Author: William Ruben Helms

I'm a music blogger, critic and photographer, who has had articles and photos published in The New York Press, New York Magazine's Vulture Blog, Ins&Outs Magazine, The Noise Beneath the Apple, Glide Magazine, The Whiskey Dregs Magazine and others.

A few years ago, I had written quite a bit about Los Angeles-based indie rock quintet Line & Circle. Currently comprised of founding trio Brian J. Cohen (vocals, rhythm guitar), Eric Neujahr (guitar), Jon Engelhard and newest member Garret Ray (drums), the band can trace their origins to when they all met in Ohio — before relocating to Southern California. And with the release of a batch of singles and their debut EP — all of which were released to critical praise, the band quickly exploded into the national scene.

Building upon the growing buzz surrounding them, the then-quintet recorded their Lewis Pesacov-produced, debut full-length effort Split Figure, an album that thematically explored “the elusive and daunting task of pursuing self-knowledge in a world, where ironically staring into screens and photographing ourselves incessantly has failed to make the process any easier” while sonically pairing those themes with a music that the band has described as “instantaneous and propulsive.” As the band’s frontman Brian J. Cohen explained in press notes at the time, “We are all split down the middle. There is an inner self that reflects what we think are, and an outer self that is how others really perceive us. True self-knowledge is when you become aware of each, and begin to reconcile both into one.”  Now, as you may recall album single “Like A Statue,”  managed to remind me of  120 Minutes-era MTV alt rock —  early R.E.M. songs like “The One I Love,” “Talk About The Passion” and “So. Central Rain,” The Smiths‘ “This Charming Man” and the  4AD Records sound immediately come to mind.

Recorded and tracked live to tape during one day at Los Angeles’ Box Studios with additional sessions in various warehouses, bedrooms and home studios in the Echo Park section and mixed by the band’s frequent collaborator Jonathan Low, and the EP reportedly explores an old belief popularly held by the Romans: homo homini lupus — man is a wolf to man. Interestingly enough, the EP’s latest single “Man Uncouth” will further cement their growing reputation for crafting a familiar and beloved sound to anyone who listened to college radio/alternative rock back in the 80s able Rd 90s but while focusing on the inner turmoil of someone in love, battling their insecurities and fears — essentially it’s the portrait of a man, slowly tearing himself apart.

 

 

 

New Video: Icelandic Indie Rock Act Mammut Releases a Brooding and Dramatic Video for “The Moon Will Never Turn On Me”

Comprised of Katrina Mogensen (vocalist), the daughter of Birgir Mogensen, who played alongside Björk in one of her first bands, Alexandra Baldursdóttir (guitar), Arnar Pétursson (guitar), Ása Dýradóttir (bass) and Andri Barter Jakobson (drums), the Icelandic indie rock quintet Mammut formed when its members were just 14 — and they derive their name from from the Icelandic word for “mammoth,” which the band’s Mogensen reportedly “plucked out of the air” before their stage debut.

In their native Iceland, the band is — well, rather huge. They won Iceland’s national battle of the bands, Músíktilraunir and subsequently have been nominated for several Icelandic Music Awards; in fact, their third album 2014’s Komdu til Mín Svarta Systir won three of its eight nominations including Pop & Rock Album and Pop and Rock Song for “Salt.” However, the band’s recently release effort Kinder Versions may arguably be their most ambitious to date, as the album finds Mogensen writing and singing lyrics completely in English for the first time in the band’s history. And with album single “The Moon Will Never Turn On Me,” you’ll quickly get a sense of why the band is so big in their homeland — they specialize in a brooding, highly dramatic and populist-leaning indie rock, complete with rousingly anthemic hooks. And while there’s clearly a viscerally earnest yearning and heartache at the core of the song, there’s an underlying sense of resignation that says “welp, things are going to be turbulent and shitty for a while, hold on as tight as you can.” Unsurprisingly as the band explains in press notes, the song is ultimately about the moment when you realize that you have to sit back, let go and then embrace and accept every horrible thing that may come in front of you — because in the larger scheme of things, it will be temporary,. and the world will continue to spin regardless. 

Directed by the band’s Katrína Mogensen, the recently released video is a fittingly moody one that features the members of the band struggling through a fitful and seemignly endless nightmare-fueled night of sleep — and interestingly enough, the video manages to further emphasize the sense of tumult at the core of the song. 

New Video: Travel the World with Up-and-Coming Ukrainian Indie Rock Act and New JOVM Mainstays Indytronics

Over the past couple of months, I’ve written a bit about the Kiev, Ukraine-based indie rock/post punk band Indytronics. And as you may recall, the band, which is comprised of founding members Danil Bogadenko (guitar, vocals) and Vitaliy Koutsiuk (bass) with Ruslan Dobrov (drums) and Denys Rybchenko (guitar, backing vocals) can trace their origins to when its founding members were traveling across Europe, and while in Stockholm, Sweden, the duo came across a number of street musicians, who were playing music with an interesting and very melodic indie the rock. According to the members of the band, its founding duo were so impressed by Stockholm’s street musicians that decided that they needed to start their own band when they returned home. 

Since the band’s formation in 2012, the band has released their 2013 debut EP Vision and their 2015 full-length debut Scintilla Wave and and as a result, they’ve developed a growing profile both nationally and internationally as they’ve made a number of live appearances on several Ukrainian TV shows and have received regular radio rotation on Ukrainian Radio Roks, Europa Plus, HotMix Radio, WCSF Radio German CTdasradio and others. Along with that, they’ve been written up in the British music magazine Huck and their music has been used for fashion shows aired on the international TV channel IDFashion throughout the US, Ukraine, Italy, Austria and France. 

While “Savannah Only Temple” was slickly produced indie rock that may remind listeners of  Narrow Stairs-era Death Cab for Cutie, The Postal Service’s Give Up and Snow Patrol, thanks in part to a rousingly arena friendly hook, its follow-up “Shark” found the band pushing their sound more towards electronic rock but with some of their most ambitious songwriting they’ve released to date. Their latest single “Alien Sun” finds the band at their most atmospheric while retaining their arena friendly hooks — and although the song will further cement their growing reputation for crafting crowd pleasing Death Cab for Cutie/The Postal Service/Snow Patrol-like indie rock, bolstered by an uncanny self-assuredness and earnestness of purpose. 

As the band wrote to me, they have a dream of playing concerts across

 

Earlier this month, I wrote about the Stockholm, Sweden-based psych rock band Marble Mammoth. Featuring members, who have played in The Unisex, and have collaborated with  The MC5s Mike Davis and The Hellacopters‘ and Imperial State Electric’s Nicke Anderson, the band quickly developed a reputation across their native Sweden for a sound that meshes the bluesy power chords of Led Zeppelin with the dreamy, psychedelia of the likes of Tame Impala — although their previously released single “Wrecked Ship” reminded me of JOVM mainstays Goat and Black Sabbath, thanks to some blistering guitar pyrotechnics paired with soaring organ chords and rousingly anthemic hooks. Unsurprisingly, the Swedish rock band’s latest single “Glitter Amongst Gravel” continues in a similar vein, further cementing their reputation for crating material with incredibly dexterous guitar pyrotechnics and incredibly ambitious and expansive song structures, complete with twisting and turning organ chords — but it may be among the most gritty and prog rock-like songs they’ve released to date.

 

 

With the release of his 2015 full-length debut Elaenia, London-based composer, producer and keyboardist Sam Shepherd and his solo recording project Floating Points quickly rose to international acclaim for a sound that effortlessly meshed 70s jazz fusion, free jazz and glitchy electronica in a way that simultaneously nodded at Return to Forever‘s Romantic Warrior and Bonobo’The North Borders. Shepherd followed that with the expansive, mind-altering yet accessible Kupier, featuring singles “Argente” and “Kupier,” which he performed live at KEXP last year.

Continuing a rather prolific period, Shepherd followed the release of Kupier with Reflections — Mojave Desert, a short film and soundtrack featuring a series of tracks recorded in (and inspired by) the Mojave Desert. His latest single is the sprawling, “Ratio,” a track that he’s developed  and refined as part of his solo, live electronic set at festivals he’s played around the world — and the end result is a slow-burning house music-inspired track that clocks in at a little under 19 minutes and features a production centered around glitchy and stuttering beats, pulsating synths and ethereal synths. And while arguably being one of his most patient compositions/productions, Shepherd’s latest effort reveals a patient, almost painterly quality as sounds are thoughtfully and gently layered upon one another.

The full track was officially released on all digital platforms and is also available on vinyl as a deconstructed mix with the A side featuring the track in two parts — the first nine minutes being identical to the digital version, followed solely by the organ section of the second half. The B side in contract will feature the beats, drum and baseline of the second half of the track in isolation. Releasing the track in such a fashion was deliberately done so that DJs could create their own mixes by bringing the song’s different elements together in whatever way fit their own style.

 

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Forming in 2014 and deriving their name from the fictional spice in Frank Herbert’s sci-fi saga Dune that makes intergalactic travel, telepathy and longevity possible, the Madrid, Spain-based psych rock quintet Melange, comprised of long-time friends Adrian Ceballos (drums and vocals), Daniel Fernandez (bass and vocals), Mario Zamora (keyboard and vocals), Sergio Ceballos (guitar and vocals), and Miguel Rosón (guitar and vocals) are among their hometown’s most accomplished and acclaimed musicians — with the band’s individual members having stints in locally renowned acts including Lüger, RIPKC, and Bucles and others.

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the summer, you may recall that the members of Melange brashly emerged into both Madrid’s and their home country’s music scenes with their self-released, double LP, which featured a highly conceptual narrative influenced by the diverse experiences of the bandmembers. Thematically, the material touched upon evolution, comprehension and transformation through music — all while sonically drawing from prog rock, psych rock and folk music, and as a result, the band received praise from  El Pais, Mondo Sonoro, Sol Musica, and Ruta 66 as well as airplay from Radio 3, and played at some of their homeland’s biggest and well-regarded festivals including Low Festival, Sonogram Festival, Sala Stereo Festival, Sala Planta Baja, Festival Noroeste, Festival Wos, Fueu Festival and others.

Building upon a breakthrough 2016, which included a busy touring schedule, the band spent their free-time writing and recording their h ighly-anticipated, Carlos Diaz-produced sophomore album Viento Bravo,  which live to tape at Gismo 7 Studios in Motril, Spain and Phantom Power in Madrid Spain. Reportedly, the album finds the band refining their sound — with the album’s breezy, tropicalia-like first single “Rio Revuelto” reminding me quite a bit of JOVM mainstays Boogarins, Junip , Jose Gonzales and The Yes Album-era Yes. The album’s second and latest single “Cotard” continues in a similar vein as its predecessor but with an even trippier song structure emphasized by arpeggiated organ chords and some impressive guitar world — but unlike its predecessor, it has a more direct psych rock and prog rock-based sound, seemingly nodding at The Doors‘ “Light My Fire,” Yes’ “Roundabout,” and “I’ve Seen All Good People” among others.

 

 

Renowned psych rock label Beyond Beyond is Beyond Recordswill be releasing Viento Bravo on November 17, 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Chelsea Wolfe Releases Sensual and Hellish Fever Dream-like Visuals for Album Single “Spun”

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past couple of years, you’ve likely come across a series of posts featuring the California-born and-based singer/songwriter guitarist and JOVM mainstay artist Chelsea Wolfe. And as you may recall, with the release of her four previously released albums. 2010’s The Grime and the Glow, 2011’s Apokalypsis, 2013’s Pain Is Beauty and 2015’s Abyss, Wolfe received attention across the blogosphere and elsewhere for an imitable sound that draws from gothic rock, folk, neo-folk, electronica and metal with a moody and cinematic quality — while thematically focusing on burrowing beneath the world’s brutality, ugliness, messiness and hurt to get at a profound sense of beauty. 

Wolfe’s recently released sixth full-length album Hiss Spun is reportedly inspired by a Henry Miller quote —  “What I want is to open up. I want to know what’s inside me. I want everybody to open up. I’m like an imbecile with a can opener in his hand, wondering where to begin — to open up the earth. I know that underneath the mess everything is marvelous. I’m sure of it.” And unsurprisingly, the material finds the renowned California-born and-based singer/songwriter and guitarist adopting Miller’s quest to become truly empowered by embracing the complete, messy self and to control the tumult within one’s soul — in the hopes of reigning in the chaos of the surrounding world. 

Ironically, as Wolfe explained in press notes, when she started working on the album, she had initially wanted to write escapist music with songs about being in your body and getting free; but “you’re just bombarded with constant bad news, people getting fucked over and killed for shitty reasons or no reason at all, and it seems like the world has been in tears for months, and then you remember that it’s been fucked for a long time; it’s been fucked since the beginning. It’s overwhelming and I have to write about it.” Of course, as you may recall, Hiss Spun was recorded by Kurt Ballou in Salem, MA earlier this year, during a brutally (and perhaps prototypical) New England winter, several major upheveals in Wolfe’s personal life, her coming to terms with years of conflicting feelings of vulnerability, anger and self-destruction, and a dark family history that has managed to weigh heavily in her life.  And as a result, the material on Hiss Spun may arguably be the heaviest, darkest and most forceful material she has written to date. Additionally, long-time collaborator Ben Chisholm contributes swaths of sound collages recorded while Wolfe and her backing and were on tour — the rumble of street construction while they were on tour in Prague; the howl of a coyote outside Wolfe’s home; the scrape of machinery on a floor of a warehouse at a down-and-out friend’s workplace, as well as samples from the bomb blasts of the Enola Gay, the shrieks and mating calls of primates, the fluttering pages of a book of Walt Whitman’s poetry are all manipulated and seamlessly placed within the music.

With the release of the album’s first two singles — the brooding  Tool and A Perfect Circle meets PJ Harvey-like cathartic, emotional purge of “16 Psyche” and the atmospheric and moody “Offering,” Wolfe has managed to reveal herself as a restlessly chameleon-like artist and songwriter, actively pushing her sound to new directions while crafting material that possesses a fearless, unvarnished honesty.  And the album’s latest single “Spun” continues in the same vein as its predecessors as Wolfe and her backing band pair enormous power chords, some dexterous and blistering guitar work and pummeling drumming in a slow-burning, sludgy dirge — but Wolfe’s ethereal crooning and wailing brings an plaintive and urgent yearning to the song.

Directed by Wolfe and shot in Sacramento, CA, the video is a dark, sweaty, yet sensual fever dream that manages to have an empowering quality as its female leads — Wolfe and pole dancer, Felicia Drake possess an cool, self-assuredness, although Drake in many ways is a siren through a tense and fucked up journey through one’s own memories and dreams. And as a result, the video manages to have a lingering, almost sickening quality of life’s very real ghosts. 

New Video: JOVM Mainstays High Waisted Pair Sensual, Sex Positive Visuals with Their Most Anthemic Single to Date

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about the New York-based indie rock quartet High Waisted. Comprised of Jessica Louie Dye (vocals, guitar), Jono Bernstein (drums), Richey Rose (bass) and Stephen Neilsen (guitar, vocals), the quartet quickly developed a reputation both locally and elsewhere for a sound that draws from surf rock, garage rock, psych rock and lo-fi rock — and for their DIY concerts/booze cruises (which are pretty fucking awesome, by the way), tiki-styled pig roasts and acid-fueled pizza parties. And if you’ve been frequenting this site over that same period, you’d know that with the release of their  Bryan Pugh-produced full-length debut On Ludlow, the New York-based indie rock quarter further cemented their reputation for scuzzy, party ’til you drop rock, that managed to reveal subtle shades of vulnerability underneath the surface.

High Waisted’s forthcoming, Tad Kubler-produced, sophomore album is slated for a Spring 2018 release, but before that, the band released a split single with The Coax through Little Dickman Records earlier this fall and “Firebomb,” off the split single reveals that the New York-based quartet has moved towards a fuller, arena rock-friendly sound, complete with enormous, anthemic hooks and a scuzzy, ass-kicking, name-taking swagger reminiscent of Lita Ford, Motley Crue an others — all while being one of the most decidedly forceful yet sensual songs they’ve released to date. Building on the buzz they’ve received for their latest single, the recently released video manages to emphasize the feminist rock ‘n’ roll call to action nature of the song. As the band explained on Uproxx. “This video is about the struggle to find the confidence to be your boldest self. It’s sex-positive and celebrates female strength. We also tried to play homage to powerful frontwomen of the 90’s.”

New Video: The Jangling and Minimalist Punk of Nashville’s Datenight

Datenight is an up-and-coming, Nashville, TN-based teenage punk rock trio, comprised of Isaac Talbot (bass), Thomas Borelli (drums) and Grayton Green (guitar, vocals), that can trace origins back to 2015 when they members of the band started the band while in high school. And while  the trio cites Jay Reatard, Oblivians and obscure 80s British and New Zealand punk rock, the band has developed a reputation for balancing fast, furious songs that clock in at around a minute with a straightforward sort of minimalism, and for effortlessly veering off into experimental and atmospheric sound. Naturally such minimalism means the members of the Nashville-based punk trio rely on short, straight to the point, punchy hooks and almost repetitive lyrics that generally focus on disappointing encounters with friends, relatives and others, and a growing sense of alienation and uncertainty. 

Upon graduation, the trio decided to pursue music as a serious career, going on a constant and relentless bit of touring, frequently playing anywhere they can, and of course, writing new material, including  “Too Good, their latest single.
“Too Good” will further cement the trio’s growing reputation for crafting jangling and anthemic punk that sounds as though it could have been released between 1977- 1983 or so, with a similar youthful, vibrant energy and an ironic sense of humor. 

Directed by Jessie Manos, the recently released video was shot on grainy and old timey Super 8 camera and captures the members of the band hanging out and goofing off, split with segments featuring the band playing the song — and the video captures the band’s youthful goofiness.