Musical Deviance Part 2: Quakers

Posted in Not Riffs with tags , , on November 23, 2012 by Ben

*Warning: Hip-hop below. You have been warned.*

Welcome to the second part of my week of musical deviance. As I mentioned in the first post (found here), I haven’t really listened to any riffs this week. Instead I’ve been alternating between big-band jazz and the subject of today’s post, hip-hop.

I’ve always liked hip-hop to a certain degree but I’ve always been picky about what I like to listen too. This has made my taste somewhat eclectic, bouncing between Australian natives Hilltop Hoods to some classic Wu-Tang. Two things I always look for are interesting beats and infectious rhymes, something that the self-titled debut from the 35 person collective, Quakers, has in spades..

By the numbers this is a project headed by 3 produces, featuring 35 MC’s and resulting in 41 tracks with a run time of just over an hour. So yeah, it’s a pretty big fucking collection of music. I’m not going to start naming names either, partially because of the sheer number of bodies involved but mostly because even if you followed recent hip-hop these names wouldn’t ring a bell.

The project was created as an effort to showcase the biggest and brightest talents that no ones heard of and then cramming all their rhymes into one massive album. The first thing I noticed after finally finishing a listen through is that even though this collection covers a dozen different styles, beats and rhythms, it all ends up sounding musically cohesive. Tracks flow together perfectly, sometimes you can’t even tell the song has changed until a new MC starts up.

One problem with this approach is some songs manage to stick in your head much more than others, causing the next couple tracks to loose their oomph. This is a very small complaint though, as more than %80 of this album is top-notch shit to my uneducated ears. Due to that fact I’m just going to highlight some of the tracks that really stood out to me, when in reality, the whole album kills.

One of the first tracks to hit me was the huge brass section and back-alley drawl of “Fitta Happier”. Watch below.

This is exactly the kind of stuff I look for, beats that slap a nod into your head and rhymes that make you feel like a twelve foot tall grizzly bear smoking a blunt and driving a Cadillac. Next up is “What Chew Want”.

Smooth flows, drum breaks and one hell of a voice. A couple tracks later we’ve got “Mummy”.

And a little later on we get the last track I’ll showcase, “War Drums”.

Even with those four tracks you can see a huge difference in the beats, rhymes and flows but nothing every sounds out of place. Everything ends up mixed together perfectly, a challenging feat considering every track is scrabbling for your attention. It’s a rapid fire of underground hip-hop that just sounds so damn good and like I said before, none of the 41 tracks disappoint.

So if you’ve made your way through that and still haven’t condemned me as a blasphemer and stormed off in a huff, then you can pick up “Quakers” from the US iTunes or from Stones Throw Records. Links below and don’t worry, the riffs will be back tomorrow.

Stones Throw Records

 

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Musical Deviance Part 1: The Seatbelts

Posted in Not Riffs with tags , on November 21, 2012 by Ben

*Confession Time: I haven’t listened to any riffs this week. I know, but just bear with me.*

Afternoon folks. I’ve finally found myself a lull between deadlines and impending exams, giving me just enough time to talk about some of the music sashaying through my ears this week.

If your still reading after my little confessional than chances are your ears are open to some tasty riff alternatives. The music in this case is courtesy of The Seatbelts, a Japanese/International jazz group headed by Yoko Kanno. I found them for what they are most famous for, the music of Cowboy Bebop, a late ’90’s anime about space-faring bounty hunters. Chances are if you like anime you’ve already seen it but if you haven’t I highly advise giving it a watch.

One of the things that makes Cowboy Bebop stand out in my mind is the integration of the music into the stories. The music is just as much of a character as the cast is and most of the episodes are based around one musical theme, or use one style. The other standout fact is the sheer diversity during the series. Musical styles bounce between eerie noir-style crawls, big-band jazz sessions, ambient orchestral arrangements and classic western/blues twanging. All of these styles were preformed by The Seatbelts.

They currently have seven albums, four of which are Cowboy Bebop related, the other three are originals. I’ve managed to track down a pretty solid discography to give everything a listen, which is far more convenient than trying to track down every album. Since there was such a massive variety of music in these albums, it’s not surprising that I didn’t enjoy everything. What I did enjoy (and what I’m going to highlight) is the big-band jazz sessions and western blues songs, as these were the two styles I enjoyed the most.

Since I don’t really have the experience or knowledge to write anything in-depth on this music, this post is more aimed at exposing the music and seeing if y’all like it too. Here’s a live version of their most infamous song for the opening of Cowboy Bebop, “Tank!”:

I’ve always loved the sound of big band, probably thanks to my mothers rotation of early ’50’s classics. Suffice to say very few things put a chill down my spine like a full brass section going balls out. Here’s another of the big band efforts, “Too Good, Too Bad”:

So damn tasty. One thing I’ve noticed is that if you listen to a lot of complex or technical metal, large jazz compositions will have similar elements to metal songs. Little bits and snatches of song that seem familiar, or time signatures you can relate to a much heavier song. I might just be crazy though.

The other style of The Seatbelts I mentioned was their western blues songs. Cowboy Bebop is essentially about space cowboys and the mix of old west twanging guitars and howling blues harmonicas works amazing with lonely shots of a ship in space. Probably the most famous example of this style is shown below in “Spokey Dokey”:

It’s a haunting kind of music, melancholy and alone, at home in both the black vacuum of space and the searing hot sands of the desert. The harmonica is severly underused instrument in modern rock ‘n’ roll, so it does my ears good to hear it given the main stage. Here’s a guitar centered piece, “Forever Broke”.

Well that’s all I really wanted to accomplish, I hope I’ve piqued your interest for some new musical styles. If your looking to listen to an album/pick one up, I’d suggest just getting the straight Cowboy Bebop soundtrack, as it covers all the styles and classic songs. I’ll end with two more of my favorites, “Want it All Back” (one of the few songs with lead vocals) and “Mushroom Hunting”. Enjoy.

Short but Sweet from Sons of Huns, Firetruck Rally and The Heavy Eyes

Posted in Riffs with tags , , on November 17, 2012 by Ben

Hi there folks!

I’ve been spending the week getting skullfucked by school and haven’t had much room to breathe, let alone get some writing done. Thankfully I’ve found a little reprive tonight in order to bring you three new EP’s from The Heavy Eyes, Sons of Huns and Firetruck Rally. Can you diiiiig it?

First up is the oldest new release from Portland’s Sons of Huns. I talked about their previous work here and this newest 7″, “Leaving Your Body”, was released during September of this year. Containing two new songs, “Leaving Your Body” and “The Wanderer” along with a music video for the title track, it’s a solid slab of stoneriffic goodness.

There is a distinct difference in their sound this time, with “Leaving Your Body” showing a tendency towards thicker riffs and heavier grooves, in contrast to the lighter and more agile music on the “S/T EP”. The vocals have been tweaked to match this new musical style, with some more gruffness thrown in to match the grizzled guitars. These are by no means bad changes, just things I noticed.

Glimpses of their older sound come through on both tracks, which provides a nice little jolt to the songs. Both of the tracks are packed with head nodding grooves, finger-licking solos and good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll. The accompanying video is also quite tasty, with some evil cultists and general occultyness to add some flavor.

This EP is currently only available in physical media, as no download option is up on Bandcamp. However, you can stream both tracks and watch the video below. Now for round 2!

Sons of Huns Facebook

Sons of Huns Bandcamp

Round two comes to us in the form of some gristly hardcore thanks to the Israeli band Firetruck Rally. Their 7 track EP was released also during September of this year and contains some interesting quirks along with the usual dose of napalm, rage and broken glass.

Currently there are only 2 tracks streaming on Bandcamp along with a video for a third song. All three are sharp, abrasive and utterly destructive. The interesting quirks come in the form of experimental elements that go a long way in giving the songs some depth. Quirky time signatures, clever guitar work and frantic vocals give the songs almost a mathcore feel.

It’ll take a couple listen through to get your head wrapped around everything, since the tracks rarely top two minutes. It demands your attention, you can’t really tune it out to the background or else you’ll end up with a lead pipe bashing your skull in. The video for “Open Letter to a Cop” is well executed and original, matching the track with some folks taking a punch to the face.

Currently only the three tracks are available for streaming, with plans for a physical release in the works. Listen below!

Firetruck Rally Facebook

Firetruck Rally Bandcamp

Last but not least is the newest EP from Memphis based, The Heavy Eyes. I talked about their previous EP here and their full length here. “Maera” was released this November and is two tracks that manage to pick out all the things I loved from their full length and and make it even better.

Sticky sweet grooves and endless riff worship are the name of the game, with never ending head nods and toe taps to boot. The apple pie-classics riffs are back, with all the accompanying ice cream fuzz and served hot to order. They’ve taken that perfect formula and just given it a simple massage. There’s no radical changes, just classic stoner tunes to put your mind at ease.

Even better is having the EP up for a name-your-price option on Bandcamp, something that only sweetens the deal even further. Enjoy.

The Heavy Eyes Facebook

The Heavy Eyes Bandcamp

Velvet Elvis and Velour Curtains

Posted in Riffs with tags on November 11, 2012 by Ben

Goooood evening ladies and gents. I’m feeling quite relaxed today, after a weekend that involved nothing more than getting blissful and watching movies. Sadly tomorrows sunrise will bring a cold and grey dose of reality with it, but thanks to Rochester’s Velvet Elvis, I’m having trouble caring about that fact.

A hefty combination of psychedelica and stoner, with just a touch of the occult added in for good measure, this quintet just released their debut full-length, “In Deep Time” during June of this year. Thick grooves and thicker riffs are surfed over by a powerful set of pipes resulting in songs that reach more towards the “soaring” and “epic” end of the spectrum.

The aforementioned vocals are the driving force behind these vibes, as the usual male growl is replaced with a much more sultry female tone, the velvet to the Elvis if you are so inclined. I’ve always found female vocal to completely change the way a song would sound, both have their merits and both have their place, but there are some times when female vocals can take a song places male vocals never could.

Velvet Elvis seems to have realized this, with the majority of the vocals being provided being female and backing vocals provided by the males. It gives the vocal score a texture you don’t usual get in a uni-sexual setup.

These vocals are then matched perfectly with the accompanying instrumentals. Fuzzed out riffs pound into your eardrums, building into some pretty monumental peaks. These peaks soon lead to dark and eerie valleys, filled with howling echoes and warbling drones that leave you disoriented, confused and looking for more. It’s one hell of a trip, that’s for sure.

Most of the tracks play out in this sinusoidal fashion, with fire and brimstone peaks fading into a misty white oblivion, only to be blasted back to your initial euphoria. “In Deep Time” showcases a band that knows exactly what they are doing and are more than happy to take you along for the ride. “Brass Tacks” is probably my favorite track from the album, with plenty of twists and turns to keep things interesting.

This is an impressive album, especially for a debut record. I find that a lot of heavy psychedelic or occult albums tend to get stuck in a mire of fantasy back stories and pretentious build-ups. Velvet Elvis avoid all of these problems with an album that will still trip your brains without forgetting this is rock and roll, first and foremost.

“In Deep Time” is up for $7 on Bandcamp and I highly suggest you give ‘er a listen. Have at ’em!

Velvet Elvis Bandcamp

Velvet Elvis Facebook

Quickie Time! Hosoi Bros and New Tumbleweed Dealer

Posted in Riffs with tags , on November 10, 2012 by Ben

*Grab your ankles and hold on, it’s quickie time!*

First up is a party-thrashin’ 7″ release from the Memphis based Hosoi Bros. “Snorlokk” was released on the 5th of October and is two tracks packed full of NWOBHM shenanigans, beer and good times.

Solid grooves, catchy riffs and some sweet solo work is the name of the game, with plenty of bar rousing action to keep the party rolling. Add in a hefty dose of punk laced speed and you’ve got yourself a winning recipe. Find your denim vest, slick your hair back, crack some beers and THRASH ON!

“Snorlokk” is up for $2 on Bandcamp, so go pick up a copy to give them some incentive for a full length eh.

Hosoi Bros Facebook

Hosoi Bros Bandcamp

“Snorlokk” Video

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Next up is the newest track from Montreal’s Tumbleweed Dealer. I had talked about their two EP here where I described it as, “… some damn enthralling music” and this newest track, “Resurrected Yet Again” is no exception.

Setting a soothing pace, “Resurrected” is built around a cycling guitar melody, that ever so slowly eases it’s way into the deeper recess of your mind, settling in like the first deep snow. It’s a sublime track, easy going and carefree, with nothing in mind exception pleasant vibes and a strange urge to become one with mother nature, or something.

The entire three track EP can be downloaded from Moshpit Tragedy. Links away!

EP Download

Tumbleweed Dealer Facebook

 

 

Lights Out: This isn’t the Graveyard I fell in love with

Posted in Riffs with tags on November 8, 2012 by Ben

After months of anticipation, being tempted with music, lyric and update videos, this Tuesday finally saw the release of Graveyard’s newest album, “Lights Out”. A follow up to 2011’s “Hisingen Blues”, their second album released through Nuclear Blast.

I’d like to start by saying I absolutely fucking adore “Hisingen Blues”, it is by far one my of favorite albums. It was the perfect combination of booze addled rock ‘n’ roll and bluesy riffage, all wrapped up in one impeccably played package. The riffs were catchy, the vocals were hair raising and the solo work was down right astonishing in it’s originality and sheer air-guitar-during-a-funeral groovyness.

So without me splooging on too much more, it goes without saying I was hitting play on “Lights Out” with expectations of this same recipe for musical bliss. Sadly this was not the case as I made my way through this newest release.

Don’t think that “Lights Out” is a bad album, not by any stretch. It’s a fucking great album and you should totally pick it up. What it isn’t however, is the same type of roll established in 2011. I guess this sort of thing is to be expected when you grow so attached to one specific point in a bands career, which makes it harder to adjust to the new sound brought to the table. This is exactly my case with “Lights Out”.

Probably the most noticeable change in the formula is a much, much heftier addition of the blues. Both lyrically and musically Graveyard seem to be painting a much darker picture over the 9 track album. Starting right from the opener, “An Industry Of Murder”, you can hear the subtle changes, something just sounds…different. The guitar tone seems denser, the fuzz that much thicker, and somehow a warbling synth that just seems out of place.

However as the track closes your still satisfied with the amount of rocking brought to the table and just seem to be getting your groove on. Then “Slow Motion Countdown” throws you yet another curveball. I’ll admit it, there’s points in this song when the vocals just sound bad to me, highs he just shouldn’t be hitting.  The synths make a return in the admittedly epic sounding chorus but this still isn’t the Graveyard I was hoping for.

This trend towards sadder and more cathartic songs plays itself out over the course of the album. Gone are the rousing anthems from Hisingen, in there places are a series of tracks that have a lot more on their mind. There’s a certain beauty to the album in this way, as the carousing and hard rocking make way for a much older and experienced sound. The party has all but dried up, leaving everything cold, dark and alone.

Even the more rip roaring tracks like “Seven Seven” or “Fool In the End” echo with some form of sentimental sentiment. Your enjoy yourself, certainty, but your also being driven to think about some of the more difficult things. Maybe it’s just me but this feels like a depressed album, crooning it’s story from the gutter, with nothing more than rags for clothes.

But even with all that said, and even with the sad lack of toe-curling solos, and even with the addition of some questionable synth work, “Lights Out” is a solid album from a solid band. Since I had such a large attachment to their previous album you might disagree with my opinion, you might even find this sound preferable. Suffice to say, I’m going to have this album several more listen through’s before I can truly make up my mind.

“Lights Out” is availble through Nuclear Blast Records at all of the major outlets. (I got mine through HMV because Canadian iTunes sucks.)

Here’s the videos for “Endless Night” and “Goliath”.

IMDB’s Top 250 Movie Mashup

Posted in Awesome Things with tags , , on November 3, 2012 by Ben

Thanks to a mister Jonathan Keogh we now have an awesome mashup video of IMDB’s top 250 movies. Using nothing more than some creative imagination and a mashup track provided by DJ Faroff it’s a great watch even if you aren’t into movies. If you are you’ll get double the enjoyment as you frantically try to guess each movie as it skitters past your eyes.

After a couple watches and with no Googling, I got:

Fight Club, Pulp Fiction, Star Wars, The Matrix, Clockwork Orange, Kill Bill, Beauty and the Beast, Forrest Gump, Grand Torino, The Blues Brothers, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, Platoon, V for Vendetta, The Dark Knight, Scarface, 2001, Sin City, The Holy Grail, Jaws, Reservoir Dogs, The Thing, Pans Labyrinth, ET, Rocky Horror, UP, Terminator, Toy Story, Alien, The Big Lebowski, Goodfellas, Inception and The Bridge Over the River Kwai.

Along with a bunch of others I had seen but couldn’t name.

Anyway you can watch the video below before some scum sucking motherfucker decides this infringes some rich assholes copyright and gets pulled off Youtube. Until then, Enjoy: