Thursday, January 27, 2011

Album Review: Lower Heaven Today Is All We Have

Today Is All We Have, the latest record from Los Angeles' Lower Heaven begins with swirling synthesizer noise before their layered guitar attack kicks in over a steady, hypnotic rhythm. The overall sound that the band presents on their sophomore effort is haunting, cold, and foreboding though there are moments of warmth and melody that shine through like a break in the clouds. While Los Angeles is currently flooded with groups of feedback-worshipping would-be acid warriors praying to the Gods of Drone, Lower Heaven separate themselves from the pack by incorporating the heavy atmospherics that are a hallmark of this type of music to their advantage by using it in all the right places. "Before You Turn to Dust" starts with a guitar line as sinister as it's song title before slowly building up over a steady back beat.
There is an undeniable versatility demonstrated across Today Is All We Have; On "Firearms" the group flexes some serious muscle and heads into heavier guitar-driven psych-rock territory 'ala Black Mountain while the next track "Wilderness" presents more of a dream-pop vibe like Slowdive at their best. "Done Nothing Wrong" hits you like a bad trip before shifting gears into a riff gnarley enough to make your grandma bob her head. "Shadow People" almost drowns out it's Pornography-era Cure influence under waves of guitar but the group always pulls itself back from the brink of any self-indulgent tendencies to lock back into the groove. All in all, this is a fantastic album and is a must have for fans of The Black Angels, Swervedriver, or The Warlocks.

Lower Heaven Official Site

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Zombiebirdhaus Q&A with Nick Reinhart of Tera Melos

Tera Melos first caught my attention back in 2006 while their music was still predominantly instrumental. Their music ping-pongs through math rock madness and post-rock experimentation all the while delivering a warm dose of melody. Their fantastic and most recent Patagonian Rats was released in September of 2010 through Sargent House and they have been touring in support of it since.

You guys are about to embark on a month-long tour with Marnie Stern, is there a name for the tour? If not would you like to name it?
no name as of now. i kind of associate naming tours with really bad emo screamy bands. we toured with maps and atlases a few months ago and played the ottobar in baltimore. we got there a little early and apparently there was a matinee show going on. there were all these 15 year old girls dressed like vampires running around. i don't know what bands were playing, but i know it was billed as some sort of AP tour and it had a really terrible name. all these old ass dudes, also dressed like vampires, tearing off their shirts playing this really awful music. it was surreal. although, one of the merch guys ended up buying every cd we had, i think 4 or 5. also, i wanted some candy from a little machine but i didn't have a quarter and one of the vampires overheard me and politely gave me one. so i guess they're pretty good guys underneath the pounds of make up. anyways, that's probably what i'll associate with naming tours for the rest of my life.

You have become sort of infamous for your sarcasm and self-deprecating wit, what motivates you to effectively nuke so many in such a hilarious fashion?
i hadn't noticed! haha. for better or for worse this band has always been outspoken, but the key is understanding the conext in which we're outspoken, otherwise we just sound like angry jerks. we're just trying to be honest. and we don't limit our honesty to the rest of the planet- we're also honest about ourselves. it's really just who we are as people. this band has a lot of larry david moments. unfortunately at times it can work against us, but that's life. it's pretty remarkable what goes on in the world of music that no one really questions or pays attention to for that matter. the new banksy film, "exit through the gift shop," perfectly parallels how i feel about music/bands/the industry. most of the creative world (music, film, art, etc) is based on perception and sometimes i have a problem with that and can't help but question it. things are just so backwards. i mean we're not trying to be buddyhead or anything. we're just trying to be real.

What are your favorite aspects of touring, and on the flip-side, your least favorite aspects?
the adventure element is one of the coolest parts of touring. it's real unpredictable and that makes it exciting. even the shitty things that can happen end up being awesome stories that we'll tell for years and years. i've even sort of trained myself to look at it that way even as the events unfold in real time. for instance, recently on a drive home from indianapolis nate and i stayed in a hotel parking lot somewhere in iowa or wyoming or something. it was the end of november. there was a gnarly snow storm and it was freezing, litearally freezing. i spilled some water on the floor in the van and it instantly froze. we slept in that shit. our piss bottles were rock hard. i remember thinking, "this is so rad. we'll tough guy it through the night and laugh about it tomorrow." it was terrible though, haha. i guarantee most humans would not have weathered that storm (pun??), but we weren't about to pay $120 for 5 hours of sleep. i woke up the next morning, stumbled out of the van into the sub zero iceland, strolled into the hotel and had a continental breakfast.

Your new album Patagonian Rats continues expands on the melodic side of Tera Melos. When did you guys decide to include singing in your music? Has this changed your writing process at all?
we started to toy around with vocals a few years ago. playing this kind of music makes it difficult to introduce new elements in a complimentary way. it definitely changed the writing process, but really our writing process has evolved and shifted with time just because that's how life works. in other words, we didn't say "we want to add vocals, so let's start writing songs this way." i think we just really like performing melodic music. we usually tend to find the most creative way to present a melodic idea into a song. that can mean taking a more obvious chord progression or melody and twisting it to be a little uncomfortable, or taking a weirder or more obscure melody and grounding it just enough for it to make sense. it makes writing and playing really interesting for us.

What or who inspires you to create and play music?
i can't really think of anything that doesn't inspire me to create music. all of the above. i know that's a really broad answer. i attach musical thoughts to everything that passes through my brain- eating, watching the simpsons, talking, taking out the trash etc. i'm not trying to be all abstract with this answer. it's the truth. actually, here's a less confusing repsonse- i think being happy is what most inspires me to play music. since music is what i'm most at ease with in life, it makes sense that i'd be inspired to maintain that sense of comfort and happiness by continuing to create sounds.

You guys have been working with Sargent House for a few years now, how has this partnership helped you guys?
the relationship been extremely integral over the last few years. cathy pellow (our manager/label owner/friend) is a very forward thinker and the people she has working for her follow suit. since our band/music is outside the box it makes sense to have people surrounding us that think outside the box. i honestly don't know what we'd be doing without them. before our time with SH we never had an ounce of interest from any labels or booking agents. a lot of times my mind drifts into paranoia because the position we're in seems to good to be true.

You guys have been known to be a sort of “musician’s band”, that is even though you didn’t have a large fan base earlier in your career tons of dudes who played in bands bigger than you guys raved about you and took you guys on the road. What is it about your music that illicit this reaction?

i think the "musician's band" term is a way of saying that the average joe music listener doesn't quite appreciate or possibly understand the music as well as a musician might. i don't know if that's true with regards to us. it's hard for me to have an objective perception of that idea applying to our band. i guess since we played complex music it was more difficult for non-musicians to get into. i could see that. i think other bands helped us out because they liked our music and we were nice guys.

What would be the line-up at your ultimate wet-dream concert? (You can include dead people too) hmm. beach boys '80 + king crimson '82 + flaming lips with a steven drozd clone so he could play drums and guitar + sonic youth '90s + aphex twin and squarepusher collaboration + pantera '96 but phil would have a shaved head + the clash '82 + underworld + tera melos. not too many dead people in there.

Is there anything else on the horizon for you guys that you’re particularly excited about?
just the future. i'm curious about what we will have accomplished a year from today. hopefully a lot of good stuff.

Any final thoughts?
stop letting strangers dictate what you should and shouldn't like. thanks everyone for your interest in our music, we really do appreciate it.

Tera Melos Official Site

Feb 18 - Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo
Feb 19 - San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar
Feb 20 - Scottsdale, AZ @ Martini Ranch
Feb 22 - San Antonio, TX @ Ten Eleven
Feb 23 - Austin, TX @ The Mohawk
Feb 24 - Dallas, TX @ Sons Of Hermann Hall
Feb 25 - New Orleans, LA @ The Parish
Feb 26 - Tallahasee, FL @ Club DownUnder
Feb 27 - Orlando, FL @ The Backbooth
Feb 28 - Atlanta, GA @ The Drunken Unicorn
Mar 01 - Raleigh, NC @ Kings Barcade
Mar 02 - Washington DC @ Red Palace
Mar 03 - Philadelphia, PA @ First Unitarian Church
Mar 04 - New York, NY @ Santos Party House
Mar 06 - Cambridge, MA @ The Middle East
Mar 07 - Montreal, QU @ Il Motore
Mar 08 - Toronto, ON @ Wrongbar
Mar 09 - Kalamazoo, MI @ The Strutt
Mar 10 - Chicago, IL @ Subterranean
Mar 11 - Omaha, NE @ Slowdown Jr
Mar 12 - Denver, CO @ Moes
Mar 13 - Salt Lake City @ Kilby Court
Mar 15 - Seattle, WA @ The Vera Project
Mar 16 - Portland, OR @ Branx
Mar 18 - San Francisco, CA @ Bottom Of The Hill
Mar 19 - Sacramento, CA @ Sol Collective

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Just Like Vinyl invade the Sunset Strip!

Just Like Vinyl
The Cat Club
January 19th 2011

The El Rey Theater in Los Angeles is an approximately 700 person capacity venue. The Gibson Amphitheater across town can hold upwards of 6,000 concert attendees. Thomas Erak formerly of Seattle stalwarts Fall of Troy has graced both of these stages and many other across the country playing to capacity crowds opening for heavy-hitters like Deftones, Coheed and Cambria, Poison the Well, Rx Bandits, and many others, not to mention their own headlining tours often sold out mid-size venues during their heyday. Tonight as he returns to Hollywood with his new band Just Like Vinyl following the breakup of the band he started in high school the atmosphere is decidedly different. The Cat Club sits on The Sunset Strip sandwiched between The Whiskey and The Roxy, two decaying relics of LA’s hedonistic rock and roll past. I’m admittedly a bit dyslexic and bad with numbers, but there couldn’t have been more than 100 or so people in attendance for tonight’s gig, their second in Los Angeles.

Also of note; this time there is no record label. Their merchandise selection consists of three items; Simple two-color T-shirts featuring the band’s logo and their self-released and produced new album on either cd or, you guessed it, vinyl. Thomas is unabashedly optimistic about all of this as he sips a Jagermeister and cranberry (a.k.a. red-headed slut) at The Rainbow before taking the stage. “Not having a trailer on our van is honestly the best thing ever!” he exclaims as we observe other bands loading into the nearby venues struggling with the air-tight parking situation. The conversation ranges from pop-culture (shake weights, Sammy Hager’s Cabo Wabo tequila, Black Swan) to reminiscences of old friends and tours past. Filling out the line-up of his newest endeavor are Jake Carden on guitar and vocals, Henry Batts on bass and backing vocals, and Jay Beaman on drums. Thomas and Jake proceed to soak up the atmosphere as more and more friends arrive to join the pre-show festivities. In these surroundings I can’t help but think back to the first time we met some five years ago while Fall of Troy were touring behind their seminal second album Doppelganger. He was a mere 21 years of age and already recognized by the music press as an incredibly innovative guitarist and song-writer playing to hundreds of adoring fans every night and winning over countless new ones in the process. Their confessional third album Manipulator found the group exploring a broader musical landscape while maintaining their baser strengths. Following the departure of founding member Tim Ward the group soldiered on with The Phantom on the Horizon e.p. and what would turn out to be their fourth, and final, full-length In the Unlikely Event…

Back inside The Cat Club its Hollywood butt-rock business as usual as the tribal-tattoo sporting and dread locked crowd take in the sound of regurgitated hard-rock riffs and faux anxiety. As luck would have it, the show is running late and the band is pressed for time. Just as I’m thinking to myself “wow, times sure have changed.” the band takes the stage and bursts into their first blistering number. It becomes immediately clear to me that the more things change, the more they can stay the same; all of the strengths of his former group are present in spirit yet Just Like Vinyl eschew the chaotic post-hardcore thrash tendencies of Fall of Troy in favor of a more restrained and structured attack. The blistering fret-work that put Thomas’ name on the top of so many aspiring guitarists’ favorite players lists is still omnipresent yet with Jake Carden on second guitar and vocals filling out the sound and providing a counter-balance to Thomas’ unrestrained assault the dizzying finger picking no longer muscles out the rhythm section. If anything Just Like Vinyl’s sound is fuller, warmer, and more accessible. The band attracted a small but dedicated group consisting of friends and die-hard fans, all of whom seemed well aware that seeing them so early in their career and at such a small establishment is the stuff of potential legend, a real “I was there moment”. As the band powers through “Death of the Sheep”, perhaps their best known number thus far, the crowd coalesces around the stage, singing what words they know at the top of their lungs while dancing and throwing their hands in the air. The exact number of songs performed escapes me due to the fact that I was completely immersed in their performance yet everyone who witnessed this show can all agree on one thing; their set was way too short.

Though it was disappointing that they didn’t have more time that evening I see it as a great preview of what’s to come from these guys. As for me, witnessing a short performance like last night’s guaranteed that I will be in attendance at their next gig, front and center. Do yourself a favor, if this is the first you are reading about these guys get their record and go see them on this tour, they return to LA (and the stage of the El Rey) in March with Dance Gavin Dance. Go see them now, in a small and intimate place. You’ll thank me when you’re able to say “I was there” a few years from now.

Just Like Vinyl and The Memorials (ex-The Mars Volta) Freedom Tour 2011
Jan 20 San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar
Jan 22 Phoenix, AZ @ Warehouse 201
Jan 24 Austin, TX @ The Parish
Jan 25 Houston, TX @ Fitzgerald’s
Jan 28 Atlanta, GA @ The 5 Spot
Jan 29 Nashville, TN @ Tba
Jan 30 Columbia, SC @ New Brookland Tavern
Feb 01 Philadelphia, PA @ The Grape Room
Feb 02 New York, NY @ Sob’s
Feb 03 Boston, MA @ The Church
Feb 04 Hamden, CT @ The Space
Feb 07 Baltimore, MD @ The Sonar
Feb 08 Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Ballroom
Feb 09 Columbus, OH @ Skully’s
Feb 10 Indianapolis, IN @ The Vollrath
Feb 12 Minneapolis, MN @ 400 Bar
Feb 14 Milwaukee, WI @ Mad Planet
Feb 15 Madison, WI @ The Frequency
Feb 17 Chicago, IL @ Martyr’s
Feb 18 St. Louis, MO @ Cicero’s
Feb 19 Kansas City, MO @ Riot Room
Feb 21 Wichita, KS @ Rock Island Live
Feb 23 Denver, CO @ The Marquis
Feb 24 Salt Lake City, UT @ Club Vegas
Feb 26 Boise, ID @ Visual Arts Collective
Mar 01 Seattle, WA @ El Corazon
Mar 02 Portland, OR @ Someday Lounge

Dance Gavin Dance, Iwrestledabearonce, In Fear and Faith, Just Like Vinyl U.S. Tour:
Mar 10 Los Angeles, CA @ El Rey
Mar 11 San Diego, CA @ Soma
Mar 12 Anaheim, CA @ House of Blues
Mar 14 Lubbock, TX @ Cactus Courtyard
Mar 15 McAllen, TX @ Never Say Never Fest
Mar 16 San Antonio, TX @ White Rabbit
Mar 17 Austin, TX @ Red 7 at SXSW Artery Party
Mar 18 Austin, TX @ SXSW Artery Showcase
Mar 19 Dallas, TX @ South By So What
Mar 20 Tulsa, OK @ ACM at UCO
Mar 22 Louisville, KY @ Headliners
Mar 23 Pittsburgh, PA @ Altar BarMar
Mar 24 Baltimore, MD @ Rams Head Live
Mar 25 Allentown, PA @ Crocodile Rock
Mar 26 Worcester, MA @ The Palladium
Mar 27 New York, NY @ Irving Plaza
Mar 29 Philadelphia, PA @ First Unitarian Church
Mar 30 Cleveland, OH @ Peabody's
Apr 01 Chicago, IL @ The Metro
Apr 02 Minneapolis, MN @ Station 4
Apr 03 Omaha, NE @ Sokol
Apr 04 Denver, CO @ Summit Music Hall
Apr 05 Salt Lake City, UT @ Club Sound
Apr 07 Reno, NV @ Knitting Factory
Apr 08 Sacramento, CA @ Ace of Spades
Apr 09 Oakland, CA @ Metro Operahouse

Just Like Vinyl Online:
Official Web Site

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Zombiebirdhaus presents: The Top Ten Albums of 2010

1. Bob Dylan: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964:
This is such a no-brainier. Bob Dylan continues to make compelling music and tour the world to this day, but there is something about those early (and often mythological) years of his career that holds a special place for all Dylan fans. The image of young Bob, baby-faced and smiling in his workman's shirt and over sized trousers, drunk on the words of Woodie Guthrie stepping into the chaotic circus that was New York in the early 60's has been conjured up in books, documentary films, and word-of-mouth stories (embellished and otherwise) told by those who were there and caught a glimpse of the man in the early days, before he plugged in, put on his wayfarers, and never looked back a few years later. This collection of demos is snapshot of Bob before, during, and after his first two albums and when I say "demos" bear with me because most of the tracks on this collection sound great. Occasionally Bob stops and takes notes, coughs, flubs lyrics, or breaks out laughing and yet it's these little moments that make this such an amazing collection, a perfectly imperfect audio snapshot of a young folk singer before his ascent to greatness. Also, this should clue you in to how much of a fuck I give about 90% of the bullshit music being made in these modern times (more on that later) because a collection of demos from over 40 years ago (albeit by Dylan, yes) is my choice for top spot in 2010. Oh wait, you have a demo too? Great let me throw that away for you.

2. Deerhunter: Halcyon Digest
Is it just me or does this band seem to get better and better with every release? Straddling the lines between dream pop, shoegaze, indie-pop, and garage Halcyon Digest is one of those rare records that transcends it's influences to take on a life of it's own. Equally spacey and rocking at different times, Deerhunter's newest record feels like it was recorded in the middle of a dream colliding with reality. On Desire Lines frontman Bradford Cox laments the loss of childhood innocence while picking off guitar chords that seem to envelope the listener in a web while slowly building to a climax. This is a great album and I have no doubt that kids ten, fifteen, twenty years from now are going to hold this record in the same regard that today is afforded to The Pixies' Doolittle, Jesus and Mary Chain's Psychocandy and My Bloody Valentine's Loveless and it really pisses me off that the mainstream music press threw Kanye West's TERRIBLE new album at the top of every list they could find this year, true Halcyon Digest garnered it's fair share of accolades but if you so please feel free to get back to me in a decade or so and tell me which album you think has stood the test of time. Personally, I don't think too many kids are going to pick up My Dark Twisted Fantasy and go out and start making music.

3. OFF!: First Four e.p.s

"I can't stop thinking black thoughts!" OFF! front man Keith Morris shouts on the blistering first track on this excellent compilation of the band's first four extended plays. Considering that Keith Morris has been at this for over thirty years it's amazing to see just how effective a true-blue hardcore punk record can be in 2010. From the Raymond Pettibon cover art down to Keith's familiar snarl "First Four e.p.s" is about as authentic as it gets at times evoking both of Morris' previous bands (Black Flag, Circle Jerks... duh) yet make no mistake, this is an all-new band and Keith is still fucking PISSED. Kudos to Keith Morris (who, by the way, continues to be one of the most prominent figures in the Los Angeles music scene even to this day, if you see a cool show in LA you're bound to spot him), Dimitri Coats (Burning Brides), Mario Rubicabla (Hot Snakes, etc.), and Steven Shane McDonald (Redd Kross) for bringing such an unexpected and masterful representation of the music I listened to growing up to a new generation. 16 tracks in under 20 minutes... could Henry Rollins pull off something this great this late in the game? NO. Jesus, Keith must be laughing at everyone who went to that bullshit Black Flag "reunion" a few years back... God I still have a bad taste in my mouth from that one (Mike Vallely singing the whole "My War" album.... great. Stick to beating up people at hockey games next time.) Keep thinking black thoughts!

4. Crocodiles: Sleep Forever
Crocodiles second effort opens with a slowly building wall of sound while the drums pitter-pat and synthesizers dit-dot the sonic landscape until... you guesses it GUITARS! From there on out Crocodiles span the rest of the album dropping you further and further down a kaleidoscopic worm hole occupied by buzz saw guitars, fuzzy bass, tape loops, phantom synth bursts and generally other trippy fare. There really isn't much on this record that hasn't been done before but when these elements are brought together in the right way like they are on "Sleep Forever" it simply works in a way that is familiar and yet unique and spectacular in its own right. On "Stoned to Death" the band hits it's stride around the 1:50 mark somewhere between the sleigh bells jangling over a driving groove and the sonic blitz that follows immediately afterwards. An admirable effort from two guys who's old band was known for saxophone solos and guys making out with each other.

5. Portugal. the Man: American Ghetto
Somewhere between the release of last year's excellent effort The Satanic Satanist, gaining further national prominence by signing to Atlantic, and touring the world in 2010 Portugal. the Man released their curiosity of a fifth album American Ghetto. The Satanic Satanist continues to be promoted with the release of music videos for both "People Say" and "Guns and Dogs" while "American Ghetto" can almost be perceived as a release for true fans or to satisfy those who discovered them only last year. While "Satanist" remains the truest example of the band overall, the roots of American Ghetto can be traced back to their 2007 release "It's Complicated Being a Wizard" a 23-minute electronic sound scape split into ten movements. "Ghetto" eschews the mostly guitar-driven psych-pop of their last album in favor of synthesizers and hip-hop st lye beats all while retaining the band's strongest qualities; heavy doses of melody, whimsical, catchy lyrics, and layers upon layers of warm instrumentation all of which work well here in conjunction with the programmed beats. MGMT failed to deliver a decent follow-up to Oracular Spectacular (sorry SPIN, Pitchfork, etc. but "Congratulations" SUCKED and just cause "they did something different" on their second album doesn't mean it's GOOD. I swear to God the first time I heard that turd of an album my face must have looked like someone just farted...) and I would highly recommend this record to anyone into actually hearing a decent album that blends these elements together. "American Ghetto" is not a great place to start if you're a first-time listener but it's not the worst place either.

6. Grinderman: Grinderman 2
Hmmm... ok let me put it this way. Up until the release of Grinderman 2 I was sure that the chances of Nick Cave riding up to my house on a Harley, murdering me and my entire family, burning my house down via flicked cigarette and gas can while riding away with my girlfriend sitting in the bitch seat were about 1-in-5. Now I'm convinced it's only a matter of time.

7. Prince Rama: Shadow Temple
Prince Rama's latest full-length finds the three-piece in the middle of a haunted temple of doom surrounding the listener with echoing ghost-like chants, tribal drum beats, murky synthesizers, and layers upon layers of rudimentary and primal instrumentation. Church organs swell and recede while the occasional guitar strumming breaks up the spacey haze of sounds this group creates. The overall flow of the album holds tightly, each track seeming to bleed into the next creating an airtight and seamless piece of music that stands out as a beautiful whole rather than a drab collection of songs. It's also weird as fuck. Yes that's an advantage in this case

8. Tame Impala: Innerspeaker
Tame Impala rose to prominance, seemigly overnight (That might be because I live in LA and these dudes live in Autralia... and they don't sound like AC/DC! It's a miracle! ps. Airbourne don't think I've forgotten about how cool you guys thought you were even before your shitty band got "famous". You must have felt like you made it chilling on Hollywood Blvd acting like a bunch of dickheads... I just worked there. Go throw another shrimp on the bar-bee asswipe.) and everyone and their grandmother went out and got this record. It would be really easy to talk about how thier singer sounds A LOT like John Lennon. See I just did it. Ok now that that's out of the way there are other redeeming aspects of this album... Like how it's good. And like how the singer guy sounds like John Lennon.

9. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti: Before Today
Ariel Pink and Co. have out-done themselves yet again creating an interesting and functional pastiche of 80's synth pop, radio ballads, garage lo-fi, easy-listening and psych seemigly by throwing ideas at the wall and seeing which ones stick. As with most of their albums Ariel Pink's home recording techniques can play tricks on your ears, at times these songs seem to be cranking out of a transistor radio circe '82. The lyrics are also fucking great, check out this line from "Menopause Men":
"Make me maternal, fertile woman
Make me menstrual, menopause man
Rape me, castrate me, make me gay
Lady, I'm a lady from today"
There's also a great deal of tarzan howls, burps, and other wierd noises going on the background. I've never had so much fun trying to find armpit-farts on an album before... if you haven't found them yet, keep looking and I won't spoil the surprise!!

10. The Black Angels: Phosephene Dream

The Black Angels really expand their sound past the blusey slide-driven rock of their first album Passover and the fuzz-drenched psych of Directions to See a Ghost to create more of a classic sound while at the smae time retaining the elements that make them such a unique and great band in the first place. Plus that song Telephone makes me want to go fucking crazy.