For the forthcoming Berwanger album, Exorcism Rock — the second for the band, and first for label Doghouse Records — frontman Josh Berwanger has more in mind than just 11 tracks of exceedingly catchy rock ‘n’ roll. As if four different vinyl variants weren’t enough, there’s going to be an action figure variant. Wait, what? Yes, indeed. An action figure tied to a new album isn’t new, obviously — Major Lazer and Less Than Jake have both released vinyl toys to tie in with records — but this might be the first to be blister-carded to the front of an LP. It’s such a crazy and cool idea, we reached out to Berwanger, as well as the man making it, Aaron of indie toymaker, Retroband. Not only did we get to hear about the new collaboration, but we have the exclusive first look at the Exorcism Rock toy.Read both Q&As in full at Modern Vinyl. Published 10/20/16
Combining the best of two worlds of classic cinema scores, the Night Terrors' Pavor Nocturnus is an absolute blast. Working in tandem as it does with sci-fi theremin and a huge pipe organ, all of this album sounds akin to modern rescore of something like Mario Bava's Planet of the Vampires -- horror in space, essentially. Recorded on the largest pipe organ in the western hemisphere, which stands an astonishing 32 feet high and uses two motors to power the whole thing, one at 15 horsepower, and the other at 20. The sound this thing is far more powerful than any synthesizer could ever hope to be. There's just a deep resonance to Pavor Nocturnus I've not heard in a recording before. The grandiosity of the pipe organ actually allows for quite a study in contrasts. A very good case in point is "Megafauna," which has synths and the organ playing counterpoint melodies, and the difference in the thinness of the synths contrasting with rich fullness of the pipe organ really makes for a sonically dynamic track. "Blue Black" is the most masterful use of a theremin I think I've ever heard -- it took a solid minute of the song before I figured out it wasn't some oddly-modified violin. It's nicely complimented by the beats and drumming on "Gravissima," and that's what makes the Night Terrors so interesting on this album: there's a basic theme from which they work, but they diversify so much from that point, that you can't help but want to know what they'll come up with next. Frankly, the entirety of Pavor Nocturnus is that it almost out-Goblins Goblin. The Night Terrors work in that same sort of progressive rock meets abject fear vein, and their first two albums, Back to Zero and Spiral Vortex, I'd not really been able to get into, despite quite a bit of acclaim on the second. There's something about the addition of this pipe organ that lends the band a bit more gravitas than they'd previously been able to drum up, and makes their sound far more unique than the previous idol worship. This is the first release on Twisted Nerve, the new music imprint from Australia reissue label Dual Planet and Finder Keepers. I'm happy to see so many of these reissue labels branch out into releasing new music, and this is a very exciting start to Twisted Nerve. I can't wait to hear what comes next. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ijvq2xVbjIk[/embed] More details on the Melbourne Town Hall pipe organ, where the album was recorded, can be found here. For more information on the Night Terrors' Pavor Nocturnus, or to purchase the album when it comes out on Halloween, you can visit the Dual Planet website.
For those who love music and books, there's nothing finer than Bloomsbury's critically acclaimed 33 1/3, which examines individual, seminal albums, in pocket books that pack a punch. The 33 1/3 series celebrates its 100th book, on Michael Jackson's Dangerous, on Thursday, September 11 and will be having a party for its 10th anniversary on Thursday, October 2, at the Powerhouse Arena in Brooklyn. Ally Jane Grossan is a commissioning editor at Bloomsbury. She edits academic books in the realms of pop music and sound studies and is editor of the 33 1/3 series, taking over from founding editor David Barker in November 2012. She is also co-editor of the forthcoming textbook, How to Write About Music. We spoke with Grossan via e-mail about the series and its history. What was the impetus to start 33 1/3? Was there a particular book or piece of writing that was the inspiration? David Barker started the series in the early aughts. I know that he got the idea from another book series that the previous publisher, Continuum, had on contemporary novels. That series, Continuum Contemporaries, was comprised of short books about beloved contemporary novels like Disgrace, High Fidelity, and The Buddha of Suburbia, among many others. David was inspired to apply that same formula to beloved albums of music. How were you involved, and how have you stayed involved in the series over the last decade? I became involved with the series like any sensible college student terrified of unemployment -- as an intern. A college professor of mine had penned one of the early books in the series and he put me in touch with the series editor at Continuum. I had read a few of the titles in the series at that point and was elated to be involved. That first summer, I eagerly took on reading projects and if I remember correctly, the first 33 1/3 manuscript I got to read was Mark Richardson’s book on Zaireeka. That internship turned into a full-time job as an Editorial Assistant the following summer. I was promoted up through the ranks and eventually wound up as the music editor when Continuum was purchased by Bloomsbury. Now in addition to the 33 1/3 series, I edit academic titles in popular music, sound studies and political theory at Bloomsbury, the new home of the series. In addition to journalists and other writers, you've had musicians scribe installments. What do you find they bring? The books in the series by musicians have two audiences. Black Sabbath fans are sure to pick up the 33 1/3 on Master of Reality, but because of the fact that’s it’s penned by John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats, we've got a whole different fan base interested in that book. I now have a deeper appreciation for the Mountain Goats song "The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton" off All Hail West Texas. Master of Reality is one of my favorite books in the series and takes a radical approach to exploring an album: fictionalizing it. How has the series changed from its initial concept -- was fiction in the early planning, for instance? I think David Barker's original concept was to really get to "the heart of matter" of great albums. When the series began, he had solicited proposals from writers he admired, but by the time the tenth or eleventh book came out the proposals were flooding in. There were so many creative approaches: fiction, guidebooks, memoir, etc. that the scope was expanded. During the last open call in 2014, I received almost 40 pitches with a "creative" approach including novellas, screenplays, one-act plays and graphic novels. Which album proved most difficult to produce a book for? The Clash's London Calling. Three different writers have been under contract to write this book over the years and not one has been successful. Are there any books you're still crossing your fingers to see written? If so, what are they? Definitely. Look for a wish list during the 2015 open call on 333sound.com. Which book has proved to generate the most commentary (it's Let's Talk About Love, isn't it?)? Yes, it's Carl Wilson's Let’s Talk About Love. That tiny book spawned a whole new conversation about taste and snobbery. It's widely taught in college classrooms in freshman seminars, creative writing classes and by pretty much any cultural studies professor who comes into contact with it. I think it’s so successful because students react so strongly at first with, "Why the hell have we been assigned a book about Celine Dion?" But then after reading it, their concept of highbrow and lowbrow culture has completely warped. There were so many interesting reactions to the book that we brought out a separate new edition that includes essays by James Franco, Mary Gaitskill, Nick Hornby and countless others. What do you think of series such as Music On Film, which have applied the research / overview / pocket book concept to other genres? I haven’t read any of the Music on Film books but I just might have to pick up the Spinal Tap one. Is there one on Monty Python and the Holy Grail? There should be. I do like it when the 33 1/3 apparatus of a tiny, focused study is applied to other genres. Our media studies editor has just started a series on video game design with the first installment covering Shigeru Miyamoto. Coincidentally, I've just signed up a 33 1/3 on the soundtrack to Super Mario Bros. In academic publishing, we call that synergy (rolls eyes). Do you have any wild plans for the next ten years? Yes, we're going global! The possibilities for the series are infinite. As long as albums are being made, there are 33 1/3rds to be written. I receive so many brilliant pitches on Japanese, Chinese, Indonesian, Brazilian artists; the list goes on. So I'm teaming up with musicologists with various region-specific specialties to expand the 33 1/3 series to cover the greatest albums released all over the world. While our wide 33 1/3 audience may have never heard of artist like Yellow Magic Orchestra or Cui Jian, their influence in their respective countries is huge. Their albums deserve the microscopic 33 1/3 treatment and they'll get it soon! For more information on the 33 1/3 series, visit their website. You can RSVP to the 33 1/3 tenth anniversary party and find out more details at the Powerhouse website. Also -- for the entire month of September, Bloomsbury has all books in the series for $10 (33 1/3% off!). You can get them at Bloomsbury's store.
Soft Skull Press always presents a unique twist with its biographies or memoirs. It's never just a straightforward history of the titular individual, but rather an analysis of the environment which produced the subject. In the case of W. Scott Poole's Vampira: Dark Goddess of Horror, the author uses the '50s horror host as an entry point to discussing the era's social mores and how the woman born Maila Nurmi challenged the status quo. The author has a wealth of information on which to draw. Sadly, little of it is regarding Vampira herself. There's minimal evidence of her television program, and what remains of her work is, essentially, bit parts in a few films. The thing for which she garnered her initial acclaim exists only anecdotally, leading to a great amount of speculation on Poole's part. This is additionally due in no small part to the fact that many of the stories about Nurmi's childhood and upbringing come from the woman herself. As the author himself states, it's much like trying to find out about Bob Dylan when he was just Robert Zimmerman, only there are no people to whom we can turn for contradiction or confirmation. If you're looking for a comprehensive story of Vampira's life, this is likely as complete as it gets. Sadly, it's a lengthy magazine article, at best. Poole does a lovely job in demonstrating how Nurmi and her character were something new and wonderful, but falls short of convincingly depicting the actress as a world-changing persona. I'll grant Nurmi created some iconic imagery that still resonates, but as a danger because she "embodied both ancient terrors and the modern threats of the sexual revolution" stretches credulity a bit. It's nice to have the full story behind Nurmi's relationships with the likes of Elvis Presley and James Dean, but there's more information on those tabloid stories than on her work in Plan 9 From Outer Space, arguable the thing for which she's most known these days -- and most of that verbiage is given over to discussing much Tim Burton's Ed Wood film got wrong, as opposed to details of the filming itself. Nevertheless, Vampira is an entertaining read, and one that knbows how to engage its reader and provoke some thoughts. It's not due out until September, but keep an eye out for it. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbQfqb2nGi8[/embed]
Three upcoming singles from Slovenly Records, as well as one (PUFF!) on their new imprint, Mondo Mongo. These all came into my inbox at the same time, so they're all getting reviewed simultaneously. Each review was limited to a certain amount of space, and I kept to that, in the interest of brevity. The Anomalys - "Deadline Blues" b/w "No More!" Ignore the a-side, which is pretty rote, even though there's a nice reverb on the guitar tone. The vocals are so high up in the mix as to irritate, especially given the tone-deaf delivery. The crazed drumming and insistent background vocals on "No More!" make it the far more interesting track on here. It's frantic and the surf bridge makes it completely danceable. You can freak the fuck out on that one. PUFF! - Identitätsverlust Behind all the weird synth work, guitar insanity, and otherwise is a steady, motorik / mechanical beat. This German group might operate like Devo on speed, but there's a solid foundation behind all three songs that keep them from collapsing into complete messes. "Routine" is the least outre of all the tracks, yet manages to use its simplicity to provide a severe and claustrophobic discomfort. Thee MVPs - "Oh Sally" b/w "Amok Time" Jangly, shaggy garage at its most simple might not be breaking any new ground, but Thee MVPs know how to rope you in and keep your attention. "Oh Sally" is bright and sunny, "Amok Time" is a little darker and intense, and any song that uses Kirk battling Spock as an analogy for troubles in a relationship is aces with me. The wails and guitar workout in the last minute make this one a real winner. I also like the fact that these folks don't fade out -- both songs end with these great little codas. Useless Eaters - Desperate Living Synth-y, Spits-y garage. It's dirty, like the contacts on Useless Eaters' electronics haven't been cleaned in a while, giving everything a patina of filth. I love the fact that the combined running time of both songs on the flipside is less than that of the title cut. "Desperate Living" takes its time and stretches out, but "Dungeon" and "I ThinK She Wants to Find Out positively revel in their brevity. "I Think..." even throws in a solo at the end, as if to say, "Oh, we've plenty of time." You can preview a track from each of these releases at the Slovenly Bandcamp page.
Due out next week from Sickroom Records is the debut release from Italian trio Kippi's, entitled Semplice Como Nuvole. It's a fascinating combination of motorik post-punk rhythms and psychedelic influences. The whole album is frankly hypnotic. Coming as it does right as the weather's warming up, we can see this getting a lot of windows down, volume up play around the house, and especially in the car. We were lucky enough to get to ask frontman Daniel Mana a few questions about the band and their album via e-mail. I have to ask, because Semplice Come Nuvole covers so much ground -- where do your inspiration and influences come from? Well, I guess the main reason why our record covers so much ground is because the three of us listen to a lot of music and we all went through different musical experiences in the past 6 years. The main idea was to make a record that sounded pretty unique here in Italy. It's sung in Italian, but it doesn't sound Italian at all. We don't really have any particular influences, to be honest. We are doing what we feel at this right moment. We write songs that are pretty "empty" in terms of arrangements, with repetitive beats, but every note we play or sing is carefully put in the song to achieve a particular and precise emotion. Kippi's are three really good friends with very similar personalities and I belive that's the secret, we always find a solution without arguing, everything with Kippi's comes natural. We are basically inspired by everyday's life and experiences. In terms of sound -- yes, we do have inspiration, we wanted full big drums kind of like Shannon Wright or Nina Nastasia. The compositions have a very improvisational feel, but is this how you put songs together? Most of the songs are born during rehearsals. You kind of are right -- for some reason, all of our songs are born as an improvisation, but it takes quite a long time after that to get to the final result. Sometimes, it takes just two or three takes to get the general idea of a song, but then it takes months before we are satisfied with it. As I said, we do things very carefully. For instance, what brought about "Pornospirituale" or "Monochromo"? The titles seem to quite accurately describe what's going on musically. "Pornospirituale" is an exception. I wrote the song a few days before going to the studio to start the recording. The first day in the studio I had the guys listen to it, they liked it, and we decided to add it to the record. In that song, the bassist plays drums and the drummer plays a Fender Rhodes piano. It was very spontaneous. I think we did three or four takes before we got the one that's on the record. We all really like that song. "Monocromo" was one of the first songs we wrote. It was me and the bassist that came up with the repetitive bass line and guitar and yes, in my mind I had this grey image of Beijing and China in general and the monochrome fits perfectly with the repetitive bass note. Are the recordings templates for something further -- do the songs change in a live setting? I wouldn't say so. The songs are complete like that. Some of them change a little bit in a live setting. We follow the feeling of the moment. It's live so ... people have to be pleased. When did the band come together? We used to play together during high school, but after that we kind of didn't see each other for a while. I went to work in China during university and that was one of the reasons we couldn't make music anymore. During that time, we all focused on different musical styles. When I came back to Italy two and half years ago, I had pretty clear in my mind the kind of record that I wanted to do and so we got back together and started to work seriously on this record. What was your history before Kippi's? As I said above, we went trough very different musical experiences. I've lived in China for 6 years and I mostly made music on my own during that time. The bassist was in a folk band and the drummer kind of ... relaxed for while? Haha. We did meet up and play every time I went back to Italy, though, and even if it was for just a few hours, it's always been amazing. Does Kippi's have touring plans for the album in the US? Yes, we will be in the Us during the summer, but it's not scheduled yet. We will have a few shows in the Midwest and probably New York. You can find more information about Kippi's at their Facebook page and buy Semplice Como Nuvole from Sickroom Records.
Potpourri of Pearls' We Went to Heaven has been playing down here in the basement, in the living room, at work, and various places over the past week. I've been trying to figure out if my initial impressions of it being amazing and weird have held up to repeated listens. Honestly, the first time I listened to We Went to Heaven, the whole '80s worship thing was a fun angle -- especially the fact they were lifting Erasure, making this a refreshing switch from bands who've been swiping New Order's sound for the better part of two decades. Repeated plays haven't really born out the opinions from the first listen. Frankly, with the exception of the last few tracks, the beats start to plod after a few tracks, and the repeated reliance on Autotune and various other bits of vocal pitch-shifting only demonstrate the unfortunate flatness in the vocals. For Potpourri of Pearls to work, these falsettos need to soar, and they barely achieve the heights of a baby bird taking its first tentative flaps out of the nest. However, when they embrace their limitations, and try something different -- when they get fucking weird -- the band clicks. "Under Every Ocean," with its extraordinarily uncomfortable juxtaposition of squeaky and super-deep pitch-shifted vocals, some beats that manage to do more than thud, and just being fucking freaky, works like crazy. Is it a dance number? Oh, hell no. People'd flee the dance floor like rats on a ship, but it's definitely far more interesting than anything that preceded it. Followed up as it by "Hang Me," a song that manages to work the weird in a much more listener-friendly way, with a flipping great hook and a groove that locks in and doesn't let go, you get the feeling that Potpourri of Pearls have it in them to embrace their inner SSION and make dance music that manages to be interesting. [embed]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Prs5us1soM[/embed] We Went to Heaven comes out February 11. Potpourri of Pearls will have a release party that night at Philadelphia's Kung Fu Necktie with operners Disco Hootenany. Details are viewable here.
Pairing Adventures with Run Forever is such a ridiculously perfect idea, it's basically one of those "shut up and take my money!" releases. Adventures' dreamy indie pop has a certain angular melodicism to it that hints at part of the band's involvement with Code Orange Kids. It especially comes out in the feedback-drenched ends to their songs. Run Forever, however, works it a little differently. Rather than fading out their songs, they opt for epic intros, leading into harmonies suited perfectly for lifted hands and heartfelt sing-alongs. The bands compliment one another, and they're both on the rise, so why wouldn't the two acts come together? While both acts do what they do well, this split single works because they're both best in small doses. Run Forever's "Lost the Feeling" comes in with punchy guitars, chugs through, and is gone in under two minutes. It rocks an early Alkaline Trio vibe, kind of reminding me "I Lied My Face Off" in terms of lyrical delivery. The rest of the tracks are decent and well-executed, but much like Run Forever's last LP, Settling, this split EP is a nice listen through, but not something I think I'll find myself returning to on any sort of regular basis. The split is available on 7-inch vinyl and digital download from the No Sleep Records store, and the record comes out on January 28. Pressing information is as follows: 20 Test Pressing (Black) 125 Coffee w/ Creamer (2014 Subscription) 300 Blue 300 Transparent Orange 500 Half Red/Half Light Blue You can stream a track from each artists at Alternative Press.
We've talked about asthetics I'm not down with before -- the whole Hot Water Music thing being beyond my comprehension, for example -- and I'm trying to figure out what it is about Ex Friends' full-length, Rules For Making Up Words, that turns me off. Just a few months back, I was excited beyond all belief regarding their Twisted Around 7-inch. Now, listening to this record that they've released on Paper + Plastick, I'm just kind of watching it tick by in iTunes, waiting for the damned thing to be over. For lack of a better thing, I think it's kind of like my Dillinger Four preferences. I love D4 songs with Paddy on vocals, and get kind of ambivalent toward Erik songs, but I'm pretty all right with songs where they both sing. Same thing goes for Ex Friends -- I love Audrey Crash's vocals, but am kind of turned off by Joel Tannenbaum's delivery. So, it goes that tracks like "Fight Like A Girl" or "Archaeologists of the Future," where Tannenbaum's rather harsh, strained voice is balanced by Crash's more melodic tones, are more to my liking than those where Tannenbaum handles vocals solo. It's likely that the balance on the 7-inch was more easily maintained, there only being 5 songs to the LP's 14. That said, I still like the swagger the band has. "Western Civilization" has that revved-up rock 'n' roll aspect that the Clash used to develop so well. Actually, that's why I was intitially turned on by Ex Friends -- they understand that, originally, punk rock was basically Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley songs played double- or triple-time, and when they lock into that idea, Rules For Making Up Words is fun as hell.
Other things to recommend the album include the really fantastic cover, looking like a bunch of ads you'd find in the back of an ancient Marvel comic or something. The whole of Ex Friends' full-length ends up being okay (especially just kind of fading out at the end of "Let's Get Old"), but there are about half a dozen gems to really recommend tracking it down if you liked that last 7-inch.
Rules For Making Up Words is out now on CD from Creep Records (theroretically -- I can't find it in their store), and will see vinyl release via Paper + Plastick later this spring.
Oh, man -- can power-pop be the next big thing in underground rock 'n' roll? We got the ball rolling with the Exploding Hearts, Missing Monuments, and Mean Jeans, but it hasn't seemed to become a "thing" like lo-fi, shitgaze, or whatever. However, given that we've got the #1s getting released in the states, and this Nightmare Boyzzz LP hitting about the same time, I'm hopeful. Bad Patterns, out in two weeks on Slovenly Recordings, is truly wonderful. I've been returning to it more and more over the last week or so, and with each listen, I find something new to like about it. Granted, it's not like these Huntsville boys are breaking out for new territory with this release. It hearkens back to quite a few other artists, taking pop-punk's energy and the bouncy guitar rhythms of glam, and merging them with any number of early '80s acts that came on the heels of the Buzzcocks and the Undertones. It's what the way Nightmare Boyzzz work everything together, though, that makes Bad Patterns work so well. The fuzzy guitar intro to "You're A Star" reminds me of every song that's ever grabbed me by the ears and wormed its way into my brain, yet deftly avoiding any lifts you can accurately pinpoint: "Well, that's kind of like Slade ... no, wait, that's kind of a Marc Bolan thing ... is that a Thin Lizzy solo? Fuck, man -- you wanna listen to it again?"
And it does that over every single other song on the LP. This might be the new release for me to get evangelical over. It's been a while since something had me this excited about a band. I know I'm into someone when I see their tour dates gets posted and start to consider road trips to check them out.
Get on that "whoa-oh" train and pop over to the Slovenly Bandcamp to pre-order this beauty.