Brooklyn, a large breeding-ground of music and artists that can cultivate and become part of an entity entirely larger than life. The Beach Fossils are a band that hails from the New York music scene, creating their own identity through a lo-fi atmospheric style of rock that combines both grace behind the vocalization, and a sense of adventure behind the music.
Their 2011 release, What a Pleasure has a surf-rock style with a halted approach. Beach Fossils started with the original solo project of James Dustin Payseur but saw numerous line-up changes before finally coming into their own with Jack Doyle Smith, Tommy Gardner, and Tommy Davidson to complete the final product. The band contains this child-like wonder about them and has this profound use of different modifiers on their instruments to create an overarching sound of a dreamy walk on the beach.
As What a Pleasure opens, it brings about a short opening track, “Moments” that while only slightly over a minute, creates the entire tone for the album. The running drum fills and the shining guitar are the centerfolds, then as the vocals start to flood in, it becomes clear that Beach Fossils are going to focus more on a journey rather than just delivering an album. It is only then as the second self-titled track, “What a Pleasure” comes into frame is when the album truly starts. Payseur delivers fantastic work on both the guitar and on the vocal front where he can almost effortlessly deliver the lines, “Thinking thoughts of you and me in my life, I’ve never felt so free. You’re so far away from me.” While paired with the perfect percussion work of Gardner and the simple, but beautiful guitar workings of Davidson, What a Pleasure becomes an instant laid-back and relaxed, Sunday morning style of album.
Moving on, the track “Out in the Way” contains a feature from Virginian, single-man rock band formed by Jack Tatum, Wild Nothing. Also on the same record label as Beach Fossils, Captured Tracks, the two artists have a significantly similar style and approach when having their sound. The biggest progressing part on “Out in the Way” is going to be the constant bass lines from Smith that strike in the background, but keep the action moving at a steady rate. This is also accompanied by Payseur’s wonderful lyrical style where he is almost drained, but still manages to sing, “In the darkness passing through, tell me is it really you? You don’t look the same as when I was dreaming, even though there’s not much time, I can’t get it off my mind.” Then the guitars and instrumentals begin to fade into the next dream-scape.
What a Pleasure is a strong release, but most of the tracks feel ultimately similar here and need more of a defining spark to really push The Beach Fossils to the next level. They show progress in each release and prove that the spark is turning into a fire, but on What a Pleasure, it isn’t sudden enough. Enjoyable, but not immensely powerful enough to be a full stand-alone release; Beach Fossils show potential to become a powerhouse in music, but need more time to refine the process.
Prey, the long awaited release coming from Planes Mistaken For Stars after a 10-year hiatus had been silently teased during the short promotional touring for Mercy’s, near its 10-year anniversary. Planes Mistaken For Stars had been keeping quiet, dropping initial teases over a full year before finally releasing Prey to the public, delivering on another solid record that conjured up a new section in the genre-blending discography.
A rushed assault makes up the first impression of Prey, “Dementia Americana” which draws inspiration from punk rock aspects where the drums are a quickened flurry and the guitars can become both abrasive and a moving target in how the track is portrayed. The biggest focus is on how powerful, moving, and stunning the track is from the first moments where screams of guitarist and vocalist Gared O’Donnell drive home the force that works in tandem with Planes Mistaken For Stars’ driving attitude when approaching the musical sections. In a sudden 180-degree turn, the following track is replaced by a much calmer, almost abstract style that put the guitars into more of a melodic run that has drummer, Mike Ricketts focusing on backing tom smacks and a gradual build-up in the track’s second half.
“Til’ It Clicks” has a much more varied field of depth when it comes to how it is presented, Planes Mistaken For Stars abandons the crunching style of “Dementia Americana” and adopts more closely to their stoner-rock style with mixes of ambience that fully combines a wonderful weave of genres. Planes Mistaken For Stars utilize both bass players, Aaron Wise, and Neil Keener who have been traveling with the band for well over ten years; together the gruff undertones where the bass can create a substantial groove of a rhythm section spawns a lovely advance between different sections of the track. “Til’ It Clicks” consistently changes between a gradual crawl and a slamming crush where Planes Mistaken For Stars switch into an entirely different breed of animal.
Moving on, “She Who Steps” becomes a collective effort to display additional power coming straight from Planes Mistaken For Stars. They don’t make this track a complete over-exemplified power struggle, but instead change the formula and contain more building sections rather than breakdowns. Between the ripping chords, crashing cymbals, and the screams of agony that play in the background, it completes a recipe for a pop song that takes a bitter end, but launches into one of the more beautiful segues that has pianos playing Planes Mistaken For Stars into their next piece of bravado style.
The droning continually adds to their musical methods, and the track “Clean Up Mean” is the first track that really brings a memorable set of grooves and sound that can resonate throughout the rest of Prey. The guitars are almost winding and set this real sense of depth to the sound, this is all while the percussion is more of a subtle addition that somberly plays along with the grieving instrumental. There is a rather distinct style that O’Donnell takes up upon on “Clean Up Mean,” and the following track, “Black Rabbit” which while an entirely too short track; he attaches a pained voice onto a blissful instrumental that repeats, “Hear your keys, though I suffer the request.” The rasp inside O’Donnell’s voice creates a sense of disparity within the instrumental and attaches this additional segue from a door opening into the last act of Prey.
“Pan In Flames” is a light-footed, rapid-round of a track that moves in quickly, wrecks the place, and then leaves without a real trace. Planes Mistaken For Stars are interesting in the way that they conduct their song progression, it almost always contains some amount of breakdown where a single instrument will take the reigns and allow the others to take a backseat. In this instance, the bass creates a low grumble while O’Donnell sings in an intimidating tone that slowly fades out into an unbreakable silence.
The final two tracks, “Enemy Blinds,” and “Alabaster Cello” almost blend together in the way that they are presented. “Enemy Blinds” has a humble beginning of a minimalistic approach with only a guitar and vocals, then as Planes Mistaken For Stars begins to add more layers onto the track, it becomes clear that they will eventually scrap the gentle uprising, for more of a stylish, firework like finish that contains different crashing and a huge focus on the guitars’ slick work. “Enemy Blinds” has Planes Mistaken For Stars slamming into “Alabaster Cello” in a quick, transitioning fashion that can be missed quite easily. It is a subtle change that is masked by the crashes of cymbals and the bassists’ work, but a change that eventually leads to the finale of Prey.
Planes Mistaken For Stars spares no final moments as they continually build up before reaching max capacity and launching into not a full-frontal assault, but a somber build that has most of its intensity focusing on the percussion which plays sporadically when compared to the other sections of the instrumentalists. In the final moments, “Alabaster Cello” becomes a blaze of glory, that burns brightest when the guitars, percussion, and basses all play in what seems like everlasting droning out where the final cymbal hit can be the extinguisher of Prey, reigning out and being the bridge to the silence.
The People Under The Stairs have been a grinding movement in hip-hop since 1997 where the group first formed with Thes One, (Christopher Cesar Portugal) and Double K, (Mike Turner). Two rhyming MC’s that created an independent tidal wave with their debut feature release, The Next Step, which was entirely funded by Thes One’s student loans to independently press and release the first single, “The Next Step II.” A few weeks after, almost every single copy was purchased by Mr. Bongo record shop owner, David Buttle and played in the London store, selling out the single in just minutes. From there on, Buttle contacted Om Records and eventually led to People Under The Stairs receiving a full contract, despite not planning on making a “full-length album”
Opening with “Intro / 4 Everybody,” the actual intro consists of a man talking to a mayor of his town, asking, “Mayor, you spoke earlier about, like, the frustrations, that black people have been going through and are going through. I’m frustrated to the point where, uh, I’m ready to give up on the system, but like I am a black youth… so can you, well, what would you tell me to do in terms of whether following the system as is, or going on off and developing… a new system.” The Mayor then kindly responds, “Let me tell you as a brother…” this is the first glimpse into some of the topics that People Under The Stairs will cover. Topics that are still prevalent today and still matter, as people move toward or away from the government, The Next Step sees into the future and explains how they will, “Start a new system.”
A system that focuses on hip-hop and expression, with Double K and Thes One as the leaders of the new world. The first musical aspect of The Next Step starts with the second half of “Intro / 4 Everybody” where Double K and Thes One can trade lyrical smacks, covering an authentic sounding instrumental with acoustic bass and percussion that also balances horns that add a smooth jazz-like layer and set the tone of the The Next Step. Both Thes One and Double K effortlessly in an onslaught of both speedily, aggressive rhyming schemes and a slowed method where the abrasiveness can be toned down and exchanged for a lovely selection of spoken word.
Double K is the first to break the microphone in as he starts his verse off with, “Yo, I want to see you dead in the worst way, ain’t no way I’m about to let you down without a crown on the top of your dome.” He then moves on to say, “You better off quitting homeboy, you ain’t dope with this. You got something else to say, fool, put up your fists.” Then as quickly as he begins, Double K passes the wire to Thes One where the two of them can come together to create the chorus or hook of the track, “We got the beats and the rhymes and dimes. We create the classic breaks from the crates. We come in with horny horns and the funk, we put in the work to make the cuts you love.” All while both lyricists shout “For everybody” at the end of the chorus’s lines. Thes One comes in with witty lyricism, explaining, “We on the ball like Globetrotters, I do this for your father and your mother. Your parents who’s apparently, inherently talent you inherit.” Surprisingly, for being a completely independently funded and produced record, The Next Step is promising in its first moments and continues to reward the listener with slick instrumentals and clever rhymes to create a double package in both musical performance and on-stage personality.
A sudden Latin dance transition segues “Death of A Salesman” into the frame and is instantly a mood changer when the first horns are heard that create the primary backing section of the instrumental. They are extremely depressed and sound more like funeral horns or a mixed section of a silent film, noir feature. Extremely bleak sounding, but mixed with the repeating lyrical sample, “Wack MC’s is dead MC’s” creates sustenance to the “funeral” sound that becomes portrayed from so early on. There is also story-telling behind the instrumental as Double K explains, “So I stepped to this nigga, looked him dead in the face. Was like, ‘You’s a disgrace to this race.’” Then as Double K finished, the bass kicks in with hard aggressive punches, almost simulating a fist-fight or a gun being fired which would relate to the “Wack MC’s is dead MC’s,” that plays continually throughout both verses from Double K and Thes One.
Before being cut off in a near somber like shuffle, “Hardcore” is pushed onto the scene and is more of a boom-bap style of hip-hop track that capitalizes on the guest verse of MC Smile-Oak who provides this lyrical assault where he can rhyme, “Trans-Atlantic, Titanic-type panic and turn dynamic semantic. Galactic syllabics to granite… And leaving nothing but imprints for the next generation, the interpretation of my iteration may lay the foundation.” It goes above and beyond as he quite-frankly attempts to out-rhyme People Under The Stairs on their own track. It balances on a level between trying too hard, and being genuine with his verse.
Then as The Next Step moves on, “Ten Tough Guys” slows down the action and creates a subtle, but engaging track that displays some stories about rap battling where Double K thrashes amateur rappers until reaching Thes One who can deliver a consistently adapting verse that in his similar style, slows and speeds in sections of his flow that keeps the instrumental steady, but the verses volatile, changing for the better. Double K and Thes One keeps every aspect of The Next Move feeling unpredictable and interesting, if the verses don’t thrill then the instrumentals will pick up any unneeded slack and that goes in vice-versa as well. There is not a single aspect of The Next Step that truly falls flat, using both MC’s genius and ability to keep The Next Step soaring from track to track, until the final, graceful end.
Before the end however, People Under The Stairs continue on with another instant movement machine, “San Francisco Knights” is a downright beautiful mix of dreamy guitars, a booming percussion set, and a tag-team like approach to the verses where Double K and Thes One can trade lyrics on both the choruses, but also through the main “meats” of the track as well. “San Francisco Knights” creates a sun-shine feeling where everything in the track just clicks together, and creates a lovely feeling that instantly puts a smile on your face, especially hearing the two lyricists tag-teaming, “Very often we win, yo, very seldom we lose. Spice rockin’ your whole motherfuckin’ city,” is created in a fashion that plays off the friendly chemistry that Thes One and Double K possess.
Another track that fades into frame, but keeps a minimalist style is “Los Angeles Daze,” that uses a boom-bap beat and synth chords that rarely change, but are still substantial enough to keep a consistent attention. The verses here are going to be the primary aspect of “Los Angeles Daze” as they come in much more aggressive when compared to the subtle instrumental component. Thes One drops knowledge about Los Angeles and its hip-hop history in his verse where he explains, “Keep the rhyme moving like the Unity location, rap has been my vocation since before the Japanese owned the radio station…I blow up, rock free shows at the Palladium, afterwards, the crew I’m taking ‘em to Tommy’s Burgers.” Even Double K’s verse throws some of his personal experiences into the mix as well, “Word to MC Ren, I showed them people that you wack. Peace to the real crews defacing walls on backstreets, in the city of set, porch, halls, and swap meets. From the school of hard knocks, the generation passed down. Kaiser Permanente, yo, that’s where I was found. In the middle of the funk era, ‘fros and dashikis,“ finishing the track with a sample that asks, “Where are you from?” that lets the beat ride out and eventually fade into silence.
Then, the big single from The Next Step comes launching in, “The Next Step II” is a bouncy, overly excited instrumental that uses pounding percussion and a huge focus on cheerful piano chords that create an additional layer of that same “feel-good” style of “San Francisco Knights.” Double K opens the track with his verse that explains, “Yo, it’s the West Coast, shit-talking b-boy from the 80’s. Y’all niggas know the name, the game won’t change.” Thes One then comes in stating, “It’s the Next Step, Part Two, slept on the first. Worse if you slumber on the sequel, one verse, versus us, no equal.” Then People Under The Stairs move onto the final act or track, “Play It Again / Outro.”
The finale of The Next Step, People Under The Stairs use a grand-piano and a boom-bap percussive beat that has Double K and Thes One switching back and forth on the beat in a cooperative style that only boosts the track into this chorus-singing match between the lyricists. The two MC’s move together, stating, “Play it again and again… People Under the Stairs… Play it again and again,” until reaching the final moments where People Under The Stairs use a sample that explains, “I took it home that night and analyzed it, rewound the tape over and over, and memorized it.” Before falling into a fading silence from record scratches and a bright look into the forward movement that is The Next Step.
Ugly Heroes, a trifecta rap group from Detroit, Michigan that effortlessly blends classy instrumentals and witty rhyming to create some beauty from the Motor City. Comprised of members, “Apollo Brown” (Erik Stephens), “Red Pill” (Chris Orrick), and “Verbal Kent” (Dan Weiss), who together work as a deadly, verbal hydra who tag-team their newest release, Everything in Between.
Released June, 24 under Mello Music Group which is an independent record label based out of Tucson, Arizona. Ugly Heroes joined their roster after rapper and producer Apollo Brown released some of his first works and acted as a launch pad for Ugly Heroes to come in with a different look to hip-hop music. Focusing on “The heroes that work hard all day, everyday to help ensure that the lives around them are taken care of, and do it all without recognition.” This has been The Ugly Heroes’ motto and shall remain as they continue to boost their life stories into masterpieces with each graceful step.
Kicking things off with the track, “Today Right Now,” The Ugly Heroes use sampling to display a question to the audience, “Have you ever figured out what you’ll be like in a few years? Why don’t you look ahead?” This then plays into the first verse coming from Red Pill where he starts rhyming over an instrumental that focuses on a boom-bap style of a percussive beat with a string ensemble that creates a great amount of prideful stride. Red Pill proudly marches over with giant steps and comes in questioning life with his verse, “I don’t know what I’m here for, I don’t know what the point is. [I] spent so many nights alone, sipping this poison. All of us trying to find it, some of us call it purpose.” The message is powerful, and creates an existentialist point of view onto what people of a society are truly doing, then as “Today Right Now” progresses into the hook or chorus of the track, Verbal Kent explains, “No one’s ever promised tomorrow, I’mma be who I am and you are who you are. Let’s let the past be that, the shit is over why overreact? No one’s ever promised tomorrow…” Kent then jumps into his verse directly after the hook and brings an uplifting factor which differentiates from Red Pill’s verse.
Opening with, “No matter what road I travel on, add a little something to the catalog.” Verbal Kent is more of a philosopher that simply rides on the instrumental and both Red Pill and Kent create an astounding level of chemistry on the track that really flows into the rest of Everything in Between. Even the instrumentals of the tracks bring out the best of the MC’s present and challenge, but also create situations where the lyrics can fully flow and act more as a catalyst for the rappers.
Following is the track, “Daisies” which uses a huge focus on piano and more string ensembles that create this floating style of instrumental. There are also flutes present that subtly add background noise between the tapping hi-hat and the mostly muted bass and snare. This is where the “classiness” of Ugly Heroes can shine through and create truly beautiful hip-hop music. The instrumentals alone can become their own tracks and the verses are outstanding additions in creating one of the better projects coming out of 2016.
Verbal Kent and Red Pill are going to be the main vocalists on Everything in Between, however, where The Ugly Heroes truly capitalize is on their production. Tracks like “This World,” “Peace of Mind,” “Can’t Win For Losin,’” and “Unforgiven” shows their true muscle and together create larger than life stories that act as groundwork for Ugly Heroes’ tracks. The group works together in what seems like an effortless move to create and establish a social statement on daily life, society’s changes, and the sacrifices that the Ugly Heroes make for us everyday.
Pittsburgh’s hardcore slug-fest Code Orange, formally known as Code Orange Kids come swinging, stabbing, and slicing through with their brand new Roadrunner LP debut, Forever. Still sticking with the theme of desolation, an immense level of aggressiveness, and an everlasting thirst to destroy everything in their path, Code Orange has once again proven that the Thinners Of The Herd are here to leave their mark once again.
From several single releases, teases, and finally a sold-out record release show in Code Orange’s hometown, Forever arrives, and feels more like a continuation of their sound from their 2014 release, I Am King, but with some additional tweaks and bonuses. Every record contains the same producer, Kurt Ballou whose previous works include Converge’s All We Love, We Leave Behind, Kvelertak’s Meir, and Nails’ You Will Never Be One of Us, just to name a few in the past five years of his career. As Ballou has been working with Code Orange since the very beginning, he knows the in’s and out’s of their sound, allowing Forever to fully prosper and become ultimately fruitful for Code Orange.
Opening with the self-titled track, “Forever” is a rambunctious and untamed mosh-pit of sudden breakdowns, pounds of distortion, and a bone-shattering mix of both percussion and guitars that from the first moments, Forever appears to be completely unrelenting in both strength, but also tenacity. From the first quote of the apparition like voice as it reads, “When hands are caught in my brother’s pocket, I’ll burn my Gods down,” to the screams of Jami Morgan who also doubles as Code Orange’s drummer as well. There are also additional vocal performances from Reba Meyers, Code Orange’s guitarist, who was once the band’s bassist a “long, long time ago,” and from Eric Balderose who helps out on adding some of the technical touches with synthesizers and guitar.
As the hydra of vocalists move together, they have distinct changes in their vocal approach which keeps each track feeling entirely different and fresh. As “Forever” reigns as the first-look into Code Orange’s massive destruction that is to come, the following track, “Kill The Creator” almost seems to blend in seamlessly.
Starting off with a rapid-fire assault of machine gun styled instruments, Code Orange breaks the action down but keeps that same level of intensity as they continually switch from breakdown to breakdown, shouting in unison to, “Kill The Creator,” almost as if a warning call to all those who oppress. This is of course before Code Orange launches into one of the dirty jam sessions where the guitars play off of the bass, and the percussion keeps this heavy, but steady flow into the following, “Real.”
From the intense power struggle Code Orange presents between lyricists, the band is also known for showing that same amount of potency with their instruments as well. An instant pit opener, “Real” brings about a simple, but sudden shift in where Morgan can launch a full-frontal assault in both vocal delivery and in the percussion aspect where he rains fire upon using double bass hits to obliterate, along with the guitars shredding in unison in this grind-core fashion; it is pure bliss in thirty seconds. The chemistry put together on Code Orange’s Forever is going to be the highlighted aspect here this time around, as any band that has been together nearly ten-years should, they play perfectly together and create these moments where everything is pure chaos, but still somehow manageable and still able to be an easy passage way into their best release thus far.
“Real” also has a section that if anyone listens to, it will continually stick into your head without a doubt. After the chaos of Code Orange gradually speeding up and grinding down, Morgan has a moment where his voice and the guitars from Meyers and Balderose are the only thing present, Morgan then shouts in complete anguish, “This is real now… Motherfucker.” As soon as the words leave his mouth, Code Orange jumps into a flurry of a brick wall where the guitars rumble, the drums lay heavily on the crash cymbals, and the bass line from Joe Goldman creates a deep growl, all of this is shortly abandoned however and switched up on “Bleeding In The Blur” to more of a melodic and ballad style of track.
Meyers is going to be the leading factor here, and this track is more of a straight up rock track than a genre-blending hardcore track. The switch-up is a welcome change as stated before, it keeps the music from feeling monotonous and gives Code Orange a chance to come from left-field.
Code Orange also implements some synthetic chords into their music, and the track “The Mud” has this drooping, almost flopping synth hits that segue Code Orange back into their comfort ground. Forever does indeed take some intriguing turns and finds a way to rework the sound that Code Orange had established, instead of erasing that sound, they work with it and build off it with “The Mud”’s second half where it becomes a sludge-fest of writhing guitar squeals and a large focus on these syncopated rhythms where the instruments start to shift together and create a fantastic use of free space.
As Forever continues on, there is an intense amount of excitement with each incoming track and “The New Reality” is another song that really brings the rising pressure to new heights. While the shortest track featured on Forever, it is still able to bring in an outstanding rhythm section that can slowly pulverize, but also gradually start to sprint into this non-stop punch-fest with every instrument ripping apart their surroundings. Amazingly, Code Orange’s brilliance works well with the destruction around them, and this can also be said for the track that follows, “Spy.”
A not-so-subtle build up on the percussion aspect by Morgan leads “Spy” into the frenzied shark tank of slick guitar progression, bass grooves, and an unforeseen bombardment by Code Orange around the half-way mark that quickly creates a “jump off the stage into people,” attitude. “Spy” is an extremely diverse track that floats in a sea of variety on Forever. Almost every single track on Forever manages to switch its tone to either adapt to more of a brutal style, or dial back on one aspect and let the differences shine through. While entirely experimental, Forever does not entirely change Code Orange, but on the places where they do switch the formula, it is ultimately for the better.
The last four tracks on Forever are completely different from each other, “Ugly” is more in touch with “Bleeding In The Blur” as it is a track that does not try to melt off any faces or break any bones. Instead, it acts as a progressive piece in moving Code Orange closer to the edge of Forever. It has an interesting mix of both hardcore elements and soft rock elements that transform “Ugly” into a lovely different breed of animal. It gets the mood set for the last true atom-bomb tracks on Forever, “No One Is Untouchable.”
Angry, distraught, and furious, “No One Is Untouchable” uses Morgan’s vocals as he screams, “Dreams will die, blue will burn. But when the cards drop, You’d be the first one to go running.” There are also the other vocalists, Meyers and Balderose and even possibly Goldman that seem to be shouting something along the lines of “Thinners Of The…” but it is unclear as the constant chaos surrounding their voices makes it nearly impossible to tell exactly what they are shouting. Then almost as quickly as “No One Is Untouchable” comes into frame, it disappears and is instead replaced by “Hurt Goes On” which sounds eerily similar to the break in “Kill The Creator” which is only on the track for a few seconds before falling back into extreme mayhem.
“Hurt Goes On” is more of a spoken word track for the first half where Morgan describes, “You’re just a rat in a world full of snakes, I’m just a dog in a cage; waiting to pick you to pieces.” The entire time there is a huge focus on the atmospheric side where Code Orange channels crashing bass drums and some synths before having the full band come into transparency, almost re-envisioned by the wall of sound that hits. “Hurt Goes On” has a somber piano chord ending that trails off into the final track of Forever.
“Dream2” is a final touching stone for Meyers’ vocal performance to shine through and create this great amount of tension within her voice and her lyrics, “I’m just not you anymore, I’m just in a different place.” She then continues on this path until hitting the final rephrase where she states, “I’m just not you anymore, I’m just in a different place. Just wanted so much more, I just can’t relate. I just can’t rel…” until her voice is cut off and the once angelic singing is replaced by a demonic, pitched-down voice that leaves Forever on a sinister cliffhanger. Forever is a bone-crunching addition to their discography and leaves an excited look for what’s next in the future of the Thinners of The Herd.
I feel incredibly sick so those of you who were looking forward or wanted to hear some more of my opinion… I won’t be doing one…. But the schedule will resume on Friday with some juicy new hardcore… Sorry kids, but I feel like death.
Matthew Ryan Miramontes
MAMMAL, or Gary Beauvais is an artist that has been in the recording world since 1996, but his first noted release actually occurring under the MAMMAL moniker came in 2001, with Other Realms. As Beauvais had started to evolve as an artist, so did the MAMMAL name as it shifted away from the more industrial noise of his first record, and really started to shine through on his later released work. The album, Lake & Sand would bridge the gap between his critically acclaimed album, Lonesome Drifter, and Fringe Residue would be a look even further into the mind of MAMMAL.
Staying in the similar noise style, only adapting to a more authentic sounds than previously released, MAMMAL describes the album as his, “most raw and personal album.” This is immensely apparent from even just the first track on Lake & Sand as the record feels gritty, disturbed, but ultimately releasing as Beauvais describes the album was recorded sometime in early 2009 up until the late 2011 and was not even mastered until 2013. As the personal accounts here, mixed with the incredibly bleak instrumentals are downright enticing at first listen. It is only until the third, fourth, fifth, and eventually tenth listen to where the lyrics start to shine through more gallantly. This is a wonderful decision though as most of Lake & Sand is primarily instrumental, and demands to be heard with headphones to catch every detail inside the complexity of tracks like, “Dusty Lady,” “Hydrocodone,” and “Death Perception.”
Subtly meandering in with the starting track, “The Lake,” an acoustic guitar is the main scrap in the musical puzzle that plays in tandem with Beauvais’s voice, that is heavily reverbed and edited to give off an ethereal sound to it. The guitar is also heavily edited, but sounds quite natural and clean as well, almost working in similar chemistry to make the track feel like a sunrise, or a gentle beginning to an immense pain that will follow. The acoustic guitar featured on Lake & Sand is going to be the largest weapon that MAMMAL has in his arsenal, as it is a complete tone piece that creates most of the atmosphere.
Following on the pain described before, MAMMAL opens one of the tracks, “His Song,” with immensely depressed lyrics, “Would you still love me if I died by my own hand? Would you find someone else who’s better than I am?” MAMMAL uses these incredibly lugubrious subjects like suicide, nature, and the everlasting end to his advantage to create these somber moments within his music where he can connect with the listener and make an instant contact into that person’s head where most other artists have trouble breaking that barrier. As MAMMAL continues through Lake & Sand, the tracks become continually daunting, until coming almost full circle with the last act where MAMMAL brings everything to a screeching halt and goes back to the acoustic guitar and vocal aspect.
Final tracks like, “Five Of Cups,” “Half Sun,” and “Sand,” start to come into their own with MAMMAL describing in “Sand”’s chorus or rephrase, “In the end we are all just sand.” Which is an existential way of looking as life and seems to be the theme of most of MAMMAL’s discography. Also his work with different record labels like ORMOLYCKA, Animal Disguise, and even when releasing his work independently through home release, he still manages to maintain a presence without fully being there. He is present on social media, and while his posts are quite frequent, it appears MAMMAL is not quite there. He has gone on tours and different sets, but not entirely too much is known about MAMMAL.
His release, Lake & Sand touches a barrier, a personal one, but a barrier as is. The record is quite emotional and immense pain and distraught can be heard in Beauvais’s voice throughout Lake & Sand, almost as it is therapeutic for him to share his story. As he begins and ends the record on a graceful but bleak note, MAMMAL shows a human side amongst all his synthetic noises and different electronics. He has a heartbeat, shows compassion and love, shows his inner demons, and conquers them on Lake & Sand, proving to all that we are above the sand below us.
Instead of writing my usual review of two albums, I instead wanted to share them upon the world as one is entirely new, coming out only less than three weeks ago. But the other has come out a little over half a year ago and I would like to illuminate some attention to both of these projects. Both hardcore bands are from entirely different backgrounds as “Jesus Piece” is from Philadelphia (“Killadelphia”) as it is known in the hardcore underworld for being one of the stronger sides of hardcore music, and the contrasting “Skeleton” who is not even from the United States.
Hailing all the way from Kazakhstan, which is south of Russia and is located as its own republic in China. The band has just released their new Flexi 1 which I find to be utterly rooted in classic punk sound with a modern twist. That is also similar to the emotion behind Jesus Piece, both bands take a classic sound and contort it to fit a modern style. Jesus Piece is more along the lines of crushing hardcore that punishes the listener with destructive breakdowns, and thousand pound weights attached the percussion.
Skeleton however, is able to open with a technical metal side until unleashing the wonderful strums and percussion combination that cascades into some mosh pit inducing tempo changes that squish the track together, then rapidly pulls it apart.
Both records/EP’s/whatever you would want to call them/ are only a three track list and do not last a second over thirteen minutes, and I would strongly recommend everyone listen to them as it would be a disservice to the musical community to pass on these records.
Jesus Piece’s Summer ’16 Promo is a free tape and Skeleton’s Flexi 1 is only three dollars. Who knows, you might just find out some more about both of these bands in the future.
Eddie and The Subtitles, better known as The Subtitles, now have made a path for themselves throughout punk rock history as the Orange County band that shaped the “Eddie Empire,” where southern California reigned in the name. Comprised of bassist from Middle Class, Mike Patton, and Eddie Joseph; not entirely too much is known about Eddie and The Subtitles as most of their music is substantially rare and almost unobtainable if it was not for the internet.
Thankfully, Skeletons in the Closet is one of those punk records that feels almost lost in time but is still in step with modern society. As the band that once played along Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Middle Class, and Vicious Circle, the band combined beautiful surf rock, 50’s doo wop, and a freeform style to their music that gave Eddie and The Subtitles a one of a kind sound. Even as Skeletons in the Closet was released back in the magical land of 1981; Eddie and The Subtitles were a strange concoction in the music world, but one that must not be forgotten and that shall live on through various websites and rare leaks of photos and their music.
Starting with a rapid hardcore punk track, “American Society” is a mosh-pit inducing thrill ride for a quick minute of two step drum beats and blazing guitar. The mantra is slowly changed over to the 80’s dreamlike guitars rather quickly in the next track, “Magic.” Here, Eddie and The Subtitles become more of a similar style in with The Cars, or even Cheap Trick. It is utterly fantastic to hear the sudden genre change and this appears to be the style throughout most of Skeletons in The Closet. Lyricist Eddie Joseph comes in with a radio-friendly style voice where he explains, “It feels like magic, like pulling rabbits out of a hat. I didn’t know that you could do that, magic.” Almost instantly, the track style changes yet again and becomes a quick dash in “Zombie Drug Killer.”
Not quite a hardcore track, but more of a new wave, Middle Class, Homeland-esque track that is almost over as quickly as it begins. There is a substantial amount of relying on the bass to be the real powerhouse of the track, and this goes for the following of “Treat Me Right.” Similar to a surf-rock track, the amount of switch-ups present is purely magical and definitely the highlight of Skeletons in the Closet. There is a track here for everyone, and for every style. Some of these tracks are also present on Eddie and The Subtitles Fuck You Eddie! compilation album. Tracks like the remaster of the 1963 classic by The Kingsmen, “Louie Louie,” “American Society,” “No Virgins in Hollywood,” and “Child Sin.”
Still following in the changing style, “Dave Dacron” comes into frame and repeats the chorus in something that sounds similar to, “Dead and Gone,” rather than the words, “Dave Dacron.” This could be and is most likely about Rhino 39 singer Dave “Dacron” Bratton who died in an auto accident in April, 1980. Then going into tracks like “Child Sin,” the sound goes back into more of a punk rock style where the bass, guitar, vocals, and drums are much faster paced and that goes for the track, “Boppin’ little Bobcat” as well. The surf rock distinction here is still present and it is interesting to see a compilation album created by one band. More of a sampler of their favorite sounds, it would be an incredible show to witness as Eddie and The Subtitles would frequently change their musical style to create these drastic differences in Skeletons in the Closet.
As I stated before, it is hard to find a complete physical copy of Skeletons in the Closet, but it can be streamed on various sites on the internet or the alternative of Fuck You Eddie! can be purchased for a relatively cheap price as well. Even as Eddie and The Subtitles no longer remain, The Subtitles are still around and are still active out in the world, letting the flame of punk rock never fade.
Sunnyvale, a small Silicon Valley area near San Jose, was able to house rapper/producer/and living-sex symbol, Antwon. Antwon “cut his teeth at punk and hardcore shows. That’s not only evident when he’s making bouncers fear for their lives and flouting noise curfews. It’s an attitude that seeps into his work even now.” As Antwon began working with other bands, producers, and artists, Antwon became a musical mogul; spanning not only club hits, but also some beautifully crafted, rap tracks that are sure to mix the game up from just one listen.
As Antwon released his latest EP, Double Ecstasy “feels like this record is a rebirth,” according to Antwon. As he contorts what makes us all feel human, covering our wants, desires, inner loves, and ultimately, our downfalls; Double Ecstasy is a shaded look into the inner psyche of Antwon, and it is a roller-coaster of emotion from start to finish.
Opening with the instant classic, “Luv” grazes upon the subject of Antwon’s adventures in the “Booty Club.” Only a rising, but forward synth creates the first few moments of sound, it is only after a short build-up where the instrumental starts to come into fruition. Antwon has a striking voice that is instantly grabbing and becomes the very-centerfold of his music. Surprisingly, Antwon challenges the instrumental and nearly overpowers it, almost creating a constant battle on Double Ecstasy.
As Antwon’s first lyrics fade into frame, the track hits a borderline between jokingly and realistic. Antwon describes on the hook, “Show me love, in the booty club. Private dance, I’mma get a hug, tidal wave, bad bitches offer drugs. I don’t care, I’m just here to fall in love.” There is a sudden censorship over the word “love,” almost implying that the word is too serious or too vulgar to be heard. In doing this, Antwon plays his cards close to his chest and reveals many other surprises through slight cues or progressive changes in his music. Antwon also describes here, “Feeling lonely, why should I begin? So I can fill a void? Feel happy just like my friends? But inside, they dying cause them drugs just kicked in.” While the breakdown is a little unfitting and takes the flow of the track out, “Luv” as a package, is a complete journey of amusement when the low, rumbling 808 bass line kicks in and Antwon is switching between chorus and verse almost effortlessly.
This is then the seguing motion to bring in a complete banger of a track, “100K.” Here, there is a twinkling chime that acts as the primary action in the instrumental, but is also rivaled with various claps in the build-up and a bouncing 808 kick drum that lays down one of the more riveting instrumentals of Antwon’s career. Here, Antwon is able to lay down some flashy lines, “Came from a lane, now I sport change…All I do is ball, all I do is spend, A freak say she likes me but it really all depends. In a world with no love, how can you not hate. La-la-laughing to the bank off dank like.” After his first verse, Antwon begins the hook of “100K,” where he makes a sudden change and the beat starts to die down, letting the focus become the, “100K a summer, on front street getting becky from a runner. She want my number, I tell her 1-800, pulling money out the bank now a nigga ballin’ with no ducats.” Happily, Antwon ends “100K” with a quick fade out, and slow build with the next track, “Girl, Flex.”
More of a track that is ominous, the instrumental is instantly sullen within the first 30-seconds. Then as Antwon starts his verse off, it becomes immediately known that this is the first love-stricken track where, Antwon will describe “A nigga died in the piece, please tell my crew,” and “Girl, Flex, it’s time to have sex.” Honestly, this track is more comical than an actual love track, and it is unsure if Antwon is being purely humorous, or actually being serious. From the near-hilarious chorus of “Put the pussy up on my neck,” and “That pussy just flex,” while Antwon is heavily breathing over the instrumental is quite amusing. I enjoy the track, but I personally think it is the weakest of all the 5-tracks on Double Ecstasy as it is taken more as a comical act, rather than what Antwon could have possibly intended.
However, the following track, “Club” is immensely rapid and becomes one of the points of Double Ecstasy where Antwon can show off his quick-witted lyrical style. Antwon describes, “She wanna hold one nut, while I smoke one blunt,” while this pounding bass line reigns behind the deep, but soothing voiced Antwon. The best section of “Club” is where Antwon is running through the chorus/ending of the track where the instrumental is going in full force and Antwon lays rapid lines where he repeats, “Might smoke K in the club, maybe now we all in the club.” Almost instantly, Antwon takes the high-energy of “Club” and transfers it into the final track of Double Ecstasy.
“DRI-FIT” is another banging style of track that relies on a pounding bass line and this oriental synth that reflects and reverbs the sound throughout the track. Antwon delivers wholeheartedly about his, “Gucci cut and I’m a bread and butter nigga, overseas I be blowin’ dope. Glasgow to the London streets with my mans, two bands I be blowin’ snow.” The instrumental as it keeps a slamming style, demands movement and wants the audience to bounce on the rising claps and get down on the bass stomps. Together, the track is immense fun and that is the theme of Double Ecstasy. As soon as the instrumentals start on each track, Antwon wants people to feel his pain, his love, and see what’s inside his deepest thoughts. It can be anything from money, to shows, or primarily sex, but Antwon takes a change and develops an amazing sound through his music. From covering topics like “booty clubs,” to “DRI-FIT T-Shirts,” Antwon proves that he deserves his own lane in rap music, a lane full of love and roses.