Category: experimental rock

With the release of their Jeff Berner-produced full-length debut, last year’s Unmask Whoever, the rising experimental/krautrockff act Activity, which is split between New York and Philadelphia — Grooms‘ Travis Johnson (vocals, sampler) and Steve Levine (drums), Field Mouse‘s Zoe Browne (bass) and Russian Baths‘ Jess Rees (guitar) — received attention across the blogosphere for an eerily minimalist and uneasy sound that saw the band pair modern production, electronic instrumentation and organic instrumentation. Thematically, the album’s material touched upon paranoia, exposed character flaws and the broader capacity for growth when an uneasy truth is laid bare.

In the lead-up to the album’s release, I managed to write about there of the album’s released singles:

Sadly, Unmask Whoever was released within the first full week of pandemic-related lockdowns and as a result, the band wasn’t able to support their effort with a proper tour. But after a lengthy delay, the members of Activity will be embarking on a North American tour, which begins October 6, 2020 at Mercury Lounge. Tour dates are below — as always.

Along with the tour announcement, the JOVM mainstays released a new single, the eerily spectral and expansive “Text the Dead.” Centered around Travis Johnson’s achingly plaintive vocals, layers of percussive, almost polyrhythmic beats, mutilated samples, and atmospheric synths, the new single swoons from the weight of despair and inconsolable loss — with the tacit understanding that ghosts do linger, and that grief often comes in waves.

“My mom passed away in February. We had 24 days from when we found out she was sick with pancreatic cancer until she died. I still can’t process it honestly,” Activity’s Travis Johnson explains in press notes. “I remember her telling me over the phone, when I was losing it, ‘Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere.’ I knew how awful the diagnosis was but I didn’t want to tell her and I really tried to cling to her telling me that. Throughout the day, still, I’ll catch myself thinking ‘I should tell mom about this or that’ or ‘I wonder how my mom is doing’ and get out my phone to call or text or email her before I realize that I can’t talk to her, and that I can’t talk to her about how I can’t talk to her. Knocks the wind out of me and makes me feel insane every time. That’s a picture of her when she was probably about my age on the cover. It was built on samples I’d put together and really mutilated a long time ago and forgotten about. I was going through old stuff and found it and started singing the verse melody. Then we all added our parts and subtracted others, etc. It’s not a very ‘live’ song but we all came together on it still.”

Tour:
10.06 New York NY @ Mercury Lounge
10.08 Boston MA @ Cafe 939
10.09 Philadelphia PA @ Ortlieb’s
10.10 Toronto ON @ Drake
10.11 Cleveland OH @ Mahall’s
10.12 Chicago IL @ Schubas
10.13 Minneapolis MN @ 7th St Entry
10.15 Milwaukee WI @ Cactus Club
10.19 Atlanta GA @ Masquerade
10.20 Carrboro NC @ Backroom Cat’s Cradle
10.21 Richmond VA @ The Camel
10.23 Lancaster PA @ Tigh Mary
10.24 Washington DC @ Pie Shop

Live Footage: Orions Belte Performs “Lotus” at Mulakamben Norway

Norwegian-born musicians Øyind Blomstrøm (guitar) and Chris Holm (bass) have spent the bulk of their careers making a living a touring musicians, and as a result, they’ve frequently been on the road As the story goes, when Blømstrøm and Holm’s paths crossed for what seemed like the umpteenth time, they bonded over a desire to create instrumental music — and they decided to start a band together. They recruited Holm’s Bergen scene pal Kim Åge Furuhaug to join the band and to complete Orions Belte lineup. 

With the release of 2018’s Mint, the Norwegian trio quickly established a reputation for crating a genre-defying, style-mashing sound that draws from 70s Nigerian rock, postcards from French Riviera, Formula One traces at Monza and 1971’s “Fight of the Century” between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali. It’s follow-up, 2019’s Slim EPfeatured inventive reworkings of songs they love by artist’s they love — including Ghostface Killah‘s “Cherchez La Ghost,” Milton Nascimento‘s Tudo O Que Você Podia Ser” and an original cut that pays homage to Norwegian beat group The Pussycats and the Mac Miller. 

Amidst the chaos and uncertainty of last year, the acclaimed Norwegian trio managed to be productive: they released 600m, another EP of experimental instrumental music that derived its title from the name of an elevator in Tokyo that can transport 40 people at a time a maximum speed of 600 meters per minute, and found the trio continuing to push the boundaries of instrumental music as far as they could. 

Continuing upon that momentum, Orions Belte’s sophomore album Villa Amorini is slated for a Friday release through Jansen Records. The album derives its name from a popular Bergen nightclub, which was the place in town where everything happened — and where you needed to be a part of it. Originally opened in the ’80s as a fine dining spot, the business eventually evolved into an extravagant nightclub where you’d see artists and DJs in loud t-shirts and oversized sunglasses. Sonically, the album is reportedly a mix of the sounds the trio likes, including underground pop, psych and world music, while continuing their reputation for their unique ability to pull in listeners of diverse genres and styles in a fashion that’s simultaneously calm and chaotic. And with that in mind, it shouldn’t be surprising that the album’s material manages to set up a particular scene: the energy of a busy downtown sidewalk with the instrumentation being intricately layered to draw you in and leave you wondering where it will lead. According to the trio, the album is a “homage to an era of loud music, club nights, ugly shirts and long afterparties.” 

Much like album single “Mouth,” ‘Lotus” is a laid-back, hotel lounge-like bop centered around a strutting groove, shimmering guitar, a sinuous bass line and hip-hop inspired drumming. Sonically “Lotus” is a slick synthesis of dusty J. Dilla-like samples, funk and neo soul in a way that feels familiar yet alien.

The band released live footage of themselves performing the song in the gorgeous environs of Mulakamben, Norway.

New Audio: Orions Belte Releases a Slinky and Funky Bop

Norwegian-born musicians Øyind Blomstrøm (guitar) and Chris Holm (bass) have spent the bulk of their careers making a living a touring musicians, and as a result, they’ve frequently been on the road As the story goes, when Blømstrøm and Holm’s paths crossed for what seemed like the umpteenth time, they bonded over a desire to create instrumental music — and they decided to start a band together. They recruited Holm’s Bergen scene pal Kim Åge Furuhaug to join the band and to complete Orions Belte lineup.

With the release of 2018’s Mint, the Norwegian trio quickly established a reputation for crating a genre-defying, style-mashing sound that draws from 70s Nigerian rock, postcards from French Riviera, Formula One traces at Monza and 1971’s “Fight of the Century” between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali. It’s follow-up, 2019’s Slim EP featured inventive reworkings of songs they love by artist’s they love — including Ghostface Killah’s “Cherchez La Ghost,” Milton Nascimento’s Tudo O Que Você Podia Ser” and an original cut that pays homage to Norwegian beat group The Pussycats and the Mac Miller. 

Amidst the chaos and uncertainty of last year, the acclaimed Norwegian trio managed to be productive: they released 600m, another EP of experimental instrumental music that derived its title from the name of an elevator in Tokyo that can transport 40 people at a time a maximum speed of 600 meters per minute, and found the trio continuing to push the boundaries of instrumental music as far as they could.

Slated for an April 9, 2021 release through Jansen Records, Orions Belte’s sophomore album Villa Amorini derives its title from a popular Bergen nightclub, which was the place in town where everything happened — and where you needed to be to be a part of it. Originally opened in the 80s as a fine dining spot, the business evolved into an extravagant nightclub where you’d see artists and DJs in loud t-shirts and oversized sunglasses. Sonically, the album is reportedly still a mix of the sounds they like — including underground pop, psych and world music — and continues their reputation for their ability to pull in listeners of diverse genres and styles while being simultaneously calm and chaotic. It shouldn’t be surprising then that the album’s material sets up a particular scene: the energy of a busy downtown sidewalk with the instrumentation being intricately layered to draw you in and leave you wondering where it will lead. According to the trio, the album is a “homage to an era of loud music, club nights, ugly shirts and long afterparties.”

Villa Amorini’s latest single “Mouth” is a laid-back, hotel lounge-like bop, featuring a slinky and strutting groove, shimmering guitars, twinkling Rhodes and synths, sinuous bass lines and jazz like drumming that sonically finds the band drawing from and meshing elements of Return to Forever-like jazz fusion, dusty hip-hop samples, soul and neo-soul and funk in a way that feels familiar yet very different.

Inspired by Squid, Fiona Apple, and MGMT among others, rising London-based experimental act Pushpin have developed and established a sound that features elements of post punk, synth-driven psych rock and chamber pop. So far the band has been featured on BBC Radio London, BBC Music Introducing, and Soho Radio. Adding to a growing reputation for crafting forward-thinking and adventurous sound, the members of the band have written and produced theatrical soundtracks at the Camden People’s Theatre — and they’ve provided original compositions for XR London.

The rising British act begins 2021 with the self-produced, self-recorded, self-mixed and self-mastered “Folds.” Featuring thumping, tribal-like toms, snarling and scuzzy guitar lines and fuzzy synths, the breakneck “Folds” is centered around alternating quiet sections with explosive, rousingly anthemic choruses. While thematically the song explores the elusiveness of self-love and affirmation in our world. it manages to simultaneously capture a narrator, who seems to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown, employing mantras as an attempt to calm himself.

New Video: Hifiklub Teams Up with Roddy Bottum on a Hypnotic and propulsive take on an 80s Smash Hit

Since their formation back in 2006, the Toulon, France-based experimental trio Hifiklub have developed and honed a creative approach centered around collaboration with a diverse and eclectic array of artists including Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo, The Legendary Tigerman, Half-Japanese’s Jad Fair. Jean-Marc Montera, R. Stevie Moore, André Jaume, Mike Watt, Fatso Jetson, Jérôme Casalonga, Lula Pena, Scanner, Jean-Michel Bossini, Mike Cooper, Duke Garwood, Alain Johannes and FaIth No More’s and Imperial Teen’s Roddy Bottum and a growing list of others. And through these collaborations, the French act have explores the possibilities and boundaries of expressions, frequently combining sound, image and text in new ways.

The members of Hifiklub and Roddy Bottum have collaborated together on a new album Things That We Lost in the Fire. Slated for an October 16, 2020 release on cassette and CD in the United States on Dreamy Life Records and on vinyl and CD through the rest of the world through Toolong Records/Differ-Ant, Things That We Lost in the Fire is reportedly a trance-like, spoken word-driven album. Interestingly, the album’s latest single is a cover of Survivor’s smash-hit “Eye of the Tiger.” Centered around a sinuous and propulsive groove, glistening keys and blasts of reverb-drenched guitar and spoken word delivered lyrics, the Hifiklub and Roddy Bottom rendition turn the classic anthem into an atmospheric and brooding, disco-tinged art rock jam, reminiscent of Black Strobe’s “Boogie in Zero Gravity.”

Directed by Léna Durr., the recently released video for the Hifiklub and Roddy Bottum cover follows bodybuilder Benjamin Rostaert as he lifts weights and prepares himself for a major bodybuilding competition. Fittingly, much like Rocky III, we see the dedication and lonely routines and preparation lead to Rostaert’s success.

New Video: Bristol’s My Octopus Mind Releases a Feverish and Surreal Visual for “The Greatest Escape”

Formed in 2017, the rising Bristol, UK-based trio My Octopus Mind — Liam O’Connell (guitar, vocals, piano), Isaac Ellis (double bass, rawrs) and Oliver Cocup (drums, raws) — have developed a unique take on experimental rock that features elements of psychedelic post punk, wonky riffs, gorgeous melodies and Balkan rhythms centered around a subversive songwriting approach.

Last year was a momentous year for the British experimental trio: they released their full-length debut Maladyne Cave, which they supported with two subsequent DIY European tours. While Maladyne Cave was an internal and probing analysis, the act’s sophomore album Faulty at Source, which was recorded with Jake Bright at Bristol’s Christchurch Studios finds the act writing their most collaborative material to date — with the album thematically focusing outward, expressing disillusionment and frustration with capitalism, climate denial and the UK’s inability to take responsibility for its colonial past. Additionally, the album touches upon polyamory and the burden of toxic masculinity.

“The Greatest Escape” Faulty at Source’s second and latest single finds the act deftly balancing minimalist textures with a cinematic and euphoric bombast — and in a way that manages to recall OK Computer and Amnesiac-era Radiohead and A Rush of Blood to the Head-era Coldplay, thanks to an expansive and hypnotic song structure. But at its core is an achingly plaintive yearning.

“We found ourselves playing with minimalist textures in what feels like a new musical direction for us,” the band’s Liam O’Connell explains in press notes. “Lyricly [sic] it takes a look at the patriarchy, where ‘strong men don’t cry,’ instead we suppress emotions and vulnerability. I find myself yearning to step out of this paradigm, to become free to express the softness and vulnerabilities, that could be ‘the greatest escape on Earth.'”

Co-directed by by Liam O’Connell and Harrison James, the recently released video for “The Greatest Escape” is an anxious and uneasy fever dream that features the trio in hazmat suits superimposed and edited into a variety of urban settings. It’s trippy and nightmarish in a way that evokes our current Kafka-esque hell.

Aztek a rising Aalborg, Denmark-based prog rock act can trace their origins back to 2015. when the members of the band Benjamin Vestergaard (vocals), Michael Buchardt (drums), Rasmus Lykke (bass), Minik Lundblad (guitar) and Jeppe Søndergaard (guitar) —met and bonded over their shared interest and love of experimental rock and prog rock. And since their formation, the Aalborg-based has developed and honed an adventurous yet accessible sound, centered around traditional rock instrumentation, atmospheric synths and Vestergaard’s plaintive vocals, which helps to imbue their material with an achingly melancholy air.

The Danish quintet’s experimental and ambitious, full-length debut, 2016’s Dream Dealer, led to the band playing region’s biggest venues and festivals, including Way Up NorthNibe Festival and SPOT Festival. Building upon the momentum, the act released their sophomore album Perfect Imbalance in 2018. Over the past year, the members of Aztek have released a handful of attention-grabbing singles that included The Bends-era Radiohead-like  Darkest Hour and the Violent Light-era Milagres-like “I’ll Be Waiting,” which reportedly will appear on the act’s forthcoming EP This Is Not Who I Wanted To Be.

Aztek’s latest single, the Anders Søndergaard-produced, “I Am Not Who I Wanted To Be (I.A.M.N.W.I.W.T.B.)” is a slow-burning and shimmering track, centered around a gorgeous melody and a soaring hook. While the track sonically reminds me of the brooding, pop atmospherics of JOVM mainstays Palace Winter. the track as the band explains is about losing yourself in a relationship.

“I have walked around in a dream I did not dare walk sup from again. A doze where it felt as if I was constantly one step behind myself, until I finally had to ask: Where did I get off?’ the band’s Benjamin Vestergaard says of the feelings that inspired the new single. Like its immediate predecessor, “I Am Not Who I Wanted To Be” was recorded remotely, as a result of pandemic-related restrictions.