Author Archive

Smokey Emery

"Afore"

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In the past, Smokey Emery‘s music stuck out to me for the way that Daniel Hipólito was able to cull together disparate sounds and make something new and soothing out of them. And while he is still working with audio manipulation, his methods on “Afore” are a bit different than what we’ve heard him tackle in the past.

Taking a simple guitar line, Hipólito loops the sound until it’s lodged firmly in our mind. Then once we’ve become comfortable with the gentle repetition, he slowly begins to warp the track’s reality, adding background noise and a touch of reverb. Finally he layers the track on top of itself and twists the knobs until it no longer resembles itself. Then it disappears completely into the white noise.

“Afore” can be found on Smokey Emery’s latest album Soundtracks for Invisibility III: Qui Mal y Pense, out now via Holodeck Records.

United Nations

The Next Four Years

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United Nations‘ sophomore album The Next Four Years opens with a monstrous blast beat that immediately finds you looking down the barrel of a gun—actually, make that a canon, that is the band’s fiery sophomore album. This is no black metal outing, though. The band, which is really more of a collective, isn’t afraid of throwing anything and everything at the listener in service of obliterating ear drums. Of course this isn’t their only objective; the band also acts as a concept-of-sorts about the hypocrisy found in modern day punk music (the Black Flag-inspired cover even has something to say). But the music, particularly Geoff Rickly’s vocals, is so out-and-out ferocious that you’d have to sit down with the lyrics in front of you to really discern what they are unpacking.

Don’t worry though, if you’re just tuning in, there is plenty of fun to have with The Next Four Years that doesn’t entail unraveling its somewhat heady concept. In order to really appreciate what The Next Four Years represents, though, it’s important to know what the album was born out of. There is an undeniable amount of anger that flows through its veins, an anger that not only comes across in the album’s lyrics, but also its pure hardcore fury. And though the band features a rotating cast of members from bands like Converge, The Number Twelve Looks Like You, Glassjaw, and Pianos Become the Teeth, United Nations is largely the brainchild of Geoff Rickly. And once you’re aware of what the last few years have held for Rickly, the furor begins to make more sense.

I was fifteen years old when Thursday’s Full Collapse came out. And while many people would point to one of the band’s later albums as their pinnacle, I maintain that Full Collapse was the perfect moment in the band’s career. In a lot of ways, that album changed my life by forever altering the course of my music listening habits. It was hugely important to me, and in a lot of ways it still is. So it really blows my mind that many former Thursday fans are almost ashamed to say that they once listened to the band. This band that I damn near worshiped. And what’s worse is that frontman Geoff Rickly knows this full well. Adding further salt to the wound, the band itself came to an unceremonious end without Rickly’s input a few years ago. Knowing this makes the blistering heat of The Next Four Years feel all the more vital.

And yet for as angry the album is, there is plenty of winking here as well. I mean, one needs to have a healthy sense of humor when looking at the current state of punk rock music. I’m afraid that it’s that or choose the depressing black hole of cynicism that would surely follow. For example, just look at the trendy (and coincidentally sold out) Minor Threat t-shirt that you can pick up at your local Urban Outfitters—a t-shirt that Ian MacKaye happens to be perfectly fine with. It’s this sort of ridiculous watering-down that United Nations are taking issue with. Instead of righteous indignation though, the band smirks, shrugs it off by distilling the emotion down into two-minute blasts of shrieking hardcore madness.

Like I said earlier though, all of this conceptual business is secondary to that very hardcore madness that lies right there waiting for you on the surface. The message would be nothing without the vehicle of the music to get it across, and fortunately for Rickly and the rest of United Nations, The Next Four Years is one of the best hardcore albums I’ve heard this year. Its controlled chaos edges it close to power-violence territory as the songs are typically short, brutal and unrelenting. And at less than half-an-hour, the album is over before you know it. Quick and painful. Just how I like it.

The Next Four Years is out now via Temporary Residence.

Advertising

"Ending"

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The surfacing of material from Brooklyn band Advertising is bittersweet. On the one hand, I’ve been anticipating recordings from this band for almost a year now and so, yes, I’m overjoyed—but then on the other hand their debut album Pull signals the ending of the imprint known as Prison Art. And yet, if Prison Art has to come to a close, I’d say that there is not a sweeter note to bow out to than those played by these lovable, art-rock weirdos.

Their first single “Ending” isn’t so much of a single as it is a piece of a puzzle. The rest of the puzzle, it would seem, is the surrounding album that we’ll have to wait to put together. As you’ll hear, the track has its brief moments of melody, but it buries them under angular guitar work, time signatures that start, stop, and stutter, and a tail section that throws all conventionality out the window as it breaks down everything that it’s built in the preceding four minutes. It’s a mischievous brain twister of a track that might not always make things comfortable, but it certainly keeps them interesting.

Pull is out on August 1st via Prison Art.

Wreck & Reference

Want

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If there is nothing new under the sun, then why does the music of Wreck & Reference increasingly sound like nothing else I’ve ever heard before? Ignat Frege and Felix Skinner have been fine-tuning their very visceral brand of experimental metal for over three years now, and with each release they put out, these two further ingrain themselves into territory that many have possibly thought about, but few have actually explored to this degree before. I suppose for cataloging purposes, you could call what they do “metal,” but in reality the music that these two create is not so easily boxed into one genre. And if you’re doubting any of what I’m saying, I’d encourage you to listen to the band’s third full-length album Want. In the past, many have struggled to grasp what Wreck & Reference do, and that notion is only multiplied by what they put forth on Want.

First of all it’s important to note that the only instrumentation that you’re going to hear on a Wreck & Reference album is a live drum kit and a lot of sampling. On their first two albums, Black Cassette and Youth, this probably came as more of a surprising reveal since the duo utilized a lot of big, lurching, doom riff samples that were surprisingly convincing. Simply put, you’d be forgiven for thinking that there was a full band behind the recordings. But as these two have evolved their sound as is heard on Want they’ve deconstructed their already stripped-down music to the point where it is more like a sinister brand of electronic than anything else. If you could separate the screaming from the instrumentation, this would be much easier to see, and probably much less challenging to listen to. But Wreck & Reference aren’t about making things easy or pretty, and Want is their way of soundtracking that notion for anyone who cares to listen.

Earlier this year The Body turned a few heads by pushing the boundaries back where heavy metal and electronic music are concerned and, more importantly, where they overlap with their album I Shall Die Here. Thanks to some excellent production work from The Haxan Cloak, that album fused metal and electronics in really organic ways and took them to some very dark places. In a lot of ways Want takes a similar path, but it focuses on an entirely different goal. Where The Body seem fixated on destruction, Wreck & Reference seem more focused on general darkness and how the shadows interplay with the light. They aren’t afraid to bait and switch the metal listener on this album, promising darkness and then delivering it with melody and a deft touch. And yet it’s important to note that Wreck & Reference are not trying to fool anyone here. They just are not about to apologize to listeners who make the mistake of carrying certain expectations with them and are then are met with something entirely different.

Splintering the glass right off the bat, the album opens with “Corpse Museum,” one of the album’s most blatantly chaotic tracks while also being the most classically Wreck & Reference. With it, they are not only laying their cards out on the table inviting listeners to either keep playing or abandon ship; but they are also detailing where their sound has been before they spend the rest of the album deconstructing it. From there the album dips quite frequently into more mid-tempo to outright sluggish tracks with gentler instrumentation that feel more like ballads when compared to the war-torn wastelands of their previous work. Again, if you could somehow separate these songs from their vocal tracks, the metal genre would most likely not be even entering the conversation here. It could be called experimentation if these two guys haven’t been building up to this for three years now. But the reality is that they have been ramping up and Want feels bold and confident for it. This isn’t them experimenting, this is who they are.

Wreck & Reference are currently finishing up their tour with Deafheaven and Pallbearer, two metal bands who have managed to transcend the trappings of the genre and achieve widespread, crossover success. Though I wholeheartedly agree that these two guys are more than deserving of the spotlight, I’m not sure I see that sort of path in Wreck & Reference’s future. What’s more is that I’m not even sure that that would be something that they’d want. This brings us to the title of the album and a very serious question. What is it that these guys want? Surely I can’t answer that for them, but I can certainly take a guess. For the past three years this duo has taken their craft very seriously, not only pushing themselves and their writing abilities, but also the walls of genre itself. In doing so they not only challenge themselves but also anyone who dares to listen to them spinning their dark yarns. They are pouring the gritty sand into the wine glass and daring us to drink it.

Want is out now via Flenser Records.

Video

Bethlehem Steel - "Guts"

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While they work on new material (which should see the light of day sometime this fall), Brooklyn band Bethlehem Steel are going to be re-releasing their debut EP Grow Up on Miscreant Records. To celebrate said re-release, the band got together to film a video for their standout track “Guts.”

Starring some giant, anthropomorphized meatballs, complete with grass hair and lit cigarettes, the video shows what happens when a band has an excess amount of time—and raw meat—on their hands. Goofy vid, catchy song, good times.

Teen Body

"Quarterlife"

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Depending on who you ask, there may or may not be any room left for more jangly, reverb-soaked beach pop. But if you ask me, there is always a little room left for heart. So keep that in mind as you listen to the debut single from Bushwick via Virginia band Teen Body.

“Quarterlife” bounces and shimmers in a very 2010 blogosphere sort of way. And yet for trekking down an oft-travelled road, the single is catchy and light and could very easily make its way onto any summer roadtrip mix CDs you are currently building in your iTunes for the coming months. Just drag and drop.

Some Ember

Some Ember
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I like to think that I’m a pretty hard worker, but even so I don’t really know what it’s like to labor over a single project for years on end. I’d much rather work intently on something over a short period of time just to get it done—that or grow impatient after a while and give up on it altogether. So when Dylan Travis told me that he’d been working on writing and fine-tuning Some Ember‘s debut album over the last two or so years, I was impressed. I’ve been a fan of the project since I first heard “” from Hotel of Lost Light, so it’s interesting to know that Dylan has been tinkering behind the scenes on this proper debut. In the time between, he also somehow found the time to release a couple cassette EPs; Asleep In the Ice Palace on Night-People, and a more experimental release for Ascetic House. And yet all the while, Some Ember was the real drive behind the scenes.

In some ways, a lot has changed for Some Ember since the project surfaced a few years ago. Most notably, it’s evolved from being essentially Dylan’s one-man show, to a permanent duo. Although she’s been a key figure for a while now, Nina Chase has stepped up to enhance not only the band itself, but the music they make as well. Where Some Ember’s releases in the past were dominated by Dylan’s massive voice, Some Ember is decidedly different in that Nina’s vocal contributions can be heard pretty much all over this thing. And while the tag-teaming that the two do over the various tracks is certainly inspiring, the full shine comes from when the two of them layer their voices over one another giving the music an eerie, androgynous quality. It fits since the music is probably the coldest thing the band has released to date, but don’t let that scare you away. There is still a heartbeat here, you just have to chip away at the ice to find it.

For me personally, Some Ember’s best moments have centered around the times that Dylan really punched it with his voice. If you’ve also been following them for the past couple of years like me, then you probably know these moments that I’m talking about. Voices like his are a rarity these days, especially in the DIY scene, so when he really lets his voice soar, it is pretty much unmatched. Interestingly enough though, those moments are now few and far between on Some Ember as the duo have taken their sound into a new, more restrained territory. That’s not to say that those moments are completely absent, but rather they are simmered and tucked in between the cracks on an album that almost focuses on instrumentation and mood more than anything. Dylan’s croon, when it’s there, has been tempered down into a monotone intensity that suits the industrial pulse of the music. I’ll admit that it took me a couple spins to appreciate this darker direction, but digesting the album as a whole instead of digging for singles is what really sold Some Ember for me.

Now that the workings of the past couple of years in the Some Ember timeline are clear, it’s obvious how the duo was ramping up to this debut. After spending all of that time gladly residing in the world of the cassette tape scene, they are now making the jump to vinyl and really it couldn’t come at a more perfect time. Though they’ve been glad to stick with the niche world of cassette tapes up until now, their music has always been bigger and better than the confines of the world of magnetic strips that it inhabited. After building a fanbase for the past couple years, it would only be right that this LP act as a proper introduction to Some Ember on a grander scale. They are stepping through a new door, and it would only be right that the welcome committee on the other side be fitting of the caliber that Some Ember and their music are. I’ll be there, who wants to party?

Some Ember’s self-titled debut is out now via Dream Recordings.

Poppy Red

"Hand Into the Fire"

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Anchored by the ever clear voice of songwriter Molly Long, Austin project Poppy Red has undergone several metamorphoses since its inception just a few short years ago. What started as a bedroom project blossomed into a full band with shoegaze leanings once it took up residence in Texas. But as wind of time blows onward, Poppy Red is once again readying itself to shed its skin and move on to something new. Following Molly as she treks to New York City later this year, Poppy Red will dwindle down to a solo project that will focus on Molly, her guitar, and some intensely personal emotion. All I know is, if she’s ready for this change then I’m looking forward to listening to the process as she unfolds it.

The first single from the forthcoming release representing the Austin iteration of Poppy Red—also included on our Living Spaces mix—is called “Hand Into the Fire,” and it’s an absolutely gorgeous change of pace. In a showing of restraint, the track opens up with big guitars before pulling everything back, favoring tender introspection and muted melody. And if you sit there thinking that Molly’s croon reminds you a heck of a lot of the Cranberries, just know that you’re certainly not alone. And as the track reaches its climax and Molly opens wide and lets the full breath of her voice out, those crashing guitars swoop back in for the one-two punch, and a black eye never felt so good.

Hand Into the Fire will be out on cassette in late summer via Nineteen98.

clipping.

"Body and Blood"

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“Body and Blood” is an interesting choice for clipping.‘s second single from their upcoming debut, CLPPNG. Whereas the album’s first single “Work Work” was a laid-back drive through the city, “Body and Blood” is an in-your-face tale of sex and violence. But of course, this is clipping. we are talking about, so there is a lot under the surface to consider when sifting through the dark lyrics.

Opening with “Cleavers up, bring ‘em here. Femurs all swing on the ceiling like a chandelier,” Daveed Diggs’ dark lyrics about a serial killer on the prowl could potentially be mistaken for something akin to horrorcore, but as the story unfolds, the meaning behind the macabre starts to become clearer with each line. Statistically, the vast majority of serial killers and sexual predators are male, but clipping. spin a tale about a woman who refuses to be prey by becoming the predator herself. Metaphors of cannibalism, vampirism, and torture are rampant over Jonathan Snipes’ and William Hutson’s relentless industrial production, which serves to make things feel all the more urgent. If this is clipping.’s take on a feminist anthem, it’s certainly a dark one, but its graphic lyrics cut right to the heart of the issue by turning genre expectations on their head. A thorough listen will really make you think… as long as the squeal of power tools in the background don’t scare you away first.

CLPPNG will be out on June 10th via Sub Pop Records.