Posts Tagged ‘saint marie records’

Bloody Knives at Here Comes the Flood

Austin band Bloody Knives are into gritty industrial noise-rock with forays into drones, ambient, electronics and shoegaze. This latest album I Will Cut Your Heart Out For This is a sonic assault, a search-and-destroy raid that comes howling from the speakers, telling dark tales of doom and death. They don’t pause fro breath between tracks, but keep adding motifs and textures, building a towering wall of sound.

They offer a ride to the back alleys, where bad things are bound to happen. It’s a journey that will be too weird and downright scary for most – and they may scratch their heads at tune called —-. For those who wondered what a mix of the Sisters of Mercy and Sonic Youth would sound like, the answer is: the Bloody Knives. Handle with care.

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deardarkhead at AllMusic

Active since the late ’80s, New Jersey-based dream poppers Deardarkhead only have a handful of releases to their name, and merely one of them is a proper full-length. That album, Unlock the Valves of Feeling, appeared back in 1998; since then, the group’s original bass player and vocalist Michael Amper departed from the group in 2009, and the band soldiered on as a vocal-free trio along with replacement bassist Kevin McCauley, who joined in 2010. Following Captured Tracks’ 2011 anthology of the group’s early-’90s EPs (Oceanside: 1991-1993), Strange Weather is Deardarkhead‘s first newly released material of the 21st century, and it reveals them as an impressive instrumental unit with no apparent need for useless, empty words. The EP is far more focused than one might expect of an instrumental EP from a band that formerly had a vocalist. The group’s music has often had an urgency to it — they’ve never been the type of shoegaze band to stick to hazy, stoned-sounding slow tempos — and here they sound positively energized and vibrant. There’s a bit of a post-punk, Cure-esque jangle to the guitars, but they don’t drown them in effects. The melodies are clear and upfront, and strangely enough, it almost seems like the band has gained more of a pop sensibility since losing its vocalist. All of the tracks sound different, from the thundering toms of “March Hares” to the slightly heavier, more psychedelic guitar textures of “Thinking Back,” so the songs all have distinct personalities rather than just sounding like variations on a similar groove. There’s a tinge of wistfulness to the melodies, but overall they sound bright and summery. Deardarkhead are commendable for their preference of the EP format, as their releases usually don’t wear out their welcome. Strange Weather feels like a fresh new start, even if it’s been at least half a decade in the making.

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deardarkhead at Ringmaster Reviews

Rousingly fascinating is probably the best way to describe Strange Weather, the new EP from New Jersey trio deardarkhead, that and gloriously suggestive. Across six tracks as cinematic as they are emotionally intimate upon the imagination, band and release immerses the listener in its and their own sculpted exploits. The release is an anthem to the conjuring of bold imaginative adventures and a tapestry of creative virulence for ears to bask in.

The beginnings of deardarkhead go way back to 1988 since when the band has released five recordings on their own Fertile Crescent Records label with a retrospective of their early work additionally released in 2012 by Captured Tracks. Their distinctive fusion of post punk, indie rock, shoe gaze, and dream pop has been greedily devoured by an increasing many whilst their live presence has seen the band play with the likes of Supergrass, The Psychedelic Furs, Everclear and The Lilys amongst numerous other. Despite numerous compilation appearances, and that 2011 retrospective  Oceanside: 1991-1993 since last album Unlock the Valves of Feeling was released in 1998, you might say that deardarkhead have been a ‘forgotten’ treat by many; if so that is set to inescapably change with the release of Strange Weather.

Always luring inquiring interest with each release, the band has probably ignited the strongest intrigue with the new EP as it is their first without long time singer/bassist Michael Amper who left the band in 2009. His departure only seemed to ignite a hunger to explore their instrumental side as remaining members, guitarist Kevin Harrington and drummer Robert Weiss proceeded to move in that direction and perform instrumental shows after linking up with bassist Kevin McCauley the following year. The suggestion is that the band is looking for the right vocalist to bring in but on the evidence of Strange Weather, and its empowering potency, you wonder if it will be any loss not finding the right man.

From its first track Strange Weather has ears and emotions enthralled, the imagination just as swiftly ignited as Falling Upward emerges from chilling winds within a dank atmosphere. It is pulled from the wasteland by a nagging guitar, its sonic lure soon colluding with the resonating bait of the bass and crispy textured beats. With them comes a tenacious catchy resourcefulness which infectiously lines the post punk hook and bass groove which subsequently entwine and enslave ears. All the tracks to the EP spark ideas and mental imagery, ones sure to differ person to person, but a cold war like landscape is ours adventure for the opener no doubt helped by having recently watched Deutschland 83. There feels a cinematic kinship between the band’s sound and those visuals with every leap into the sonic tapestry of the song pushing the story along.

With a touch of Leitmotiv to it, the track is a riveting start, leaving ears and pleasure lively and ready to embrace the warmer jangle of Sunshine Through The Rain which follows. There is a calmer air altogether to the song, a melodic radiance which wears the scent of eighties indie pop yet contrasts it with a steely proposal from bass and hypnotic beats. Again captivation is a given to its My Bloody Valentine aired persuasion though it is soon outshone by the thrills and dramas of both Juxta Mare and March Hares. The first of the pair unveils a sultry atmosphere around a delicious melodic hook and bassline which would not feel out of play of a sixties/seventies TV spy thriller. Its lean but thick lure is the spring for an evocative weave of sonic enterprise and suggestive melodies, all courted by the dark shadows of bass and the persistently jabbing swings of Weiss.

As outstanding as it is, it too gets eclipsed by its successor, March Hares stealing the whole show. From the pulsating rhythms of Weiss to the snarling tone of McCauley’s bass, the track has ears and an already lustful appetite enslaved. Their irresistible bait is then entangled in bewitching tendrils of sonic imagination from Harrington; the song subsequently swinging along in the web of their united craft and invention to entice body and spirit further. In full stride, the track has a great feel of The Monochrome Set to it, indeed Harrington’s stringed adventure carries a touch of the English band’s guitarist Lester Square to it as a House of Love shimmer and Birdland like rowdiness add to the slavery.

Ice Age immerses the listener into chillier post punk climes next; its nippy atmosphere and almost bleak ambience tempered by the sonic elegance seeping from the guitar within the anthemic tenacity of the drums. Again it is fair to say that the song lures physical and emotional involvement with ease before Thinking Back explores a maze of reflective melodies and evocative grooves within another addictive rhythmic frame. There is an essence of Echo & The Bunnymen and Bauhaus to the track as post punk and gothic lit shadows and depths spread through sound and thoughts.

The track is an imposingly mesmeric end to a spellbinding release. Strange Weather will have you breathless, excited, reflective, and going on a myriad of imagination bred adventures with its suggestive incitement. We are no experts on deardarkhead and their releases to date but the EP has to be up there as possibly their greatest moment yet.

The Strange Weather EP is released March 25th via Saint Marie Records on Ltd Edition vinyl (100 Black / 150 White with Red Blue and Black splatter) and as a download @http://saintmarierecords.limitedrun.com/products/567260-deardarkhead-strange-weatherand http://saintmarierecords.bandcamp.com/album/strange-weather

 

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Blessed Isles at For the Rabbits

It’s been five years, and four different states in the making, but the debut album from Brooklyn duo, The Blessed Isles sounds like it was time well spent. You’ll have to wait until next month to hear the fruits of the bands labours, but today we’re delighted to share their new single, Confession.

Whilst The Blessed Isles are a band who embrace the dreamy-wash so favoured by the current shoe-gaze revivalists, what makes them stand out is their unwillingness to compromise their natural pop instincts. Beneath Confession’s hazy synth-blur are hooks, and lots of them, they take influence from the shifting sands of alternative British-pop whether they come in the shape of Human League like drum-machine beats, or the chiming guitars of New Order.

In era where so many acts are happy to produce pleasant but forgettable sonic-dreamscapes, The Blessed Isles are a band who take those pillars and turn them into something all together more interesting, but don’t take our word for it, listen to Confession below.

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High Violets at Treble Zine

Portland, Oregon’s The High Violets haven’t released an album in six years, 2010’s Cinema being their last. In that downtime, and even leading up to it, swaths of younger artists were taking a look back at music they were just barely old enough to absorb when released, channeling dream pop and shoegaze greats of the late ’80s and early ’90s and funneling both genres back into the forefront of indie rock consciousness. Labels such as Mexican Summer andCaptured Tracks flourished under the spotlight, while other equally talented groups churned out catchy tunes with incredibly textured instrumentation and never received the same attention. The High Violets is one such group in the latter camp, but their latest album,Heroes and Halos, is a welcome return from the veterans and an opportunity to right that wrong.

The High Violets have an incredibly well-rounded approach to shoegaze. It’s far too easy these days to turn up the reverb and delay and leave it at that, focusing narrow-mindedly on guitars and sonic tenets rather than crafting strong, enduring songs. Heroes and Halos, though, is incredibly sturdy, no doubt attributable to the fact that there seems to be no dominant emphasis here in terms of musician or part. Sure, Kaitlyn Ni Donovan’s voice possesses that pointedly entrancing and beautiful quality that other contemporaries strive to replicate, but a similar compliment could be paid to any other member on any of the album’s ten tracks.

Coming off more tempered and confident than ever before, the record plays out at mid-tempo for the first few tracks, each individual section of their songs’ structures flowing seamlessly together. Early standouts include “Dum Dum”’s chorus, with its four-on-the-floor rhythm and Donovan’s repeated “dum dum” refrain, and “Break a Heart” with its soft, lovelorn delivery and soaring guitar figure. The album steadily builds steam as it progresses; the title-track, just past the album’s midpoint, is a jubilant push and pull where each instrument in the band’s employ layers on top of the other, creating a perfectly executed cascade of starry sound. Closer “Hearts In Our Throats” is a soothing, drum machine-led waltz that provides an excellent cap to the album, with its comparatively sparse, open arrangement.

After years of silence, The High Violets return refined and deserving of the same praise awarded to acts some ten years their junior. Introductory hype-cycles, over saturation and tabloid-worthy press ordeals shouldn’t be the key to listeners’ awareness, but so often that’s the case. For consistent quality, though, look no further than these Portland gazers, whose Heroes and Halos is yet another great addition to their already superb catalog.

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High Violets at Stereo Embers

Sometimes the problem with being local heroes is eventually you get taken for granted, washed over by the ceaseless tide of the new. Ironically, this is especially true, it seems, when you’re as consistently excellent as the High Violets have been.

Jump-started back in 1998 by Clint Sargent and Luke Strahota following the collapse of also popular Portland band Bella Low, the Violets present their fourth studio album Heroes and Haloes amid a long-established, constant – and constantly high – level of expectation and of course it’s an exemplary forty minutes of shoedream gazepop, sculpting away at all those loftily-erected contours as usual, but by all means don’t let that predictability preclude your curiosity. That would be unwise, that would border on the tragically negligent. Not toward the band but toward yourself, as you’d miss the instant career-defining dynamism of “How I Love (everything about you)” as it blasts off from two sharp, treated snare slaps into a jetstream of roilingly ecstatic romanticism, singer Kaitlyn ni Donovan presiding with supernal calm over a ringing roar full of bright burbling synths, a passing ghost chorus of background vox and the guitar riff of the year, a simple two-toned slide pattern that bestows upon the track instant classic status and that’s just the first cut.

You’d also miss “Dum Dum”‘s sweet but heavy pop sway as it deftly layers Donovan’s damning lilt of a vocal over Sargent’s dark shards of guitar, the smoothly pulsing “Longitude” the melody of which attaches itself unshakably to that hook-craving part of your brain that insists on humming it back to itself without end, the shimmering assault of poignant loveliness that is the title track, sweeping over you in shudders and pounding waves, its sound a thing you succumb to and more-than-willingly. You’d miss all that and more and we are quite very sure indeed you do not want to do that.

Matured yet as fuel-injected as ever (check out the tumultuous beauty of “Comfort in Light), as capable of bewitching mystery as ever (the shoegazey gauze of “Ease On”), as imperishably groove-melodic as ever (“Break A Heart” is St Etienne fronted by Dusty Springfield only with a John Squire guitar break), on Heroes and Haloes (available April 1st on Saint Marie) the High Violets return full force as the band again reach effortless crests that all the new(er)comers would be wise to aspire to.

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deardarkhead at Raised by Gypsies

There comes a time in every person’s life- I believe- where they have to admit that music does not need vocals/words to be good.   You can go all the way back to classical music if you really want to, but if you prefer to stay closer to the present then I suggest not looking any further than Deardarkhead’s “Strange Weather”, an EP full of instrumental numbers which are more powerful than a lot of songs with words I’ve heard before.

Of course I struggle to find a genre to put Deardarkhead in simply because they don’t have vocals and I tend to feel like the singing style of someone can dictate where to put them if you, say, own a record store.   For the most part, these songs are a throwback to earlier years but not too long ago- maybe the 1980’s or early 1990’s.   It’s what I would call post-punk if I believed punk was dead, pulling influences in from Thursday (without the -core) and in their own way Deardarkhead even manages to sound a bit like an upbeat version of The Cure.

Aside from the fact that you could think of any number of bands such as Modern English to compare this with- depending upon your own personal influences growing up- I think you just have to sit back and admire the pure musicianship of it all.   The fourth song really begins to sing on its own, even without vocals, and that’s something not many bands can or have ever been able to pull off.

It should go without saying that the musical instruments are the stars of this EP (Well, the humans playing them technically) but if you don’t feel these thunderous bass lines, infectious guitar riffs or just the all around stellar drum work on “Strange Weather” then you are really not listening to it properly.   It’s not like you have to find it hiding behind vocals about whatever– it’s all just right there, in your face (specifically your ears) and it’s very easy for me to have this serve as a soundtrack to my life.

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High Violets at Philthy Mag

Although they may not quite be a household name, Portland, Oregon’s The High Violets have been kicking out wonderfully lush and fuzzy dream pop and shoegaze jams since the late ‘90s, and this Friday, April 1st, will see the release of their fifth full-length, Heroes and Halos, courtesy of Saint Marie Records.  The album would seem to be their most accomplished yet and in a recent chat with The High Violets’ mainpeople/songwriters Clint Sargent and Kaitlyn ni Donovan the two tell me that the album is essentially the culmination of both all the processes and sounds they’ve worked with over the years.

Izzy Cihak: I’m just realizing that you’ve been together for almost 20 years now, which is sort of insane:  What have been some of the biggest highlights of the band over the past two decades, whether it be experiences, reactions to your work, or anything else that really stood out to you?

Clint Sargent: There have definitely been some good highlights, but I would say the overall reaction to our work has been the most satisfying. With fans continuously reaching out and letting us know they appreciate what we do. That, as much as anything, keeps you going.

Izzy: What do you think is the biggest difference between the mindset of the band now, compared to when you first got together?

Clint: In the beginning we viewed the band as a solid collective. We had regular rehearsal nights in Luke’s basement and considered everyone involved with the song writing. As time went on and people came and went and came back it became clear that Kaitlyn and I were composing the majority of the music. And this was certainly the case on Heroes. So this is our mindset currently.

Izzy: How is Portland’s music and arts scene at the moment?  There always seems to be tons of really cool and really diverse things going on there.

Clint: In years past it has been the case for sure, but honestly at the moment I wonder myself. We barely got this album done before I could no longer afford my rent. The last few years have seen so much change with people moving there and the cost of living going up. Many artists have moved out to the suburbs or are crowding into houses. Anyway, it’s a good question. The scene will always live on in some capacity.

Izzy: You’re about to release Heroes and Halos.  How do you feel it compares to previous releases?

Kaitlyn ni Donovan: I feel Heroes echoes the maturing between our beginnings in traditional shoegaze and our last release, Cínema. Cinema leaned more into straight dream pop. Heroes… seems to bridge the two. If you listen to the first side of the LP, you may noticed a distinctly dream pop feel, while the second side lends a darker tone with our shoegaze background.

Izzy: What would you consider to be the album’s most significant influences, both musical and otherwise?

Kaitlyn: I try my best not to be influenced by other’s music when I write, but rather images that arise as if in a dream, fictional story, or film whilst, forming the first melodic foundations of a song. To me it keeps the music pure and not overly influenced by trends or other’s muses.

Izzy: I especially dig “Longitude,” which just reminds me of so much of the mid-90s’ best alt rock, so I’m curious how that particular track came about.

Kaitlyn: “Longitude” came into fruition at a lightning pace, though I was disabled with a back injury and unable to play any instruments. Consequently, for the first time in my musical career, while laid up on a couch, I turned to composing with a drum machine and sang the vocal melody in one pass that you hear on the album. It all very happily stuck. The lyrics came later, (not so quickly) which are from the perspective of a bee, but also reflect the feelings of one in a manic phase of bipolar disorder. In the final fleshing out we included analogue drums, synthesizers, and Clint’s gorgeous guitar.

Izzy: Finally, what are you planning and hoping for in 2016?  Any chance we might get to see you on the road in the near future?

Clint: We’ve put the album out and we’ll see what comes down the pike? What might be? It’s been so long since we played live. No plans at this time. Perhaps at some point we can dust off the hiatus?

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Jeff Runnings at Collapse Board

Come to think of it, “dreampop” is a horrible tag. Rarely anything that the indie world perceives as “pop” is ever popular, and then the stuff we perceive as “dreamy” rarely lulls us into any dream-like state of bliss. Mired in the existential angst of post-punk, “dreampop” done right leads us further into ourselves, to examine what fears hold us back, and drive us to forks between epiphany and manic depression. For me, no one was ever there to guide me through, so I drifted between the two poles. Lowlife steered me to the latter. For Against brought me to the former.

Biographical details are boring, so I won’t flesh them out here, but know that in college I fell out of time, and bands that existed 30 years ago defined my existence back then. For Against’s Echelons was one of those albums that I needed to subsist, to affirm that others could fall out from society and struggle to define themselves in a world that hustled past introspection. And while I’m not stuck in the 80s anymore, I haven’t really found a way out of the labyrinth in me, either. Adulthood is the biggest lie ever told – like religion, it gives us the illusion that we’ll reach some finishing line, and gives us things to do so that we don’t have time to stop and think. (I’ve a dim memory of some philosopher saying something to this effect regarding vacations – Montaigne? Or was it Machiavelli?) All this to say, it’s four years now since college and I’m still a hopeless drifting mess.

It soothes me, then, that Jeff Runnings of For Against still sounds like he’s trying to figure out the world around him, decades after Echelons. His edge has dulled, but then he wasn’t much for cutting anyway; no, for Primitive and Smalls the camera zooms in closer, so that dust motes swirl in the light and every leaf in the tree waves at us instead of one green blur. The subject material seems unremarkable on first glance – often Runnings focuses on how people connect, how they interact with each other, how they let each other down – but the very 4AD-like wash of frosted synths bewitches the scenes.

Now, “Travelogue” isn’t the best example of this enchantment – in fact, it’s one of the liveliest tracks on the record – but it proves another point. The gentle pulse and airy marble aesthetic invoke the black rose romance of Clan of Xymox, but Runnings doesn’t curl into the same submissive behavior – rather, he enacts the role of an everyday predator: ”you know there are things about you I wish you wouldn’t hide / when I found you I had hoped for an interesting ride”. There’s something sinister about that desire – and not the catacombs and corpse brides kind of sinister that the Clan was always hung up on, either. Runnings’ protagonist presents a far more mundane threat, uncertain but ever encroaching; the whispered “I was here” tucked under the last refrain emphasizes the unpleasant ending that lies under the synthy glaze.

Perhaps “dreampop” works, then. Dreams, after all, often resemble our own world, but simple gestures and words there resonate with meanings that we might never fully grasp. That’s exactly how Primitives and Smalls feels.

Primitives and Smalls is out on Saint Marie on May 8th. Pre-order here if ya fancy.

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High Violets at Dagger Zine

I’ve never been a hardcore shoegaze disciple or anything but I do like the genre and this American label, out of Texas, has quietly been releasing some of the best stuff the past few years (also check out the new EP from New Jersey’s Deardarkhead). Anywho, funny thing about this band is that they’re based in Portland , a place I lived from 2002-2012, and I remember seeing this bunch once live and liked it ok and all but didn’t dig deeper for some reason. You go the their Bandcamp page and they’ve got a ton of records for sale, at least one dating back to 1999 (and it looks like the band’s most recent release prior to this was 2010’s Cinema). Which brings us to Heroes and Halos which I really like. I’ve been listening to it quite a bit lately, pulling it out of the stack of cds when other ones I like are right beside it. The band still adds a bit o’ mystery and intrigue to their lush, dreampop songs mostly thanks to vocalist Kaitlyn ni Donovan who has this goddess-like voice from the heavens (think the gal from Lush or Rachel from Slowdive…two bands who I’m reminded of while listening to the High Violets). Also, let’s not forget guitarist Clint Sargent bringing the noise with some tasty ax work . First cut “How I Love (everyting about you)” is a terrific opener with swirling guitar, rock-solid rhythms and Donovan’s fluttery vocals while “Dum Dum,” still with Donovan’s vocals out front, is where the mystery comes in (same on “Bells”). The title track almost created this dizzying effect on me (luckily I was sitting down) and ‘Ease On” has these great whispery (and wispy) vocals before bursting into a glorious chorus. All the way through Heroes and Halos the High Violets never forget the importance of the song, heading into orbit at times, but never getting lost in the outer space. This one’ll have plenty more plays on my house.www.saintmarierecords.com

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