Author: William Ruben Helms

I'm a music blogger, critic and photographer, who has had articles and photos published in Downbeat, Premier Guitar Magazine, Brooklyn Magazine, 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. Check out The Joy of Violent Movement Shop: https://www.joyofviolentmovement.com/shop Support on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/TheJoyofViolentMovement

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Kælan Mikla Release a Breathtaking Visual for Brooding “Sólstöður”

2018 was a breakthrough year for the Reykjavik-based post-punk/industrial trio Kælan Mikla: The trio —  Sólveig Matthildur,  Margrét Rósa, and Laufey Soffía — were championed by the The Cure’s Robert Smith, who handpicked the band to open for them on several festival stops in the UK and the US. They also played a set at the Roadburn Festival and they toured with King Dude — before the release of their third album Nótt eftir nott. 

The album featured three singles that I had written about at the time:

“Nornalagið,” a chilly, dance floor friendly track, centered around a motorik groove that managed to evoke a brewing storm rolling across enormous skies.
“Næturblóm,” which to my ears found the trio channeling Siouxsie and the Banshees and the classic 4AD Records sound simultaneously.
“Hvernig kemst ég upp,” a brooding and industrial-leaning track that to my years would draw comparisons to early Depeche Mode and New Order.

The trio supported the album with a lengthy Stateside tour that included an a Reykjavik Calling showcase at Brooklyn Brewery with Icelandic metal act Sólstafir. Since then, the trio have been busy writing and recording material for their Barði Jóhannsson-produced fourth album, which is slated for release through Artoffact Records this fall.

“Sólstöður,” is the first bit of new material from the Icelandic trio in three years — and offers fans a taste of what to expect of the fourth album. “Sólstöður,” is a brooding and cinematic track, featuring droning and shimmering synths, nightmarish screams in the background and an ethereal and gorgeous vocal melody. Sonically speaking, the track evokes the soundtrack of horror films — those centered around witches and demons slinking out in the night for rituals involving some sort of brutal human sacrifice. “’Sólstöður’ is an ode to the darkest night of the year, when witches summon winter spirits in the frozen vastness of Icelandic landscapes,” the members of the Icelandic trio explain in press notes. “The song represents the strength of unity, Kælan Mikla in its truest form, fueled by the power of harsh and raw nature.”

Directed by Pola Maria, the breathtakingly beautiful visual for “Sólstöður” features the trio as black-clad witch-types brandishing swords, challis and other objects while seemingly performing obscure rituals among the majestic landscapes and brooding skies of their homeland. Naturally, many of these rituals seem to tie into the longest night of the year.

New Video: Montreal-based Duo Jitensha Release a Playful Visual for Breezy Yet Existential New Single

Deriving their name from the Japanese word for bicycle, the rising Montreal-based husband-wife indie rock/indie pop duo Jitensha — multi-instrumentalists and vocalists Erin Rose Hubbard and David Martinez — can trace their the origins of their romantic relationship and their creative collaboration to how the duo initially met: avid bicyclists, who were both studying Japanese at the time.  “Jitensha just really seemed to fit us and since then has served as our life motto … the direction you choose, and the energy you put in, determines where you end up,” the duo explain in press notes.”

The Montreal-based duo’s latest single “Sojourn” seemingly draws thematic influence from a famous Albert Einstein quote: “Each of us is here for a brief sojourn for what purpose, he knows not, though he sometimes senses it.” Centered around shimmering guitars, atmospheric synths, propulsive drumming, an infectious and summery groove and the duo’s dueling boy-girl harmonizing, “Sojourn” is deceptively infectious and breezy song that is part dream pop, part indie pop, part indie rock. The hook-driven song finds the duo lyrically asking the existential questions that have given many of us anxiety and countless sleepless nights: Why are we here? What’s the purpose of this? What gives any of this meaning? What if the universe is indifferent to us? What happens to us after we die? The song’s hook “Hey ça va bien aller” (It’s going to be okay) is a partially ironic and partially earnest play on the sunny slogan used in Montreal during the pandemic.

As the rising Montreal-based duo explain, the song is inspired by the tragic deaths of a newlywed couple that Hubbard and Martinez had been friends with: “Friends of ours, a newly wedded couple, died in a motorcycle accident. They had been so young and so in love, full of smiles, laughter and gumption. They both lived life to the fullest and we thought the best way to honour and remember them is to try and do the same.” The duo add “”This single is the beginning of a new sound for Jitensha. We are delving further into the contemplative, and into the misty space between optimism and realism, where things are often darker but can be clearer.”

Directed by Richard and Stephanie Bastarache, the recently released video for “Sojourn” features the married duo wearing all white playing with contrast, shadows and color, honing in on the juxtaposition between the song’s breezy arrangement and existential-leaning lyrics. Towards the end of the video, the duo have on bright, vibrantly colored clothing, which may suggest that things will wind up being okay.

The Montreal-based duo will be releasing new singles throughout the rest of the year, and are hoping to release an album sometime later on.

Deriving their name from a slang phrase popularly used by Mardi Gras indian tribes that means “we’re comin’ for ya” or “here we come,” the Grammy Award-nominated New Orleans-based funk act Cha Wa — currently founding member and bandleader Joe Gelini, along with Spyboy J’Wan Boudreaux, Second Chief Joseph Boudreaux, Ari “Gato” Teitel, Joseph “Jose” Maize, Clifton “Spug” Smith, Aurelien Barnes, Eric “Bogey” Gordon, Edward “Juicey” Jackson and Haruka Kikuchi — can trace their origins back to 2014 when Gellni was first introduced to the Mardi Gras Indian tradition while attending Boston’Berklee College of Music, where he met New Orleans-born, jazz drummer Idris Muhammad, who gave Gellini lessons in New Orleans-styled drumming.

As the story goes, those lessons inspired Gellini to relocate to New Orleans after graduation. Gellini quickly became involved in the city’s beloved Mardi Gras Indian community, eventually attending rehearsals for Mardi Gras marches. Gellini met  Monk Boudreaux, Big Chief of the Golden Eagles and one of the city’s most widely known and popular Mardi Gras Indian vocalists at those rehearsals. Coincidentally, Boudreaux is the grandfather of Cha Wa’s frontman J’Wan Boudreaux.

Unsurprisingly those rehearsals eventually turned into Gellini performing alongside the New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian legend. Gellini met J’Wan Boudreaux while the younger Boudreaux was still attending high school, but shortly after, J’Wan joined the band as their frontman. Since then, Cha Wa have established a sound and aesthetic that simultaneously draws from New Orleans’ Mardi Gras Indian tradition and the city’s beloved rhythm and blues and funk sounds through the release of three albums — 2016’s debut Funk ‘N’ Feathers, 2018’s Grammy Award-nominated Spyboy and their most recent album, My People, which was released last week.

“Mardi Gras Indian tradition and culture goes back over 250 years in the city of New Orleans. And it’s a culture that derives from men of color wanting to celebrate the Mardi Gras holiday but weren’t able to at the time,” Boudreaux explained in an interview with NPR. “So what they did was they created these elaborate suits…it represented the Native Americans that helped the Blacks escape slavery, and they actually helped them throughout the swamps and the bywater to get where they needed to go. So to pay homage to those natives, these men created what we call today Indian suits.” On the album Cha Wa founder Joe Gellni adds that the group “”tapped into that collective unconscious of what it is to live in New Orleans and to see all the nuances and ways that different people of color in the band actually experience racism — what sort of plight we’re facing in New Orleans socially and culturally, and class-wise and environmentally.”

My People‘s latest single, album title track “My People” is a strutting bit of funk that’s one-part classic second line march, one part The Meters, one part Nite Tripper-era Dr. John centered around a shuffling rhythm, shimmering Rhodes, a big horn section and call and response vocals singing lyrics that remind people of the universal facts of life: the rich get rich, while the sick get sicker; that while we have our differences, we have much more in common than we expect — we’ll all experience heartbreak, despair, frustration, loss, death. And if we can see that the universe in others, it may mean we get closer to understanding someone else’s life and their pain.

Although they haven’t been able to tour, as a result of the pandemic, but they have made a recent appearance on Good Morning America and on NPR, and that has allowed them to spread the album’s music and message to a much wider audience — and not just to those who will agree with them, but as Boudreaux explained to NPR “also to the people who may not be so open…just try to open up your eyes and see the world through the lens of the next person – the person that’s next to you, being held down by these different things like systematic oppression…if we don’t say anything about it, then no one will actually understand and know that we’re with them.” 

Live Footage: S.G. Goodman Performs “Space and Time” at FAME Studios with Spooner Oldham

Murray, KY-based singer/songwriter and guitarist S.G. Goodman was born and raised in a strict, church-going family of row crop farmers, near the Mississippi River. Goodman went from singing and playing in her local church three times a week to becoming a prominent member of her hometown’s art and music scene, as well as an impassioned voice and presence in the various sociopolitical movements she supports.

Goodman’s Jim James-produced full-length debut Old Time Feeling was released through Verve Forecast Records last year. Recorded at Louisville, KY-based La La Land Studio, because it featured three of Goodman’s favorite things — “a creek, a big porch and a kitchen” — the Old Time Feeling sessions were imbued with a down home, familial and community touch: in between the recording sessions, Goodman cooked meals for the studio staff and her backing band, which features her lifelong friends Matthew David Rowan (guitar) and S. Knox Montgomery (drums.) 

The album is a brutally honest and loving look at the complexities of rural Southern life that debunks rural stereotypes while drawing from Goodman’s personal experiences as an openly gay woman with OCD in a deeply religious and close-knit community. Thematically, the album touches upon things like estrangement and reconciliation, and living your family and community despite the fact that you may completely disagree with them on political and social issues.

I’m going to tell you a bit of an unsurprising secret: I often get advanced streams of artist’s albums and songs. Goodman’s publicist sent me an advanced stream of Old Time Feeling before her first New York area show, and I was immediately enthralled by album single “Space and Time,” a gorgeous track full of heartbreaking yearning that reminded me quite a bit of Patsy Cline. And I absolutely adore Patsy Cline. (I once bonded with an ex girlfriend’s mother because of my love of Patsy. Seriously y’all.)

The JOVM mainstay recently released a live performance video of “Space and Time” featuring legendary session player and Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer Spooner Oldham (keys) filmed at the legendary FAME Recording Studio, a studio famously known for hosting the recording sessions for artists like Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding. Featuring a stripped down to the bone arrangement of Goodman’s aching vocal and Oldham’s shimmering keys, the FAME Studio session makes the song feel like an old church hymn while pulling the heartache and longing at the center of the song, devastatingly closer.

“The highlight of getting to play one of my songs with a living legend came at the end of the night,” the JOVM mainstay says of her time at FAME Recording Studio. “The boys and I were about to make the trek back to Kentucky from Alabama, and Spooner stopped me to give me his number in case I had any trouble on the road. That told me everything I needed to know about him. ‘Call ol’ Spooner’ the note said.”

Wojmann is a mysterious and emerging French electronic music producer and electronic music artist with a rather unique and interesting back story: Born somewhere in Southern France during the late 20th century, the emerging French artist suffered from a severe case case of amnesia, a case that has essentially erased his past. Found in front of a small Provence town’s public pool last April, the only memories that Wojmann seems to have is a haunting rhythm in his head that he tries to transcribe to music.

His debut EP will be released through acclaimed French label Sinners. The EP’s first single “Vars” is an expansive deep house track centered around skittering, tweeter and woofer rattling beats and glistening synth arpeggios within an expansive, mind-bending song structure, complete with an atmospheric break. Sonically to my ears, the song reminds me a bit of Octo Octa‘s Between Two Selves as it possesses a similar sensual quality.

New Video: Robert Finley’s Strutting and Soulful “Country Boy”

67 year-old, Winnsboro, LA-born, Bernice, LA-based singer/songwriter Robert Finley was born into a family of sharecroppers, and was one of eight children. As a child, a young Finley was unable to regularly attend school and often worked with his family in the cotton fields. When he was a teenager, he attended a segregated school, but dropped out in the 10th grade to help financially support his family and himself.

Finley is an army veteran and was a skilled carpenter, who has lived a full, complicated and often messy life: he’s survived house fires, a bad auto accident and a divorce. Sadly, Finley lost his sight in his 60s as a result of glaucoma, and although he was forced to retire, the Winnsboro-born, Bernice-based singer/songwriter realized that he had an opportunity to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a musician. Finley believes that his sight was improved by the power of prayer and his faith has also helped him focus on launching a music career in his 60s. According to Finley “losing my sight, gave me the perspective to see my true identity.”

Robert Finley’s rise has been rapid: As the story goes, Dan Auerbach immediately saw Finley’s potential, quickly proclaiming that the Louisiana-born and-based artist is “the greatest living soul singer.” He walked in like he was straight out of the swamp.” Auerbach recalls in press notes, adding, “He had leather pants, snakeskin boots, a big Country & Western belt buckle, a leather cowboy hat and a three-quarter-length leather duster. The final touch was the folding cane the legally blind Finley wore on his hip, in a holster. Basically, he was dressed for national television.” 

Auerbach went on to produce Finley’s 2017 breakthrough sophomore album Goin’ Platinum, an album released to widespread critical acclaim from the likes of the Associated Press, who praised Finley’s ability to lend “instant credibility to any song” and The Observer, who wrote “Finley’s versatile voice ranges from prime Motown holler to heartbroken falsetto croon.” The Louisiana-born and-based singer/songwriter went on to support the album with tours of 10 countries — with his live show drawing praise from a number of publications, including The New York Times and several others. Finley was also profiled on PBS NewsHour, which led him to becoming a contestant on the 2019 season of America’s Got Talent, eventually reaching the semi-finals.

Finley’s third album Sharecropper’s Son is slated for a May 21, 2021 release through Easy Eye Sound. The album, continues the Louisiana-born and-based singer/songwriter’s successful collaboration with Auerbach and features songwriting from Finley, Auerbach, Bobby Wood and Pat McLaughlin and an an All-Star backing band that includes Auerbach (guitar); Kenny Brown (guitar), a member of R.L Burnside’s backing band; studio legends Russ Pahl (pedal steel) and Louisiana-born, Nashville-based Billy Sanford (guitar); Bobby Wood (keys and as previously mentioned songwriting); Gene Chrisman (drums), who’s a Memphis and Nashville music legend; as well as contributions The Dap Kings’ Nick Movshon (bass), Eric Deaton (guitar); Dave Roe (bass), who was member of Johnny Cash’s backing band; Sam Bacco (percussion) and a full horn section.

Sharecropper’s Son may arguably be the most personal album of Finley’s growing catalog, drawing directly from his life and experience. “I was ready to tell my story, and Dan and his guys knew me so well by then that they knew it almost like I do, so they had my back all the way,” Finley says in press notes. “Working in the cotton fields wasn’t a pleasant place to be, but it was part of my life. I went from the cotton fields to Beverly Hills. We stayed in the neighborhood most of our childhood. It wasn’t really all that safe to be out by yourself. One of the things I love about music is that, when I was a boy growing up in the South, nobody wanted to hear what I had to say or what I thought about anything. But when I started putting it in songs, people listened.”

The album’s latest single “Country Boy” is a swampy and funky bit of country soul, centered around a tight, strutting groove, bluesy guitar licks, shimmering organ and Finley’s soulful and creaky falsetto. The song’s autobiographical lyrics were improvised on the spot with the tape rolling and the band setting up the song’s sultry groove. “When we play live, I always leave room in the show for lyrics I make up on the spot while the band hits a groove,” Finley explains. “I guess the younger generation calls it free-styling, but for me, it’s just speaking from my mind, straight from my soul.” While the lyrics hit upon classic blues fare such as heartbreak, loneliness, being broke, being a stranger far away from home and so on, the song is informed by lived-in personal experience: Finely has been that poor, country boy, moving far from home and busting his ass to make a better life for himself — to be broke, lonely and desperate, and longing for his beloved home. For me, the end result is a song that aims to be timeless in its sound, feel and themes and manages to hit every single mark with a heartfelt sincerity.

Directed by Tim Hardman, the recently released video for “Country Boy” was filmed in Finely’s birthplace of WInnsboro, where his family worked and lived as sharecroppers in the Jim Crow era South. While featuring an incredibly dapper and badass Finley strutting and dancing to the song and playing in a small, divey blues joint, the visual is also a gorgeously shot slice of daily life in America’s small towns.

New Audio: Toronto Psych Rockers Possum Release a Languorous and Funky Single

Slated for a July 2, 2021 release through Ideé Fixe Records, Lunar Gardens, the Toronto-based psych rock act Possum’s self-produced, sophomore album reportedly finds the quintet — Brandon Bak, Tobin Hopwood, Patrick Lefler, Christopher Shannon and Bradley Thibodeau — intently pushing their sound into new directions, while exploring the intersection of influence and intuition.

Sonically, Lunar Gardens reportedly finds the band veering into uncharted realms — with the band crafting material that meshes elements of jazz, komishe, funk and psych. And thematically, the album touches upon telepathy, though transference, Ley line riding; it’s a psychic exploration of the collective cortex, the capture of cosmic energy and the alignment of astral flux. Trippy shit, indeed.

“While Space Grade Assembly dealt more with space in a cold literal sense, Lunar Gardens’ approach is more ‘space as metaphor for consciousness in all of its infinite expanding fractal forms’, a surrealist escapist space fantasy of impossible spaces — the type of place you might go when the things are too heavy here in 3D,” the Toronto-based quintet says of the differences between their debut and forthcoming sophomore album. “If we were talking movies, one might say Space Grade Assembly is 2001: A Space Odyssey and Lunar Gardens is The Holy Mountain.”

The album’s first single “Gala at the Universe City” is a slow-burning and languorous song featuring wah-wah pedaled guitar, a steady motorik-like groove and Rhodes stabs, harmonic and funky bass lines weaved around lyrics that tell a tale about universal meeting of the minds. To my ears, the song reminds me a bit of Zappa and The Mothers of Invention covering Can with a slithering, musty funkiness.

New Video: Violent Vickie Releases a Dark and Seductive Visual for Club Friendly “CIrcle Square”

Rising Los Angeles-based coldwave/darkwave/dark synth-riot act Violent Vickie — Vickie (vocals, production) and E (guitar, production) — have released material through Crunch Pod, Emerald & Doreen Recordings, Riot Grrl Berlin and LoveCraft Bar, which the act has supported with tours with Atari Teenage Riot’s Hanin Elias, The Vanishing’s Jessie Evans, Trans X, Them Are Us Too, Aimon & The Missing Persons. Additionally, the Los Angeles-based duo has played sets across the Stateside and European Festival circuits with stops at Insted Fest, Solidarity Fest, Shoutback Fest and Gay Prides and Ladyfests.

“The Wolf” was featured in a National Organization for Women film and she was interviewed for the documentary GRRL as part of the museum exhibit Alien She. And adding to a growing profile, Monster Alley was voted best album by KALX. Violent Vickie’s latest album Division was released last September through Crunch Pod.

Division’s latest single “Circle Square” is a dark, brooding, dance floor friendly bit of coldwave/goth-inspired techno centered around industrial clang and clatter, a relentless motorik groove, arpeggiated synths and Vickie’s achingly forlorn vocals ethereally floating over the murky mix. Sonically drawing from the dark techno songs that Vickie used to party to in Oakland warehouse parties, the track as the duo explains thematically and conceptually “is an exploration of the illusion of not belonging.”

Directed by Ex Corpse Art Collective’s AJ Strout, the recently released video for “Circle Square” was shot with the PhotoBooth app on Vickie’s computer during pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions. And while being made around a decidedly DIY ethos, the video employs the murky and trippy aesthetic that Strout has presented at goth clubs across Los Angeles.