New Audio: Ice Balloons Return with Doom-Laden Animated Visuals for New Track

Over the past month or so I’ve written a couple of posts on the All-Star, no-wave, noise-punk act  Ice Balloons, an act comprised of a who’s who of contemporary indie rock as the band’s lineup features  TV on the Radio’s Kyp Malone, Samiam’s Sean Kennerly, Fuckemos’ and Surfbort’s Sean Powell, Midnight Masses’ Giselle Reiber, Wild Yaks’ Dan Scinta and B.A. Miele. The project finds each member bringing disparate elements from their various primary gigs and creative pasts into their creative process but in a rather unique fashion. 

“Calypso Heartworm,” the first single off the band’s full-length debut Fiesta was a fuzzy and dissonant song with a rather untraditional and indiscernible song structure and while there are hints at familiar elements as there’s sort of a bridge and something that resembles a bridge and a hook, all held together by a propulsive and angular bass line, buzzing guitar chords and a trippy, kaleidoscopic vibe. The album’s second single “The Wasp” featured scorching guitar work, sizzling electronic laser blasts and distorted, howled vocals in an anthemic and blistering punk anthem from a broken and failing spaceship sent from a dystopian planet, much like our own. However, the album’s third and latest single “Fallen Family” is a hellish and doom-laden dirge, complete with down-tuned, rumbling bass, thunderous drumming and heavily distorted vocals. 

Featuring animation by Chicago, IL-based director Jim Trainor, the recently released visuals for the song are reminiscent of Matt Groening’s Life in Hell and Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto as it possesses a real dark irony. 

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As a mixed-race daughter in middle America — small town Ohio to be precise — the Nashville, TN-based singer/songwriter Becca Richardson has always lived with the surrounding questions of what it means to belong and connect with others, and because she grew up with the constant reminder of being different than her counterparts, she found an immediate connection through music; in fact, she grew up in a rather musical home in which Fleetwood Mac, Phoebe Snow and Cat Stevens were on heavy rotation in her home.  After learning piano, guitar and to sing, she discovered a deep passion for songwriting, which still manages to be a powerful tool for discovering herself and carving out a space in the world.

As a young adult, Richardson went to study at Stanford University while honing her overall sound and songwriting approach. After spending a few years playing and hustling in the Bay Area music scene, Richardson relocated to Nashville, where she began work on her Roger Moutenot and Courtney Little-produced full-length debut We Are Gathered Here. “Wanted,” the album’s lead single, thematically explores womanhood, otherness and autonomy — but in a way that captures the innermost thoughts and desires of a modern woman; the sort of woman you’ve befriended, dated or even gone to work with. Sonically speaking, the song paris Richardson’s coolly self-assured and sultry vocals with an slick and ambient-leaning production consisting of blasts of bluesy guitar chords, a sinuous bass line, gentle layers of shimmering and undulating synths and soaring yet tight hook to create an overall sound that’s incredibly crafted and thoughtful while being rather radio friendly.

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Blood Cultures is a rather mysterious New Jersey-based electro pop act that has begun to receive attention for a hazy and summery sound that nods at Washed Out and Neon Indian — and to some degree, the Cascine Records roster as you’ll hear on “Scenes From A Midnight Movie,” the opening track to the act’s soon-to-be released full-length debut Happy Birthday; but Blood Cultures sets themselves apart from a crowded field of contemporary purveyors of hazy, wistful and carefully crafted synth pop confections with an incredibly subtle touch — a regal yet mournful horn arrangement towards the song’s coda that reminds me of Tears For Fears‘ “Break It Down Again.”

Blood Cultures will be making their live debut at Rough Trade on August 9, 2017.

 

Now known as the Federal Republic of Somalia, most Westerners view the country as being a lawless, dysfunctional and broken country, split and reeling from a brutal and bloody civil war between two or three different factions — and while that has been true over the past 25-30 years, what Westerners and others have sadly forgotten is that because of its location,the Eastern African nation for known for more than a millennium for being a major trading post, with several powerful Somali empires dominating regional trade, including the Ajuran Empire, the Adal Sultanate, the Warsangali Sultanate, and the Geledi Sultanate. And as one of antiquity’s major trade posts, the cultures and peoples of the Arabian Peninsula, Persia, India, Southeast Asian and China found a way to influence and slowly work their way into the region’s unique musical culture and sound.

In the late 19th century, the British and Italian empires through a series of treaties with Somalia’s historical empires and sultanates gained greater control of parts of the country’s coastline, establishing the colonies of British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland while Mohammed Abdullah Hassan’s Dervish State fought and defeated the British four times before a crushing defeat by the British in 1920. Italy, then acquired full control of the northeastern, central and southern parts of the country after defeating the Majerteen Sultanate and the Sultanate of Hobyo — and their occupation of the country lasted until 1941 when the British took over with a military administration. British Somaliland would remain a protectorate of the British while Italian Somaliland became a United Nations Trusteeship under Italian administration, the Trust Territory of Somaliland.

Throughout the late 1950s and 1960s, independence movements across Africa helped to redefine the map; in fact, by 1960 Italian Somaliland and British Somaliland united in 1960 to form the Somali Republic under a civilian and democratic based government. Sadly, democratic government didn’t last long; by 1969, the Supreme Revolutionary Council led by authoritarian Mohamed Siad Barre seized power and established the Somali Democratic Republic.

Now that I’ve gone through roughly 1000 years or so of Somali history in a couple of hundred words, things musically for us begin in more contemporary times — 1988. You see, back in 1988 on the eve of a bloody, two-decade civil war, Siad Barre launched a series of punishing air strikes in Somalia’s northern region, known known as Somaliland in an attempt to smash a growing independence movement within that region of the country.

Musically speaking things for us begin in relatively contemporary times — 1988. On the eve of a bloody, two decade plus civil war, Siad Barre launched a series of punishing air strikes in Somalia’s northern section, now known as Somaliland in an attempt to squash a rumbling independence movement within the region. Unsurprisingly, one of the targets Said Barre targeted for airstrikes was the regional radio station Radio Hargeisa, as a way to prevent the organization of further resistance. Knowing that an attack on their radio station and their hometown was imminent, a handful of radio operators, tastemakers and historians recognized that they needed to preserve more than 50 years of modern Somali music as quickly as possible — and it meant finding a way to remove thousands upon thousands of cassette tapes, records and master reels and then dispersing them to neighboring countries like Djibouti and Ethiopia — or in many instances, burying the tapes deep underground to protect them from theft, airstrikes, fire and so on.

The Somali Civil War broke out in 1991 and it resulted both the collapse of Mohamed Siad Barre’s government and a number of armed factions fighting for influence and control throughout the country’s southern region. With the absence of a central government, Somalia quickly began to known as a failed state with residents returning to customary and religious law in most regions, along with a couple of autonomous regions — namely Somaliland and Puntland. But interestingly, the early part of the millennium saw the creation of several fledgling and sputtering federal administrations, including the Transitional Federal Government, which in 2004 reestablished national institutions such as the military. And with the assistance of Ethiopian troops, the Transitional Federal Government assumed control of the country’s southern conflict zones, beating back the Islamic Courts Union, which eventually splintered into a several radical Islamicist groups, including Al-Shabaab, a group that continued an ongoing battle with the Transitional Federal Government and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) for control of the region and its territory.

By 2012, insurgent groups had lost most of the territory they had seized, and a political process that provided benchmarks for the establishment of a permanent democracy  — and it included the drafting of a provisional constitution, which reformed Somalia as a federation. At the end of that lengthy process was the creation of the Federal Government of Somalia, the first permanent government in the country in well over 20 years, followed by a period of necessary and hopeful reconstruction in Mogadishu.

Remember those audio recordings that the engineers, programmers, historians and tastemakers dispatched to Djibouti and Ethopia and buried in various locations across the region? Interestingly enough, those recordings were recently excavated from their shelters with some of those recordings being kept in the 10,000 cassette tape archives of the Red Sea Foundation, the largest known collection of Somali music and cassettes, located in Somaliland’s capital Hargeisa. (Yes, things do and can come full circle.)

Ostinato Records, best known for the preservation, digitalization, and distribution of obscure world music was able to digitized a significantly large portion of the Red Sea Foundation’s archives, choosing 15 songs as part of their latest compilation of African music Sweet as Broken Dates: Lost Somali Tapes from the Horn of Africa. And while revealing the diversity of styles and sounds of Somali musicianship, the compilation also provides a glimpse of life in Mogadishu in the 1970s and 1980s, when the coastal capital was referred to as the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean.” At the time bands like Iftiin, Sharero and Dur Dur played at some of East Africa’s glitziest nightclubs, while Waaberi Band played packed to the rafter sets at the national theater.  Nightlife, music, culture and art were enormous — and interestingly while there were renowned male vocalists like Mahmud “Jerry” Hussen, Somali music of the 70s and 80s were best known for beloved female vocalists Faadumo Qaasim, Hibo Nuura, Sahra Dawo and a collection of truly empowered, prolific women; in fact, half of the compilation features songs sung by and written by women.

This cultural and musical golden age occurred under a socialist, military dictatorship, which effectively nationalized the country’s music industry. The state owned a thriving scene and essentially music was recorded for and by national radio stations, and it was distributed and disseminated through public broadcasts or live performances. Privately owned labels were non-existent and the work of a generation of artists was never made available for mass release in the way it is elsewhere — and until recently, hadn’t been heard outside of Somalia or its immediate neighbors. Most of that period, Somali music was largely influenced by the cultures and people who traveled to the region throughout its history as a major trade port; however, during the height of the Cold War, Somalia had periods of financial and logistical support by both the Soviets and the US in the Ethio-Somali War — and with about a decade of US backing, American soul, funk and hip-hop captured the imaginations of Somali youth, adding to a unique element to the country’s musical culture and sound.

While compiling the tracks on Sweet as Broken Dates: Lost Somali Tapes from the Horn of Africa, members of the Ostinato Records team spent the better part of a year traveling back and forth between Mogadishu, Hargeisa, Djibouti and across the Somali Diaspora in parts of Europe, the US and the Middle East to track down the musicians, songwriters, composers, government officials, scenesters, radio personalities and other folks, who had played a role during the 1970s and 1980s and got their stories down in a detailed, 15,000 word liner note booklet.

 

As the folks at Obstinato Records explain in press notes “Along side the story of Somalia’s music before the civil war, the selection is also focused on the pan-Somali sound. Spread over much of the Horn of Africa, Somali language and culture transcend arbitrary borders. Somali singers from Djibouti were at home in Mogadishu.” They add that “this compilation  seeks to revive the rightful image, history, and identity of the Somali people, detached from war, violence, piracy, and the specter of a persistent threat.”

Now, as you may recall, the compilations’ first single Danan Hargeysa’s “Uur Hooyo (Mother’s Womb)” feat. Mohamed “Huro” Abdihashi was recorded and released back in 1987 and the breezy confection nods at the trippy psychedelia of dub and dubstep as the collaborators pair a shuffling, two-step-like rhythm with explosive blasts of horn, shimmering synths, Nile Rodgers-like guitar and a strutting bass line, and while revealing an obvious reggae and calypso influence, the song possesses an undeniably sunny and funky vibe. Recently, the folks at Ostinato Records released two more singles from the compilation, Aamina Camaari’s “Rag waa Nacab iyo Nasteexo (Men are Cruel and Kind)” and Sharaf Band’s “Kadeed Badanaa Naftaydani (My Life is Full of Tribulations)” feat. Xawoo Hirraan in anticipation of its official release on August 25, 2017.

Aamina Camaari’s “Rag waa Nacab iyo Nasteexo (Men are Cruel and Kind)” is an achingly gorgeous and slow-burning lament of a song that pairs Camaari’s ethereal and plaintive vocals with a lush and soaring Middle Eastern and Indian-inspired string arrangement and percussion and Casio synthesizer-like beats that dimly reminds a bit of Omar Souleyman, The Bombay Royale and JOVM mainstays Tinariwen while being absolutely unlike anything I can quite describe; but at its core is an an ancient and timeless ache. Sharaf Band’s “Kadeed Badanaa Naftaydani (My Life is Full of Tribulations)” feat. Xawoo Hirraan is a swaggering and funky track that manages to sound as though it drew influence from Afrobeat and American soul and funk; but much like the preceding single, it features the ethereal and plaintive vocals of Xawaoo Hirraan, which give the song a similar ache.

Certainly, all three tracks from the forthcoming compilation evoke a far simpler time full of laughter, flowing beer and wine, of dancing until the sun came up and walking home in a drunken and elated shuffle, with arms draped over the shoulders of a companion or two, softly singing — and of sad love songs that speak directly to the lonely heart. No matter the language, it’s the sound of fleeting youth and swooning hearts before life’s ambiguities and horrors.

 

New Video: The Bombay Royale Return with Trippy Mortal Kombat-like Visuals for Swooning and Coquettish New Single “I Love You Love You”

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the course of its history, you may have come across a couple of posts featuring the Australian-based Bollywood outfit, including a glowing review of You Me Bullets Love, an album which was conceived as the soundtrack of an imaginary yet prototypical Bollywood feature film — in this case, an epic production that was one part international, espionage thriller, full of double, triple and even quadruple crosses, a lengthy one take chase scene shot through in Kolkata, Delhi or someplace like that, a comedic sequence, three or four insanely choreographed dance sequences, and lastly a love story to boot; in other words, one of those one-size-fits-all, crowd pleasing sort of movies, which in theory shouldn’t work but somehow sort of does. And even if you couldn’t take the tonal shifts and thought of it all as some of the dumbest stuff on earth, you’d dig the soundtrack; in fact, with You Me Bullets Love, the album’s material manages to effortlessly meshed propulsive, four-on-the-floor-based disco and funk, Ennio Morricone-like film scores and psych rock with traditional, Indian instrumentation and chord structures. 

It’s been a few years since I’ve written about the Australian-based, retro Bollywood collective but as it turns out, they were busy writing and recording the material, which would comprise their forthcoming Tristan Ludowyk-produced, third full-length effort, Run Kitty Run. Much like its predecessors, the band’s third full-length album, which is slated for an August 11, 2017 release through Hope Street Recordings was conceived as the soundtrack to a lost Bollywood film but interestingly enough, the album also finds the band expanding and experimenting with their sound a bit. While further cementing their reputation for crafting a sound, primarily based around retro Bollywood and featuring lyrics sung in Hindi, Bengali and English, Run Kitty Run filters things through 80s electro pop and New Wave, psych rock, surf rock and desert rock/stoner rock to create an imaginary soundtrack for a film based in a dysfunctional, post-Apocalyptic future full of robotic horsemen, killer satellites, grinning sadhus, love, betrayal, seemingly hopeless situations, impossible escapes and unlikely salvation. 

Interestingly, Run Kitty Run’s second and latest single, album title track “Run Kitty Run,” 
focuses on a romantic situation that should feel familiar to most of us — in particular, a rom com-like meet cute that becomes a budding romance of sorts between a jaded woman, who may be wild about this latest suitor but just doesn’t buy him completely and a plaintive man, who practically says “there’s someone out there for you — it’s me.” And as a result, the song which nods at 80s Talking Heads as angular guitar chords are paired with fiery blasts of horns, a sinuous bass line, psych rock and shimmering synths reveals the band’s dedication to crafting dance floor-friendly hooks; however, the song reveals a band restlessly experimenting with their sound and songwriting approach in a way that’s familiar yet alien while wildly crowd pleasing. But perhaps much more important is that while retaining their renowned cinematic bombast, the song may arguably be one of the best examples of the collective actively writing ambitiously crafted yet coquettish songs. 

Directed and produced by Yoav Lester, the recently released video for “I Love You Love You” is a wild, psychedelic romp that features a couple of epic dance-for-you life dance sequence/battle set deep into the cosmos and while being goofy and wild, the video also manages to nod at Mortal Kombat and others. 

With the release of her 2013 debut effort (Songs from) The Sandbox, Dutch singer/songwriter Tessa Rose Jackson quickly received attention nationally and Stateside for upbeat, happy-go-lucky, infectious pop; in fact, unsurprisingly several singles from the album received quite a bit of airplay back in The Netherlands, and were placed in a number of TV shows and commercials, including Fox‘s acclaimed series New Girl. However, as Jackson was beginning to write the material for her highly-anticipated sophomore effort, she felt as though the river had run dry. Several years had passed from her debut and she was older, wiser, and as she discovered far more interesting than the teenager, who wrote The Sandbox. Along with that, three years working as a composer for TV and feature films found Jackson growing as a songwriter and producer, who took on broadening influences and techniques, as well as a growing, dusty synthesizer collection.

With her songwriting and creative approach taking on a different direction, Jackson felt it was a perfect time to start anew. Explaining how she came about with Someone, her latest musical project, Jackson explains  I wanted a name that meant: Don’t worry about who I am. Just check out what I make. I make a lot. Some you may like, some you may not. But I’ll like it. And you know what, I’m someone too.” While still possessing the anthemic hooks that first caught the attention of the blogosphere, “Say Something,” Jackson’s latest Someone single manages to nod at several disparate things — guitar pop and indie rock with subtle, ambient, electronic flourishes; but the song manages to reveal a cool, swaggering self-assuredness with some ambitious, pop-leaning songwriting. Simply put, it’s a radio-friendly track that has an arena rocking feel.

 

 

Comprised of Los Angeles-based husband-and-wife duo Bridgette Moody and John Seasons, both of whom share songwriting duties, Haunted Summer have developed a reputation for crafting dreamily hypnotic and lush material complete with string arrangements and sultry electronic textures; in fact, their previous EP, Something in the Water paired their gorgeous sound with a material that lyrically focused on a nostalgic world of young love and long-forgotten memories. Adding to a growing profile, the Los Angeles, CA-based husband-and-wife duo have toured with Taken By Trees, Deafheaven, The Polyphonic Spree, Coeur de Pirate, Olafur Arnalds, Carla Morrison, Meiko, Basia Bulat, JOVM favorite Geographer, Bauhaus‘ David J and others.

Spirit Guides, the duo’s forthcoming full-length effort was written while the duo was touring and was recorded in several different studios including Rancho de la Luna in Joshua Tree, CA; Jim Henson Studios in Hollywood, CA; Comp-ny LA and studios owned by Eugene, OR-based Ninkasi Brewing and features guest spots from Eagles of Death Metal’s Dave Catching and Masters of Reality‘s Chris Goss. And the album’s latest single “Every Step” finds the band playing anthemic, 90s-inspired alt rock, complete with fuzzy power chords, a rousing hook and a gorgeous melody before a dreamy, Mazzy Star-like coda closes out a song that reminds me quite a bit of Siamese Dream-era Smashing Pumpkins, Silversun Pickups and others but with a swooning earnestness.

The duo will be embarking on a West Coast tour throughout July and August. Check out tour dates below.

 

TOUR DATES
07.29.17 – Los Angeles, CA @ Autry Museum
07.30.17 – Phoenix, AZ @ Trunk Space*
07.31.17 – Tucson, AZ @ Sky Bar*

08.01.17 – San Diego, CA @ Blonde Bar*
08.02.17 – Boulder City, NV @ The Tap*
08.03.17 – Redding, CA @ The Dip*
08.04.17 – Salem, OR @ The Space*
08.05.17 – Eugene, OR @ Whiteaker Bloc Party*
08.06.17 – Portland, OR @ Rontoms*
08.07.17 – Reno, NV @ Holland Project*
08.08.17 – San Francisco, CA @ Elbo Room*
08.09.17 – Merced, CA @ CASA*
* = w/Avi Buffalo

With the release of their critically acclaimed album Hide Before Dinner, the Melbourne, Australia-based electronic trio F INGERS, comprised of Samuel Karnel, Carla dal Forno and Tarquin Manek, have quickly become one of the Southern hemisphere’s most exciting and visionary electronic acts, as that album’s material were meant to evoke the thrill, and casual cruelty, of unsupervised childhood summers – a suburban gothic of grazed knees, hide-and-seek, nettle-stings; however, as you’ll hear on “All Rolled Up,” off the trio’s forthcoming album Awkwardly Blissed Out, the material’s sound is meant to evoke deeper, much more adult anxieties and fears — the daily struggles with passing time, of ghosts looming larger and lingering in strange and unexpected ways, of perpetually creeping dread and unease. And while retaining a chilly minimalist sensibility, the new material also manages to possess a slow-burning, almost painterly quality as gentle layers of swirling electronics, undulating synths form an icy surface from which ethereal vocals float over.

 

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Blanck Mass Returns with Surreal and Nightmarish Visuals for Album Track “The Rat”

If you’ve been frequenting this site over the past few years, you’ve come across a handful os post featuring  Blanck Mass, the solo side project of Fuck Buttons’ Benjamin John Power. His 2015 Blanck Mass effort Dumb Flesh was written and recorded over the course of the preceding year in several different locations — Power’s Space Mountain Studios, a windowless attic space in Hatch End, North London and Power’s Edinburgh Scotland home. And reportedly, frequently changing recording spaces influenced the album’s dark and sprawling compositions, which possessed elements of tense and abrasive industrial electronica with sensual, hard-hitting, deep house, complete with punishing, tweeter and rocker beats and shimmering synths seemingly bubbling from a hot, molten iron-like surface. Thematically speaking, the material focused on the inherent frailty of the human body — with the material evoking the painful sensation that our poor, dumb flesh couldn’t do more to protect us from certain catastrophe; however, World Eater, Power’s third Blanck Mass album, released earlier this year through  Sacred Bones Records was inspired by the our current, ongoing sociopolitical climate full of teeming anger, violence, confusion, frustration, hatred and despair — and as Power has publicly mentioned, the material is meant to evoke a wild, untamed beast chewing and gnawing at civilization, compassion, good, progression and the very bonds that hold us together. As Power explains in press notes, “The title is a reference to both the inner beast inside human beings that when grouped en-masse stops us from moving forward towards good.”

Now, as you may recall, album single “Silent Treatment,” built on the concept of human civilization being mercilessly ripped apart and stomped on, and of impending doom as the song featured chopped up choral and vocal samples, abrasive, industrial clang and clatter, stuttering drum programming, twinkling arpeggio synths and enormous, room rocking boom bap-like beats — and although the song managed to possess a subtly atmospheric feel, it retained the murky and punishing feel of the material on Dumb Flesh. The album’s latest single “The Rat” continues on a similar vein as it features punishing, tweeter and woofer rocking beats cascading down on the listener paired with layers of swirling, shimmering and buzzing synths — and while being one of the more ominous songs I’ve come across this year, there’s a strangely haunting beauty at its core. 

Edited by Dan Tombs, the recently released visuals forces the viewer to stare directly into his eyes and take a surreal and nightmarish trip through some of the darker and more foreboding recesses of a fairground, stopping through dancing doll towns, merry-go-rounds and warped flashbacks of maggots and decay. As Power says of the video, “The video itself is a bit of fun and filmed on a family vacation, but somehow I feel it represents discontent within a capitalist regime and a world full of sugar-coated shit.”