Tag: indie electro rock

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Stereo Off Return with a Decidedly 80s Synth Pop Inspired Single and Video

Over the past three years I’ve written a bit about the New York-based indie rock/electro pop outfit Stereo Off, and as you may recall, the band initially was the solo project of its frontman and founding member Sebastian Marciano before expanding into a quintet featuring an eclectic array of friends and collaborators from NYC and London. Within a year or so of expanding into a full-fledged band, the band had played at a number of renowned venues across town including The Knitting Factory, Glasslands Gallery and others. Adding to growing profile, the members of Stereo Off had their music featured in several short films that made the national film festival circuit, and they promptly released their first two recorded efforts — 2014’s New York EP and 2015’s The Long Hot Winter EP,  an effort which helped land a  CMJ Festival appearance.

After a series of lineup changes, the band has settled into a core trio that features its founder and frontman, Nial Madden, a longtime guitarist, who switched to bass on most of the material that comprises their most recent effort, EP III and multi-instrumentalist Bridget Fitzgerald. Naturally, with a lineup change, its common for a band to have a corresponding change of songwriting approach and sonic direction — and in the case of the JOVM mainstays, their sound had generally leaned heavily in the direction of New Order, Primal Scream and Nine Inch Nails-like synth pop/synth rock, featuring the occasional violin arrangement; however, EP III’s latest single “Sunsetting” may arguably be the most summery single they’ve released to date, while finding the band expanding upon their sound with the song seemingly nodding at Avalon-era Roxy Music, thanks to James McElwaine’s soulful and sultry saxophone lines, 80s synth funk and contemporary electro pop in a slick, seamless fashion.

Directed by Deviant Children Productions’ Nicholas Ortiz, the recently released video features the band and James McElwaine performing the song in an 80s-like night club and stars Krystal Pizarro, Sasha A Wilson and  Aleks Ivanovic, some fuzzy VHS-like tape hiss and static, a car chase and some steamy, late night hooking up between two of the video’s protagonists — all of which evoke wild, Miami Vice-like summer nights in the city.

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Comprised of Sam Alexander, Wes Johnson, Jeremy Louis Joe Page and Jon Van Patten, the indie act No Kind of Rider has members split between Portland, OR and Brooklyn — although the act, which has developed a reparation for a sound that possesses elements of indie rock, shoegaze, r&b, indie rock and electro pop initially formed in Tulsa, OK. Between the time of their formation and their relocation, the band spent several years writing, playing and hustling hoping for a moment. “Working like that can break your heart,” the band’s Sam Alexander says in a lengthy statement written by him and his bandmates.

No Kind of Rider’s soon-to-be released full-length debut Savage Coast draws from several years of experience. As the band says, “there are things we have been during to say, and this record is a release emotionally for us. Both musically and lyrically we focus on ‘change’ a lot in this record.We use as many synthesizers and electronic samples as we do guitars and drums.  We want the listener to both feel comfortable and continuously be surprised.”  That sense of constant transition was inspired by the events of the band’s personal lives: Joe Page’s father unexpectedly died died two years before the band entered the studio to write and record the material that would eventually comprise their full-length debut. Sam Alexander notes that the year Page’s father died, was the same year that he got married. Wes Johnson’s father suddenly died. Jon Van Patten relocated to Brooklyn. And shortly after that, Alexander’s father had a stroke. “There’s been so may times in the last few years where I got stuck in my head: ‘Do other artists go through all this while making a record? Is this some kind of curse?’ For a long time I used to think of music as my path out of a difficult reality. I don’t anymore. Now, writing music is what keeps me rooted in my reality, it’s what lets me live with more presence and attention,” Alexander says.

“This isn’t a concept album,” Alexander and his bandmates continues. “But it does tell a story. We want the listener to uncover that story for themselves. However, a part of it is our story. Our loves, our friendships, our triumph, our losses. The story wouldn’t have happened without our move from Oklahoma to Oregon. We slept on friends floors and rehearsed in basements. I have over 300 hours of voice memos from our rehearsals down there!  Even though we recorded at incredible studios with talented friends, when I listen: I somehow still hear us in that moldy basement. I still hear the first time we pulled over on hwy 101 and saw the jagged wounds of the Pacific coastline.  Creatively, Joe actually drove out to Haystack Rock on the coast with a tape recorded – he designed new sounds and he embedded them into the tracks, so some of that is the actual article.  Most of it is just in the way that the music feels to me.” Unsurprisingly, the album thematically deals with loss, frustration and resiliency through love, friendship and music and of holding on to hope in the most difficult of times. Certainly, while personal, the album will likely resonate in much deeper and darker ways for so many of us in these desperate and frightening times. Sometimes music, your friends and loved ones and the hope of hope are the only things you can cling to — and that shouldn’t be shameful; not when the small things can be so sustaining and so necessary.

In any case, the album’s latest single “Sophia,” Alexander notes was recorded with the quintet facing each other in the same room, playing together in the same room — and much like The Verve‘s Urban Hymns, it has a different, more vital and urgent feel to the proceedings, as though the listener was a fly on the wall during the recording sessions. Sonically speaking the song is a slickly produced and effortless meshing of contemporary electro pop and R&B, anthemic indie rock and shoegaze that immediately brings to mind the likes of JOVM mainstays TV on the Radio and The Veldt as the track is rooted by shimmering guitar chords and synths, a propulsive bass line and Alexander’s achingly tender vocals, which puts a unique sensibility on their genre blurring sound and approach.

Sam Arion is an Iranian-born, Toronto area-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, and the creative mastermind behind Mute Choir. Raised in the Toronto suburbs of Richmond Hill and Newmarket, Arion left the ‘burbs when he turned 18 to seriously pursue a career in music. Eventually, Arion had a glimpse of success as a part of a band that signed to a major label, and although countless young musicians across the world would salivate over such an opportunity, Arion quickly saw that the demands of the situation ran counter to his own musical and creative philosophy. And for the Iranian-born, Toronto area-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, the only solution was to make a clean break and take full command over his artists output with his own solo recording project — Mute Choir.

Behind the Bars Arion’s self-produced Mute Choir full-length debut was primarily written and performed by the Iranian-born Canadian singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer himself. “I’d say that 98% of this album was made by me alone on my laptop at 3 a.m.,” Arion admits in press notes. “I’m not a great drummer so I had to get a friend to do that, but I wrote all his parts. As soon as I started playing music when I was 13, I immediately wanted to learn how to produce because I never wanted to be in a situation where someone else was telling me how my music should sound. What’s most important to me is not feeling like I’m faking it, not just with music but all aspects of my life. That’s what this album represents most—it’s a true expression of who I am.”

Interestingly, Arion has dubbed his sound “post-electronic” as a nod to a split musical personality as a balladeer and experimentalist; in fact he admits that his songwriting has almost always been a bit melancholy but that incorporating electronic music elements became almost like meditation, as it has allowed him to lose himself in the music. “Growing up in a generation musically dominated by EDM, I saw how powerful the ability to make people dance can be,” Arion says. “It brings music into the physical realm. I want to bring that out in people, I want people to lose themselves in the music the same way I did making it, but not necessarily as a means of escape. It’s also very important to me to have lyrical content and themes that also allow listeners to think and reflect on their lives.” Thematically speaking, the album reportedly focuses on freedom — particularly, the freedom to live your life however you choose, and the freedom to follow your creative vision wherever it leads. Of course, in order to develop and have a concept of freedom, there has to be the experience of its direct opposite, so the album in some way also focuses on that dichotomy and how it clashes in one’s personal and creative life.

Behind the Bars‘ latest single “Election Season” is an anthemic bit of electro rock/synth rock that immediately brings to mind Empire-era Kasabian — but within an expansive song structure centered around bombastic hooks, arpeggiated synths, thumping, tweeter and woofer rocking beats and a sinuous bass line that features a gorgeous and cinematic string arrangement before building up to a cathartic cacophony. It’s the rare song I’ve heard this year that’s both dance floor friendly and mosh pit worthy but underneath the self-assured swagger is some thoughtful and ambitious songwriting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Video: SSHH Returns with a Club Banging Industrial Electronica-Influenced New Single Paired with Trippy Visuals

Comprised of Bondi, Australia-born, London UK-based Sssh Liguz (vocals) and Zak Starkey, the son of Ringo Starr, a multi-instrumentalist, best known as a touring drummer for The Who and Oasis (guitar), the London-based electro punk duo SSHH received attention with the release of their 2016 debut effort, Issues, which featured the duo collaborating with some of rock’s most renowned rhythm sections, including members of The Sex Pistols, Mott the Hoople, the backing bands of Marilyn Manson and Peter Tosh — to benefit charity.

The propulsive, industrial techno-like single “Rising Tide” which features heavily arpeggiated synths with thumping, tweeter and woofer rocking beats and an infectious hook is the duo’s first bit of new material since Issues and the club banger was born, as Liguz told Earmilk “from a fiery argument” while “driving in a heavy rainstorm.” “I remember being furious beyond belief. Not only because we were having a huge fight, but because even though we were acting like assholes to each other, I couldn’t stop thinking how much I loved him,” Liguz recalled. “Just like I couldn’t stop the rain from falling, or the stars from shining, I just can’t stop loving this man!” Liguz continued, “There is anger in the happiness and a little hate in the love. At the end of the day, passion rules.” And as a result, the song possesses a raw and unbridled tension at its core, influenced by the tempestuous push and pull between love and hate in a fiery and passionate relationship.

BMG released the single globally today, and the single comes with 7 additional remixes and re-workings of the tracks, including re-workings by the likes of YOUTH, Sondrio, Acaddamy, Secret Space, Jevo,  and the members of SSHH.

Co-directed by the band and Billy Zammit, the recently released video for the song manages to subtly draw from rave and electronica culture, as well as psych rock, as it features the duo performing the song in strobe lights and projections.

 

Darren Jackson, is a Bison, SD-born, Minneapolis, MN-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, whose solo recording project Kid Dakota partially derives its name as a loving homage to Jackson’s home state and a play on Kid Rock. In 1999, Jackson along with long-time friend and producer Alex Oana, wrote and recorded the five songs that would eventually comprise his 2000 self-released EP So Pretty before permanently relocating to Minneapolis.

Interestingly, Jackson’s debut EP caught the attention of Low‘s Alan Sparhawk, who offered to release the EP on his label Chairkickers’ Union under the condition that Jackson expand it to a full-length album — with the full-length version of So Pretty being released in 2002. Sparhawk’s label released Jackson’s sophomore effort, 2004’s The West is the Future, which continued the Bison, SD-born, Minneapolis, MN-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumetanlist’s collaboration with Oana while featuring Low’s Zak Sally. However, his last two albums — 2008’s A Winner’s Shadow and 2011’s Listen to the Crows as They Take Flight was released by Graveface Records.

Jackson’s fifth, full-length album Denervation can trace its origins to a brief summer vacation at his parents’ house in the Black Hills in 2014 that turned into an extended nine-month stay convalescing in a hospital bed, after fracturing his pelvis in a horrific bicycle accident. The blunt force trauma from the accident also caused severe nerve damage, which made it extremely questionable whether or not Jackson would ever be able to walk again without a brace. And naturally, he found himself in a rather dark place. To cope with crippling depression, Jackson began writing the material that would eventually comprise Denervation, which will be released by Graveface Records on February 9, 2018.

After making some rough demos, Jackson sent them to his longtime friend and producer John Kuker, with whom he has collaborated with on several Kid Dakota recordings. And as the story goes, Kuker recognized the material’s raw potential and suggested that the Bison, SD-born, Minneapolis-based artist record the album at famed Cannon Falls, MN-based studio Pachyderm, which Kuker had recently purchased and renovated. Along with that Kuker suggested that Jackson enlist Birthday Suits‘ Matthew Kazama to play drums on the album. Jackson agreed and flew out to Minneapolis in late 2014 to meet with Kazama — and the duo spent several weeks woodshedding the material before heading to the studio in early 2015. After three days of tracking, the duo planned to record the album at Kuker’s studio that spring. Tragically, however, Kuker died from a heart attack in early February 2015, and the album’s came to a standstill. And understandably the album’s material was linked both with Jackson attempting to come to terms with the trauma and aftermath of his bicycle accident and the death of one of his dear friends.

Interestingly, it was only after Jackson got married and returned to Minneapolis from a stint teaching music in rural South Dakota and his Ph.D. studies in philosophy and film at Virginia Tech that he began to find the fortitude to finally finish the album he had started with his dear friend two years prior. And when he went to the studio, he enlisted the help of an All-Star cast of friends and collaborators for the Denervation sessions including Martin Dosh, Andrew Broder, Alan Spearhawk, Johnny and Molly Solomon, Jeremy Ylvisaker, Jeremy Messersmith, Todd Trainer and Dave Simonett. And as you’ll hear on the album’s first single “The Convalescent” the material possesses a feeling of loss, as the material focuses on loss from similar although different perspectives. Whereas some of the album’s songs focus on the potential loss of the use of a limb and its subsequent sense of helplessness, this particular song focuses on the loss of someone close — and as a result, their lingering and inescapable presence. Sonically speaking, the song pairs precise, math rock-like, angular guitar chords and drumming with arpeggiated synths, and arena rock-like hooks, evoking an uneasy, tense vibe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Video: Up-and-Coming Swedish Duo White Birches Release a Politically Charged Primer On Resistance In Our Fraught Times

Comprised of Jenny Gabrielsson Mare and Fredrik Jonasson, the Swedish synth pop/dark wave duo White Birches formed back in 2013 and with the 2014’s debut EP Stands of White Birches and 2015’s full-length debut Dark Waters, the Swedish duo quickly received attention across Scandinavia for a sound that has been compared to Depeche Mode, Cocteau Twins and The Sisters of Mercy, as the up-and-coming duo craft moody songs based around piano, angular guitar chords, analog synths, eerie yet pop-leaning melodies and dark lyrical content; in fact, their debut effort received a Best Synth nomination at the Swedish Indie Grammy Awards, Manifestgalan. 

Gabrielsson Mare and Jonasson signed with Progress Productions, who will be releasing their sophomore effort When The Street Calls on February 9, 2017, and the album’s latest single “Howl” will further cement the duo’s growing reputation for crafting moody synth-based goth-inspired dark wave, as the duo pair layers of soaring synths with propulsive drum programming, angular guitar chords and a rousingly anthemic hook — and while sounding as though it could have been released during 4AD Records heyday, the song possesses a punk rock urgency.

The recently released video for “Howl” features animation by Jenny Gabrielsson Mare that not only is politically charged but serves as a call to arms for anyone, who wants to resist the cruel realties of racism, inequality, war and so on — while also serving as a primer on how to survive and thrive in our incredibly tense times.