A Deer A Horse- Grind

A Deer A Horse- Grind

 

For Brooklyn band A Deer A Horse, their first full-length album Grind has been a long time coming. The band has been performing together for some time, releasing singles and EPs since 2013. Through touring and buzz, the band has built a following for their hard, grungy punk sound, and are ready for the next step.

 

Backswimmer and Everything Rots That Is Rotten, from 2017 and 2019 respectively, featured the same lineup as the new LP: Angela Phillips on vocals & bass guitar, Dylan Teggart on drums, and Rebecca Seatle on vocals & lead guitar. For Grind, they kept previous producer Jamie Uertz, who has worked with Anthrax and Gojira, and also recorded with Sylvia Massy, an Oregon producer who has worked with heavyweights like Tool and System of A Down. 

 

Grind kicks off with the lead single “Bitter,” an ode to unsolicited advice. “This song comes from my lifelong experience as a fat person constantly being given unsolicited advice on how to lose weight from people who have always naturally been slender,” Phillips explains. The compelling  video for “Bitter” features Phillips emerging from a TV as some sort of self-help sleazeball turned demonic stalker.

 

 

Other topics touched upon on Grind include pleasure, escapism and the fear of failure on “Panic” (as Seatle says, “Too much fear and too much pleasure are two sides of the same coin, separating us from our own futures”) and the uncovering of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church on “Give It Up.”

 

The production on Grind is appropriately scuzzy yet clean sounding, with no member lost in the background. There is definitely a live feel to the album, as drummer Teggart confirms: “The meat and potatoes of what you hear on Grind is the sound of the three of us trying to capture our live energy.” Indeed, it works, and even songs with a plodding quality like “Brute Force” keep the energy high. One standout track is “Dinner Theater,” romping through various dynamics and time signatures in less than four minutes, 

 

A highlight of the album is the excellent guitar work courtesy of Seatle, who has apparently since left the band. There is a lot of loping around the fretboard, fiercely distorted, but not so much as to be unintelligible. It’s not all three-piece grit and grime on Grind, however. Synths and piano appear on several tracks, and there are even strings, with violin from Comfort Cat and cello by Kate Wakefield of Lung.

Grind is out April 8th on Bitter Records, and can be found at their Bandcamp

Gluehead- Get Stuck

Gluehead- Get Stuck

 

As we all know, the past couple of years have been hard. Musicians were particularly hit, with gigs and album recordings postponed or canceled. Yet one pleasant trend I have noticed as people slowly crept out of isolation is the formation of new bands. It’s as if many of us realized there is no time but the present, and remembered how much music can do for us.

 

Gluehead started as a solo project, helmed by guitarist Liam Daly. After reconnecting with Kris Woodcock, a former classmate, the two began jamming together, and another band began. Bassist Luis Aznarez on bass and drummer Alex Hadjiloukas were recruited through want ads (yes they still work, as I myself can attest!) By summer of 2021, the quartet was already playing their first shows, and on March 25th, 2022, their debut album Get Stuck was released. According to the band’s press release, the album is a “friendly reminder that loud amps still save lives.”

 

Get Stuck is a fairly traditional shoegaze and post-rock album, which is to say that Gluehead have studied the masters well and learned what works. Although they’ve been together for only a little over a year, it’s impressive how dialed in the four members are together. The guitars swirl around each other, moving through dynamic changes, and the rhythm section underpins it all with grace. (In particular, I’m a big fan of the cymbals.).

 

The dreamy instrumental portions of these songs were my favorite parts of the record; some of the longer tracks are best treated as an immersive experience rather than background music, and I would recommend headphones. Get Stuck is definitely for listeners who want to lie back and let the music flow.

 

There is a certain abandon in the vocals in contrast to the preciseness of the music. In true shoegaze fashion the vocals can sometimes be subsumed into the music, but that allows the solid fuzzy riffs to stand out. But it’s not all spacey fuzz; more fast paced tracks like “Sunshine” bring out the energetic side of the band. There are also harder moments (“Dwight”) among the quiet songs, such as “Mindfield” (which honestly puts me in mind of Bends-era Radiohead.) 

 

Gluehead wear their love of the 90s on their sleeve, and any fan of Slowdive, Ride or Swervedriver will recognize and enjoy these influences; fans of more recent shoegaze-inspired bands like Cloakroom will also want to give it a listen. Get Stuck is out now on Bandcamp, and you can follow them at Instagram for all the latest news and upcoming shows.

 

 

NWoBHM and Beyond, The 80s Metal Explosion

NWoBHM and Beyond, The 80s Metal Explosion

One of my favorite Bandcamp finds last year wasn’t music, but a delve into one of the greatest musical genres of all. A History of Heavy Metal is a self-published zine series by B.A. Ricciardi, who goes by “Badger” around these parts. It was a serendipitous discovery; since I started here at FTA, I’ve been thinking a lot about music writing. Describing music is always a tightrope between a press-release or an op-ed, and that goes double for longform. In an overview like this, what separates compelling history from simple, encyclopedic entries, or an overly personal list?

 

Badger seems to have found the perfect formula, melding necessary information with heartfelt musing about what makes metal so fucking good. The recently-released second volume, NWoBHM and Beyond: The 80’s Metal Explosion, tackles the coalescing of metal into something more definable than the often-scattered hard rock of the 70’s. (For the uninitiated, NWoBHM stands for ‘New Wave of British Heavy Metal’, and includes such bands as Iron Maiden, Venom, and Saxon.) All the greats are here, but the reach is far wider than Britain in scope, and many other artists are brought out into the light (including some lesser known female-fronted acts of the era, as well as bands from Japan and South Korea.)

 

The format of both volumes so far is a short introductory piece  — which here includes an aside on the polarizing and impossible to ignore phenomenon of 80’s hair metal — followed by a walk through the music itself. Bands get an introductory blurb (length depending on how high their influence looms) after which a selection of tracks are given their due. The focus on songs rather than albums as a monolithic whole is really a boon to those descending into unfamiliar territory, especially in this day and age of streaming. That’s not to say the impact of historic albums is neglected, just that acts such as Mythra (1*) and Trespass, who never released a full LP, are given a fair shake, and bands with a larger output don’t take up so much space we tire of them.

 

 

NWoBHM is not my bread and butter, so unlike the first volume, where I knew (nearly) every act, this volume brought me a number of new entries for my playlist. And of course, choice is a form of editorializing. But I maintain that any good overview of a genre like this can and should never be complete, and will immediately invite the reader to shout into the void about what was left out, because otherwise what you have is an anodyne encyclopedia. As Badger wisely states, “I always make an attempt to be fair, but I never make an attempt to be neutral.” Why write about music on anything but a wiki if you don’t want to include your own opinion? And so I find myself shaking my head that Sabbrabells aren’t here with the other Japanese metal bands, and vowing to fight Badger in a Denny’s parking lot over Motley Crue. (Too Fast For Love is a masterpiece. 2*) And honestly, that’s a plus in my book, as “this is still a History of Heavy Metal, and not a list of every good metal song that ever came out.” 

 

The writing doesn’t shy away from technicalities when necessary (I’m sure some people will have to look up ‘ostinato’) but it’s couched in fairly colloquial speech, so it never feels like reading a textbook; rather, it’s almost as if Badger himself is right there, extolling the virtues of metal with a gleam in his eye. Like a lot of great metal music, NWoBHM and Beyond mostly takes itself seriously, but knows when to poke fun at itself and when to just have fun. From waxing poetic on Dio’s relative lack of poetry, to an extended paean to X-Japan’s “Art of Life,” the text is both straightforward and intricate, like the best metal songs: riffs and elaboration.

 

NWoBHM and Beyond: The 80’s Metal Explosion is available in A5 zine format, at 64 pages long. Both volumes of A History of Heavy Metal can be found at Heavy Metal Handbook on Bandcamp, with volumes three and four, on thrash and death metal, respectively, to be released in the future.

 

  1. Fucking thank you for introducing me to this EP:

 

2. Note I’m not claiming this is heavy metal, just that it’s good

Thurston Moore- Screen Time

Thurston Moore- Screen Time

Screen Time by Thurston Moore

 

This week sees the Southern Lord release of Thurston Moore’s album Screen Time, which premiered last year as a surprise Bandcamp Friday offering. Moore’s post-Sonic Youth work is really a continuation of his solo efforts, which were contemporaneous with his time in that famous band. Never a slouch, Moore has collaborated with an untold number of other musicians and consistently released music since the early 80’s. Screen Time finds him on his own, with his masterful, creative guitar work highlighted on ten instrumental tracks.

 

As the title might suggest, Screen Time concerns itself with a world in which community and the digital world may seem at odds. “How much screen time does a parent allow a child? How much screen time does a child need to realise a world which has the means to coexist as a community in shared exchange?” the album press release asks. But rather than simply railing about kids these days and their phones, Moore offers up a use for our screen time, when “the actuality of transparency in our daily lives through streaming etc we can only hope leads to the awareness of fairness.”

 

Moore is well known for turning to alternative tunings and custom modified instruments to achieve his trademark sound and style. Whatever he’s done here, it truly showcases his ability to pull abstract sounds from the instrument, without relying on a heavy wall of effects. Instead here we find short notes, plucked from around the fretboard, immersed in echo. There are none of the extremely lengthy tracks that Moore is known for; the longest song is 9 minutes, the shortest a minute and a half

 

Portrait of Thurston Moore

Thurston Moore (photo by Vera Marmelo)

 

The abstract music found on Screen Time is in parts beautiful, and in other places downright creepy. The tracks I found most compelling are “The Town,” which features an ominous shimmer that builds up as if the denizens of the city are making themselves known; “The View”; “The Upstairs”; and “The Realization.” That closer is ripe with many of the phasey swirls I’ve come to expect from Moore, but they are restrained and kept in the background, as clearer notes take the stage.

 

I would recommend listening to this album on headphones, as Moore makes wonderful use of separate channels, creating a spacious composition that surrounds the listener without overwhelming them. Screen Time calls for a moment of pause, a moment of thoughtful meditation, and offers a fitting soundtrack for that moment.

 

Screen Time is out on 2/28 on vinyl via Southern Lord and available on all major streaming platforms.

 

Cloakroom- Dissolution Wave

Cloakroom- Dissolution Wave

Cloakroom Dissolution Wave

 

I adore the idea of concept albums. Maybe it’s because they are so often space or fantasy based, and that’s my jam, or because such albums have the potential to be cohesive works with little filler. The latest album by Cloakroom, Dissolution Wave, indeed finds the band in spacey territory, unspooling the story over eight sublime tracks.

 

Together for ten years, Cloakroom’s members include Doyle Martin on guitar and lead vocals, Bobby Markos on bass, and Tim Remis on drums and vocals. Additional piano and loops come from Matt Talbott of Hum, which makes sense given that band’s influence on the heavy shoegaze genre. The trio is from Indiana and while their shoegaze sound is right at home in a Midwestern winter, their newest record reaches for a more interstellar medium.

 

I honestly cannot phrase the concept of this album better than the band themselves, so here (from their Bandcamp) is their description: “a space western in which an act of theoretical physics—the dissolution wave—wipes out all of humanity’s existing art and abstract thought. In order to keep the world spinning on its axis, songsmiths must fill the ether with their compositions. Meanwhile, the Spire and Ward of Song act as a filter for human imagination: Only the best material can pass through the filter and keep the world turning.” If that sounds too prog-rock, allow me to reassure you: the album is a perfectly paced, well-constructed heavy shoegaze journey through these themes, never bloated or overblown, and not so full of itself that it loses focus on what is important — the music.

 

Cloakroom performing

Cloakroom performing in 2019 (photo by Kate Hoos)

 

It’s not the first time that Cloakroom has looked to the stars: previous releases include “Deep Space Station” (2018) and Time Well (2017). Fans of the complex, dense sound established on those records will not be disappointed by Dissolution Wave, which sees the band evolve even further. The music is heavy without being bogged down, with airy moments serving as a counterpoint. They kick right into their familiar driving crunch on the intro track “Lost Meaning,” one big drum hit preceding the full might of the band. Over the course of the record, the guitars weave through the mix yet never sound meandering; rather, every instrument (and vocal) here has a destination. Some unexpected notes and chord changes here and there keep the tracks from bleeding into each other. Much of the ‘spacey’ quality is provided by the vocals of Martin (full disclosure: I had some trouble picking out the lyrics on this record) while the thick basslines pin everything together under asteroids-crashing drums.

 

At times they flirt with poppier melodies, like on “A Force At Play,” but never long enough to leave the sludge behind (and that’s a good thing). Highlight tracks for me were “Lost Meaning,” “Dottie-back Thrush,” and “Lambspring.” I appreciate that the album ends on a solid note; as I was first listening I assumed the relatively lighter “Doubts” would be the last track (it has that sort of quality), and was then surprised by the opening chords of “Dissembler.” It’s a perfect conclusion statement: Cloakroom are not content to be a ‘fade-into-the-background” kind of shoegaze band. Rather, they are ready to fill the ether with a full-out aural assault to keep the world spinning. Dissolution Wave* is an album that will please immediately, with repeat spins revealing the nuances. 

 

*(I wondered if the phrase “dissolution wave” was taken from a real concept in physics, hit Google, and after staring at the abstract for “Pit-Induced Electrochemical Layer Dissolution and Wave Propagation on an Au(111) Surface in an Acidic Thiourea Solution” by Lianqun Li, et al. in The Journal of Physical Chemistry for several minutes I concluded physics is not my game and went back to the music.)

 

Dissolution Wave is out now via Relapse and available on all major streaming platforms. Find the band at Bandcamp, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.