverlake Lounge
Los Angeles, CA
Jul 27
Silverlake Lounge
Los Angeles, CA

Jonah Parzen-Johnson – “Remember When Things Were Better Tomorrow”

Jonah Parzen-Johnson’s music is an eclectic mix of soulful, street-corner solo sax melodies, gritty multiphonics and microtonal excursions against a backdrop of analog synths and various effects. His tone is impeccably clean one second and drenched in layered waves of pulsating echoes. He plays both with electronics and against them, sometimes using them as extensions of his horn, while at other times he’s using them to create dense contrapuntal layers.

Across his album “Remember When Things Were Better Tomorrow” these incredibly complex and vibrant ideas take shape within each track. Each song is a journey with its own twists and turns, and its own highs and lows. Contemplative one second, resolute the next. In the video for “I Wrote a Story About You, Without You” we get a clear visual analogue to the sounds. Life rushes around, filtered through clandestine security cameras in downtown Chicago and New York; soon its seen through the frantic movements of someone desperately searching google maps. At first the track’s opening soliloquy begins an ascending scale that slowly speeds up, is mixed with bright and reverberant harmonies, and then takes off into the realm of something a little more synthetic and frantic. Parzen-Johnson’s circular breathing, prolonging lines well beyond a single breath, only adds to the tension and propulsion. “I Wrote a Story…” captures a sort of sentimentality, but also an uneasiness, a malaise; perhaps something we all feel as we go about our daily lives, trying to remember what it is that we were planning on doing, and why it is that we aren’t doing it. We go on about our daily business anyway, trying to figure a way out.

That sentimentality, that same subtle melancholy is also captured on the album’s closing track, “On the Way Home.” Stripped of any electronics, we are treated to an extended melody with absolutely brilliant phrasing and control. Each small break between the phrases has me listening closer, waiting, and hoping that there will be more to come. Eventually, of course, the last phrase comes and goes and we are perhaps left feeling a lack of resolution, a wanting. Or maybe it’s that we are left in deep contemplation.

The entire album is brilliant, and just came out earlier this week on Primary Records. Parzen-Johnson, a Chicago native by the way, is out on an extensive tour in support of “Remember When Things Were Better Tomorrow.” You can find dates below the video and you can also check out his website in order to get the album as a CD, digital download, or on limited 150g vinyl.


06/05/15 Seattle, WA Cafe Racer
06/06/15 San Fran, CA Center For New Music
with The Steven Lugerner Octet
06/08/15 Sacramento, CA Luna’s Cafe
Time: 7:30pm. Nebraska Mondays
06/09/15 Los Angeles, CA Moryork Gallery
06/11/15 Chicago, IL Elastic Arts
06/12/15 Milwaukee WI Frank’s Power Plant
w/Devin Drobka, Barry Paul Clark, and Jay Mollerskov
06/13/15 Madison, WI Bright Red Studios
06/15/15 Minneapolis, MN Ice House
w/ JT’s Jazz Implosion
06/16/15 St Louis, MO Foam
06/17/15 Louisville, KY Dreamland
06/19/15 Greensboro, NC New York PIzza
with Xelos Verv and Sun Swan
06/20/15 Durham, NC The Shed
with Polyorchard
06/21/15 Asheville, NC The Mothlight
06/24/15 Charlottesville The Garage
06/25/15 Washington DC 453 Florida Ave NW
06/27/15 Philadelphia, PA The First Banana with Accretionist, Daniel Fishkin, and LXV
06/30/15 Cambridge, MA Lilypad
07/01/15 Montreal QC La Passe Canada
07/02/15 Providence RI 186 Carpenter Street

JOBS – “killer BOB sings”

Today we’ve got JOBS’ track “Patient Angel,” a unique amalgam of several different styles crammed into a tight 6 minute track. Starting off with a detached, spacious, and hypnotic sound, the rest of the song slowly develops. Surprises pop up here and there, like the quick jolt of rhythmic guitar stabs that seem to come out of nowhere and then quickly disappear, only to return later as a sort of motive that ties some of the more disconnected stuff together.

The song is more of a journey, and something that really needs to be concentrated on from beginning to end as you listen or else you’ll miss so much of what is going on. The persistent, echoing bass drum in the background continually keeps the tension at a maximum, anticipating some of the crazier material that starts to crop up with increasing frequency as the end draws near.

One final freak-out comes crashing in quite literally at the last minute. They’ve been building to this, and the payoff is a a wildly distorted guitar bending its pitches like yelps in the distance, crying out over a crowd of rushing drums, and noise.

Their album “killer BOB sings” is due out at the end of this month, on June 30th, from New Amsterdam records, and can be purchased on vinyl or as a digital download from bandcamp.  A video for “Patient Angel” was premiered on popmatters, and can be checked out there or below.

Winter – “Supreme Blue Dream”

Here’s some fun, summertime pop with a little bit of a different edge to it. Sure, all the hooks are here, with sweet melodies, ambient synths, a danceable beat, and bright guitars, but if you listen close there are quite often some interesting little twists and turns in those melodies. A little bit of shoegaze, a little bit of dream pop, and non-stop catchy melodies in finely crafted tunes.

In the track above, “Someone Like You,” the last line of each consequent phrase (like “tryin’ to figure it out”) hits the absolute perfect note. It takes everything in such an unexpected direction; that one unresolved suspension really gives the entire song a whole lot of character. The bouncing synth line at the beginning is another nice element that carries the listener along as well.

“Crazy” throws a whole lot more grit into the mix, pulling “Supreme Blue Dream” off in a little more of a new-wave direction. The video, which you can see below, captures the 80’s vibe of the song perfectly, and it also captures singer Samira Winter’s Tiffany-esque dance moves and side-ponytail. “Crazy” also calls to mind Vivian Girls tracks like “Walking Alone at Night” or “I’m Not Asleep,” in that they are both firmly rooted in their pop sensibilities, with a little bit of an edge.

The band is finishing up their last couple shows with a couple of shows in L.A. Look for them on Jun 27th at The Echo, playing Lolipalooza, and on Sep 3rd at The Roxy where they’ll be playing with Work Drugs. Check out the video for “Crazy” below, and head over to the Lolipop Records site to pick up “Supreme Blue Dream.” The album is currently available on vinyl, cd-r, cassette, or as a digital download from Winter’s bandcamp page, where you can listen to the rest of the album, and purchase “Supreme Blue Dream” as a digital download.