Author: William Ruben Helms

I'm a music blogger, critic and photographer, who has had articles and photos published in 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.

New Video: Yacht Punk Releases Wistful and Bittersweet Video for “Indian Summer”

Late last year, I wrote about the Los Angeles-based indie rock act Yacht Punk, and as you may recall, the act which is comprised of founding member and primary songwriter Graham Brockmiller (vocals, guitar), Michael Pozzi (guitar), Tricky (drums) and Justin Ricard (bass) can trace their origins to when Brockmiller’s previous band Great White Buffalo broke up. As the story goes, at one point Brockmiller was laying on the floor of his unfinished Beachwood Canyon basement studio, unsure of what would or should come next. But he did realize that it was time to go off on his own, so she spent the next year holed up in his studio, contemplating life, writing, collecting nude calendars of Eastern European women suggestively holding large trophy carp and experimenting with the raw recording skills had taught himself. In time, he began exploring new sounds and textures outside the traditional rock and indie rock arrangements of guitar, drums, bass as a way to test his DIY recording chops, as well as a way to find a more interesting, moodier sound.

Brockmiller was tinkering with what would be eventually become early Yacht Punk demos,  when he had a chance meeting with Michael Pozzi at Davey Wayne‘s. Pozzi quickly joined the project after heading to Brockmiller’s studio to hear Brockmiller’s demo and liked the direction the music was going. Brockmiller’s roommate Tricky joined, followed by Justin Ricard, completing the band’s lineup. The then newly formed quartet took those demos to Matt Wignall‘s Tackyland studio, where they recorded “Hang Me Out to Dry” with Wignall assisting to push the band’s sound into new and stranger places. Along with some other Wignall-produced tracks, the band then had Will Brierre mix and engineer the tracks. 

The attention-grabbing “Need a Reason” was featured on Spotify’s New Noise and Fresh Finds playlists. Building upon a growing profile, the glossy and hook-driven “New Wave Denier” further cemented the quartet’s growing reputation for crafting pop-inspired indie rock — although somewhat ironically, the song is fueled by disillusionment; in fact, as Brockmiller explained in press noted, the song “is about disillusionment and being over mainstream music. I wanted to capture the feeling of being young and disillusioned by life, by love, and by current and/or popular music. The sense of being unable to relate to your peers, the sense of searching for something more meaningful, and ultimately finding identity and belonging in the music from a past generation.” Interestingly, the Los Angeles-based indie quartet’s latest single, the shimmering and slow-burning “Indian Summer” was released along with the announcement that their forthcoming album Ghosts will be slated for an April 5, 2019 release. Sonically bearing a resemblance to Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer,” the song is centered jangling and shimmering power chords, an anthemic hook and wistful remembrances of youthful (and perhaps foolish) concerns — with an emphasis on time passing by quicker than you ever expected it to pass. Shot with what appears to be either Super 8 film or an Instagram-like filter, the recently released video further emphasizes the song’s wistful vibes in a way that feels classic yet contemporary. 

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Last month, I wrote about the Norwegian guitar pop act I Was A King. Led by Frode Strømstad (vocals, guitar) and Anne Lise Frøkedal (vocals, guitar) and featuring bandmates Ole Reidar Gudmestad and Arne K Mathisen, the band formed in Egersund, a picturesque town located on the country’s windswept, Southwestern coast. The band’s Norman Blake-produced album Slow Century is slated for a March 8, 2018 release through Coastal Town Recordings, and the album, which was written, recorded and pressed to vinyl in their hometown thematically illustrates the tension between the lust for new adventures and the comfort of everyday, mundane, small-town life.

Now, as you may recall, Slow Century‘s first single, the easy-going, 70s AM rock meets 90s alt rock-like “Bubble,” a track centered around Strømstad’s and Frøkedal’s gorgeous and effortless harmonizing, jangling guitar chords and a soaring hook. “Hatchet,” Slow Century‘s high-energy, second and latest single was one of the first songs written for the album, and the track which is centered around layers of jangling and distortion pedal-fed guitars, an anthemic hook and the effortlessly intertwined harmonizing between Strømstad and Frøkedal, along with a buoyant guitar solo contributed by Half Japanese‘s  Jad Fair played on his rubber band guitar. While sounding as though it were indebted to classic 120 Minutes-era alt rock, the track feels like its a perfect addition to a road trip playlist.

 

 

 

Last month, I wrote about the Southern Holland-born, London-based visual artist and electronic music artist and producer, Nick van Hofwegen, best known as Young & Sick. Initially van Hofwegen attempted the traditional route of being an artist by going through design school, but he found its cookie-cutting leanings discouraging and it led him to drop out after finishing his first year. He began working at a car parts factory in rural Holland and quit, eventually relocating to London. When he arrived in London, his friend Mark, the frontman of internationally recognized band Foster the People, introduced him to comedian Andy Dick, who came across some of his visual art and championed it. Additionally, Mark asked van Hofwegen to do the artwork for his band’s 2011 debut Torches.

Although the Southern Holland-born, London-based visual artist, electronic music artist and producer released a full-length album back in 2014, last year was a breakthrough year for him: He released his Ojai EP, an attention-grabbing effort that served as a reintroduction to van Hofwegen’s sound and aesthetic. Adding to a growing profile, van Hofwegen was profiled in NYLON — and EP title track “Ojai” was featured in an ad campaign for Apple Watch.  van Hofwegen followed Ojai EP with the release of the No Static EP, which received praise from The Fader and Variety. He closed out a big year with a cover of Passion Pit’s “Sleepyhead” for Neon Gold Records‘ 10 Year Anniversary compilation.

The Dutch-born, London-based visual artist, electronic music artist and electronic music producer played a run of critically applauded SXSW sets, including Neon Gold’s Neon Golden showcase. He played his first Stateside headlining shows in over 4 years with a pair of Los Angeles and NYC dates that featured an interactive multimedia experience. And as an artist, van Hofwegen had his first ever fine art gallery show last August, which featured a series of his original visual and sculptural pieces — and he designed the album art for Maroon 5‘s Overexposed, Mikky Ekko’s “Kids,” as well as for his work.

Building upon a breakthrough 2018, van Hofwegen will be releasing a new EP that’s slated for a spring release through Neon Gold Records/B3SCI Records. Now, as you may recall, the EP’s first single “Bitter End,” nodded heavily at Teddy Riley-era New Jack Swing, classic Chicago house and C+C Music Factory as it was centered by a production that featured tweeter and woofer rocking beats, shimmering and arpeggiated synths, soulful vocals, a rousingly anthemic hook and a “you got this, man” positive vibe. The EP’s latest single “Jet Black Heart” is a swooning and summery bit of synth pop centered around shimmering and arpeggiated synths, chopped up vocals, a sinuous bass line, stuttering beats and van Hofwegen’s plaintive vocals. Sonically, the slickly produced track is straightforward pop leaning bit of house that van Hofwegen says is “about all consuming love. The kind who’s intensity paralyses you. The sort that makes you lose it completely. It’s the LOVE I feel for making music and art.”

van Hofwegen is currently  opening for The Knocks during their 2019 North American tour during the winter. The tour will include a February 23, 2019 stop at Brooklyn Steel. Check out the tour dates below.  Also tickets are on sale here.

 

Tour Dates
Feb 9 // Austin, TX @ Historic Scoot Inn
Feb 10 // Houston, TX @ Bronze Peacock Room
Feb 12 // St. Louis, MO @ The Ready Room
Feb 14 // Chicago, IL @ Concord Music Hall
Feb 15 // Columbus, OH @ A&R Music Bar
Feb 16 // Pittsburgh, PA @ Stage AE
Feb 17 // Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
Feb 20 // Philadelphia, PA @ Theatre of Living Arts
Feb 21 // Cambridge, MA @ The Sinclair
Feb 23 // Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Steel

New Audio: Ibibio Sound Machine Releases a Shimmering and Funky Club Banger

Earlier this year, I wrote about the London-based act Ibibio Sound Machine, and the act, which is fronted by Nigerian-born vocalist Eno Williams and features Alfred Kari Bannerman (guitar), Anselmo Netto (percussion), Jose Joyette (drums), Derrick McIntyre (bass), Tony Hayden (trombone, synth), Scott Baylis (trumpet, synth) and Max Grunhard (sax, synth) over the course of their first two albums — 2014’s self-titled debut and 2017’s Uyai — have received attention both nationally and internationally for a sound that’s influenced by golden era West African funk and disco and contemporary post-punk and electro pop. 

Now, as you may recall, the London-based act’s third, full-length album Doko Mien is slated for a March 22, 2019 release through Merge Records, and the album which derives its name from the Ibibio phase that translates into English as “tell me,” reportedly finds the act crafting a sonic world of entrancing specificity and comforting universality, essentially blurring the lines separating cultures, between nature and technology, between joy and pain, between tradition and the future. Album title track  and first official single, “Doko Mien,” was centered around a glimmering, hook-driven club banger  featuring 80s synth funk meets disco-like beats, arpeggiated synths, African polyrhythm, a sinuous bass line and pizzicato guitar and an explosive horn arrangement. Sonically, the song strikes me as a wild, genre-bending amalgamation of I Feel For You-era Chaka Khan, Prince, Michael Jackson‘s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin‘,” Chicago house and Fela Kuti — and adding to the globalist vibes, Williams soulfully sings lyrics in both English and Ibibio, the Nigerian dialect from which the London-based act derives its name.

Doko Mien’s second and latest single “Wanna Come Down” continues in a similar, club-banging vein as its predecessor as its centered around a rubbery, Bootsy Collins meets Flea bass line, an explosive horn line, arpeggiated synths and propulsive beats and Williams powerhouse vocals singing lyrics in her native Ibibio and English. Sonically, the song is a wild and seamless synthesis of 80s synth funk, Afrobeat and JOVM mainstays Escort — all while feeling like a sultry come on. In line with the track’s beckoning title, the band’s frontwoman Eno Williams says, “The Ibibio lyrics of the track are about the healing power of the river and the chorus. ‘Wanna come down, get ready ‘coz we’re gonna go’ is inviting people to come, dance and get involved with what’s going on.”

New Video: Flamingods Release Trippy Visuals for Their Motorik Groove-Driven New Single “Marigold”

Growing up in the Kingdom of Bahrain, Kamal Rasool, the founding member of acclaimed multi-continental-based psych rock act Flamingods traveled widely and collected rate and unique instruments from Tanzania, the Amazon and elsewhere. When Rasool relocated to London to study music, he recruited a few friends from Bahrain and London to start a band, including the members of the band’s current lineup — Karthik Poduval, Sam Rowe and Charles Prest.  Interestingly, their first live show together was an attention-grabbing show at the 2010 ATP Festival, which quickly led to a national profile. 

Building upon a growing profile, the members of Flamingods quickly released two EPs, 2010’s Sun and 2011’s Away and 2013’s full-length debut Sun, a reimagining of the material off the EP of the same name that featured “Quesso,” a collaboration with Ponytail’s Dustin Wong on lead guitar. Around the time of the album’s release, the British government enacted new visa laws which forced Rasool to return to Bahrain after he finished school.  

Rasool moved to Dubai, where he worked for an independent magazine and coffee shop. Although the members of the band were on different continents and unable to play together, they continued to work on new material that eventually wound up becoming their critically applauded Hyperborea, an album that established a globe-spanning take on psychedelia that the band has dubbed “Exotic Psychedelia.” 

During the release of Hyperborea, Prest relocated to Dubai to work closely to Rasool. The band quickly began working on their third full-length album, 2016’s Majesty, an album that was largely inspired by the likes of Les Baxter, Tito Puente, Arthur Lyman and others. Although the album was received mixed reviews, it was championed by BBC Radio 6’s Gilles Peterson and Lauren Laverne, who both invited the band to record live sessions. With Rasool and Prest able to return to the UK, the band was able to extensively across the UK and the European Union to support the album, including sets at Green Man Festival, End of the Road Festival, and Fusion Festival. 

In February 2017, the band signed with Moshi Moshi Records, who released that year’s Kewali EP and the band toured to support the album, making their SXSW debut. The band also released a remix album of Majesty that featured remixes of album material by Ibibio Sound Machine, Meridian Brothers and Oasis’ Andy Bell. Additionally. the band released a Dan Carey-produced live version of “Hyperborea.” 

The acclaimed act’s fourth, full-length album Levitation is slated for a May 3, 2019 release through Moshi Moshi Records, and interestingly, the album is largely inspired by the disco, funk and psychedelic sounds out of the Middle East and South Asia in the ’70s but channeled through mysticism, positivity and sun-drenched imagery. Interestingly, the album’s recording sessions found the band living and working in the same continent for the first time in about four years — and as a result, the album’s material has a unified feel. Levitation’s first single “Marigold” is a trippy and sunny bit of psych rock centered around a motorik groove, shimmering and arpeggiated synths and while delivered with a self-assured swagger, the song sonically reminds me of Evil Heat-era Primal Scream. 

Directed by Barbu.TV, the recently released video was shot during a trip the band made to Oman — in particular, the remote city of Nizwa, known for a gang of vintage motorbike riding youths — and the trip involved hazardous border crossing, self-made ornate, denim jackets. Additionally the video features some innovative camerawork and some appropriately hypnotic animation. As the band’s Kamal Rasool says of the video, “We had heard about this gang of motorbike riding youths through our friend [photographer] Ali Al Sharji and knew immediately that we wanted to make a music video with them. They live in a remote city in Oman called Nizwa and have had these vintage bikes passed down from generation to generation. The police aren’t so fond of them but they are some of the nicest guys we’ve ever met.  We joined them riding through the city and had a proper road trip along the way with the Barbu. TV guys, exploring through deserts, mountains, skate parks, palm groves and old monuments. I think the motion of them riding the bikes melded with the motorik groove of the song perfectly and the sun-soaked environment was just what we needed to capture the song’s themes”

Live Footage: JOVM Mainstays A Place to Bury Strangers Perform “Punch Back” for Fuzz Club Live Sessions

I’ve written quite a bit about Brooklyn-based JOVM mainstays A Place to Bury Strangers over the course of this site’s nearly nine year history and as you may recall, the band, which is currently comprised of founding member Oliver Ackermann (vocals, guitar), Dion Lunadon (bass, guitar) and newest member Lia Simone Braswell (vocals, drums) have a long-held reputation for an unwavering and uncompromising commitment to an unpredictable live show: they’re known for never writing an actual set list, sometimes spontaneously writing new songs during the middle of sets — and for being arguably one of the loudest bands on the planet.

The Brooklyn-based shoegazers/noise rockers spent the bulk of last year touring to support Pinned and Re-Pinned, a remix album that featured re-imagined and re-worked A Place to Bury Strangers tracks from Slowdive, Trentemøller, No Age, METZ, Eric Copeland, Roly Porter, Davy Drones, and TBO — and while in London, during the tail end of a touring across Europe, the members of the band spent the day at Lovebuzz Studios to record a Fuzz Club Session. Slated for a February 15, 2019 release as a vinyl exclusive, and recorded in live in one take, the live album reportedly captures the band’s ethos and the intensity of their live some committed to wax like never before. Additionally, there were accompanying videos from the sessions, which will be released online.

“It’s good to record at the very end of the tour,” the band’s founding member Oliver Ackermann reflects in press notes. “You’ve been playing these songs all tour and there’s a certain point when you kind of get tired of them, so you have to reinvent what they mean and what happens in them. I feel like that always pushes things to the next level. It’s exciting.” The live session include two tracks off  2018’s Pinned “Never Coming Back” and “Punch Back,” one off 2015’s Transfixiation “We’ve Come So Far,” one off 2012’s Onwards To The Wall, “Drill It Up,” one off their 2007 self-titled debut Ocean and a previously unreleased track “Chrome Shadow,” and while essentially spanning the band’s lengthy catalog, the live session’s material features the songs reconfigured and pushed to their limits. Now, as you may recall that the live album’s second single was the previously unreleased “Chrome Shadow.” A decided sonic departure for the trio, the slow-burning, dirge-like track was centered around a snarling and throbbing Lunadon bass line, undulating waves of industrial clang, clatter and distortion, a propulsive drum machine and Ackermann’s plaintive and wailing vocals fed through layers of distortion — with the song evoking a towering fog of unease and malevolence.

Although I’m writing about this out of order, the live album’s first single is a furious and breakneck version of “Punch Back” that puts Braswell’s feral and snarling vocals and forceful drumming taking center stage while the song is propelled forward by Lunadon’s throbbing bass and Ackerman’s towering peals of feedback-fed guitar. 

Armed with their arsenal of strobes, projectors and smoke machines to accurately replicate their live show, the live footage captures the band’s current lineup at their fiercest, capturing the band working as a collaborative unit, which each member feeding off of and pushing one another.

New Video: Warbly Jets’ Propaganda-Fueled Visuals for Kasabian-like Single

With the release of their self-titled, full-length debut the Los Angeles, CA-based indie rock act Warbly Jets, comprised of Samuel Shea, Julien O’neill, and Dan Gerbang quickly emerged into the national and international scene; in fact, their critically applauded effort eventually resulted in the band opening for Liam Gallagher and making three separate world tours to support it.

After a whirlwind year, the members of the Los Angeles-based indie rock trio returned to the studio to write and record the material that would eventually comprised their self-recorded, self-produced EP Propaganda. Thematically speaking, the material explores our modern, globalized, algorithm-ruled, data-based society, where the lines between what’s public and private are frequently blurred beyond recognition and where the hive mind masquerades as marketable individualism with Big Brother being welcomed with open arms in the name of convenience. If we’re truly thinking and feeling humans, we should constantly ask ourselves a few questions: What’s real human connection? How easily are we (and our lives, ideas and souls) bought and sold? Can we cut through the fluff, noise and bullshit we’re relentlessly fed? Does anyone care anymore? Does music fit into it at all? Does music mean anything anymore? 

As the band’s multi-instrumentalist Julien O’neill says in press notes. “‘Propaganda’ is a term as much as it’s a cultural ethos that’s been widely accepted. Anything from advertisement to self-aggrandizement qualifies.From social media, push notifications, targeted ads—we’ve openly elected to carry around miniature billboards, playing our part under the promising guise of a sense of ‘connection.’ We feel empty without it.” The band’s Samuel Shea adds, “On this new collection of songs, we made an effort to set no particular stylistic boundaries. I believe it’s extremely important to make drastic differences as you transition through phases. That was something that Julien [O’neill] and I talked about from the conception of this band. I hope you always hear what you’re not expecting when you listen to a new release from us.”

Earlier this year, I wrote about EP single “Alive,” and as you may recall. the single, which was featured in the opening scene of Marvel’s Spider-Man for PS4 found the band drawing from classic rock, psych rock, and Brit Pop as it was full of enormous power chords fed through distortion pedals, rousingly anthemic hooks and pummeling drums — and the whole affair was delivered with the swaggering self-assuredness of road-tested old pros. Interestingly, EP title track “Propaganda” is a bit more of a straightforward Brit Pop-influenced affair, sounding as though it were influenced by early Kasabian with the song being centered by thundering and thumping beats, angular and propulsive bass lines, layers upon layers of synths and distorted electronics and guitars, found sounds and other samples, delivered with an arena rock swagger. 

Directed by Samuel Richard, the recently released video for “Propaganda” consists of wood and quickly edited found footage centered around pain, over-saturation, confusion and chaos, as well as propaganda footage. It’s trippy but yet feels as bizarre and as fucked up as our current sociopolitical moment. As the band’s Samuel Shea says in press nots about the video, “The era of real life human interaction is heading for a swift end. We experience life through likes, comments, and products ignoring the chaos and suffering around us. Our culture at large has been weaponized by propaganda. We exist like robots inside of a program we ourselves created.” Adds the video’s director, Samuel Richard “The idea behind the visual direction of this song is to show a side of feeling overwhelmed. There’s lots of fast changes showing pain and over-saturation. The Propaganda EP is primarily sample based, so the idea was to match the visuals to what the music is also doing. There’s lots of sample footage of propaganda and pain. I also shot super 8 footage of people on the streets of Los Angeles, showing different sides of life. My goal was to shine a light on the extreme suffering and overindulgence.”