The Dark March – Off Shore

The Dark march - Offshore

Before the 1980’s pittsburgh was kind of the place to be if you were an industry worker. The city was responsible for its huge steel industry but then the industry collapsed which led to a loss of jobs and a bunch of other horrible things. Eventually, after decades of rebuilding it became known for its medical and tech enclave and as a livable city for young artist types. But even with the tech boom, Pittsburgh isn’t necessarily on the map in terms of electronic music and arguably is even less affiliated with hip-hop. Don’t get me wrong though; to say Pittsburgh doesn’t have a scene for both genres would be a lie (the VIA festival, Garfield Artworks (RIP)), its just that when you speak about music and Pittsburgh an image of a 20-something college drop out with 00 gauged earlobes and an Acacia Strain t-shirt is the first thing that pops into my mind. However, on any other day you might walk by a bar or coffee shop and catch a peek of a poetry session in progress. The performing poet may be Cliff Fields and when Fields isn’t doing an impromptu poetry jam he’s likely working on a number of projects, namely his acoustic hip-hop project The Dark March whose debut EP dropped right at the beginning of 2015.

‘Offshore‘ is a collection of 7 lo-fi acoustic or semi-acoustic songs in which Fields speaks wordy poetry and raps over. The artistry on ‘Offshore’ is much like the bedroom pop you’d find on a tape label like Orchid Tapes. There is a certain rewarding experience when listening to lo-fi music . Its rewarding because there is a level of intimacy between the musician and the listener that would otherwise be lost with a fully flesh out and produced record. As a listener you can image the artist sitting in their room writing and recording songs on a tape recorder or into their lap top – in a way you can envision yourself doing the same – you mouth the words to the songs and see yourself becoming the artist in a sense. Its easy to relate to because you could do it yourself.

Fields does this well on his EP, you can imagine him writing the opening track, ‘unfair’, a track that immediately sets the mood for the album – being that this isn’t a hip-hop album with acoustic instrumentals, its a folk record with a hip-hop attitude – from session musician, Kyle Roberts bedroom quality acoustic guitar to the “too far away from the mic / too close to the mic” vocal performances of Fields – the content is either in your face or its far in the distance – its raw but not in an off putting way. But even when Field’s voice gets lost in the mix, most notably on the instrumentally lush title track, his voice is still upfront in the way that it is confrontational – pulling the listener in to try to hear every word and dissect what exactly he’s talking about – heart ache, breaking habits, picking up the pieces? Its all up to you.

Between the first track and the album’s title track, the transition is quick but so smooth and is noticeably the only track that doesn’t feature acoustic guitar. The beat, a cut by Green Assassin Dollar is just so good but real merit is how well it maintains ties with the acoustic nature of the album regardless. The track is  short, much like a lot of the tracks on this album which is why it works so well, there’s no bullshitting around, its a to the point kind of deal that only makes it more enjoyable when you feel forced to play it back one more time.

The next track ‘eastside’ kind of breaks the ties with the previous tracks, much like that of ‘offshore’ in that it features some electronic accompaniment from PSI Diego. Its easily the more intense anything on the EP gets – Fields raps with strained intensity, each word comes with a bit of bite and the blown out sound that comes through with his voice only adds to the aggression that comes with each lyric. Its a nice separation from the otherwise mellow flow of the EP, presenting itself as a peak, a half way point sandwiched between the two calmer halves of the EP as the next three tracks feel wholly acoustic.

With the albums closer its easy to say that although Fields has a good ear for selecting a couple great instrumentals the real staying power of this EP comes with his songwriting and ability to tell a story through a series of short vignettes.

Overall Rating: 7.6

Favorite tracks: ‘offshore’, ‘unfair’, ‘eastside’

Recommended: For more Pittsburgh hip-hop check out Surface Level Records

Released: 2015 Jan 02

-Tyler Thompson

Giles Corey – Hinterkaifeck

Giles Corey - Hinterkaifeck

After the indefinite hiatus of the genre-defying two-man band, Have A Nice Life, member Dan Barrett began releasing music as Giles Corey, a singer-songwriter / folk project that, with the first release, diverged from Barrett’s previous endeavors, focusing less on genre hopping and more on remaining consistent in one area, that being Barrett’s craft for applying this dark, atmospheric presence to his work, in this case folk music. With Giles Corey Barrett binds together lyrical topics on suicide, history, and the supernatural into a tale that is irresistibly enveloping.

While Giles Corey could be thrown into the category of folk music without much thought, Barret’s idea of folk is a bit different than the sound the genre has become synonymous with. Barrett’s style of music, much like his endeavors in past projects has this huge sense of depth to the recordings. Throughout, there is a gloomy melancholic aura that is often accompanied  by nihilistic lyrics, vocals ranging from longing howls to the abrasive, processed drums, and resonant droning chords that seem to echo on forever; a polarizing combination that made the first installment in Giles Corey’s discography a must have for fans of folk and even the extremes of black metal alike. Although different from Have A Nice Life and Nahvalr, in many ways, the project still retained some traits found within those previous projects, namely Barrett’s soft spot for the reverb and delay drenched aspects of shoegaze music and the sprawling influence of drone music, a trait that was revisited, this time wholly as the project moved toward the long-form minimalist drone and binaural experiments of last year’s ‘Deconstructionist’ album.

It’s no secret that Giles Corey’s first album wore it’s experimental tendencies on it’s sleeves but the project’s next album, ‘Deconstructionist’, a release consisting of three songs, each passing the twenty minute mark, was a piece of music that did away with any kind musical structure, this time fully embracing experimentation which, as a result would isolate the fans of the more folky tracks from the project’s debut. Luckily for those who didn’t enjoy Barret’s plummet into the conceptual mood piece that was the ‘Deconstructionist’ this new EP, ‘Hinterkaifeck’ is a return to the haunting style that gained the project it’s attention in the first place.

One thing that made Giles Corey so appealing was Barrett’s story telling. With each release Barrett has offered a backstory to accompany the music; it was a decision that called for participation, allowing the listener to immerse one’s self within the music as oppose to simply listening along. As with these previous releases, the title of the EP, ‘Hinterkaifeck’ offers some pretext to the music, referring to an unsolved event that transpired on a small farm in which, on the evening of 1922 six people were brutally and curiously murdered with a pickaxe. It is a minor piece of information that without knowing does nothing in terms of adding to the mythos that Barrett has built around this project but when looked into gave me something to chew on, offering another perspective into what Giles Corey is about thematically.

On this new EP Barrett’s dishearteningly somber vocals and lo-fi production techniques are ever present. Where the last release was a three track sprawling epic these three shorter tracks on this EP still manage to leave plenty of room for some explosive and epic moments. Thick acoustic guitar chords and distant vocals make up the beginning of ‘Guilt Is My Boyfriend’ before exploding into a fuzz-drenched mess, essentially summing up what Giles Corey is at it’s most basic, pop with a wash of melancholia. The songs on ‘Hinterkaifeck’ show Giles Corey progressing in very much the same fashion as was heard on the self titled album. It isn’t nearly as groundbreaking but being what it is, a decent set of new tracks, it should tide you over until the next full length release.

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Overall Rating: 6.8

Favorite Track: ‘Guilt Is My Boyfriend’

Recommended: Visit Enemies List Home Recordings website for similar artists.

Released: 21 February 2013

Links: Check out this live set of tracks from a recent tour here.

-Tyler Thompson

Crywank – Narcissist on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Crywank is the depressing folk/anti-folk/folk punk project of James Clayton from Manchester, UK. His description of this album is as follows

“My new album ‘Narcissist On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown’ is a collection of paranoid songs mostly about me trying to understand my own sadness along with the concept of sadness as a whole. It was fueled by self help books and pot.

I recorded this album in my parents dining room. Most of the songs on this album are the first take of me trying to record them (some needed a few more takes as I messed up my first attempts) and so it’s riddled with mistakes, but hopefully you can forgive that. Where my first album was tied to the topic of dealing with a breakup, this album has less of a definite focus. Most of the songs are about coping with and deconstructing my sadness, some are about odd things that happened in my past, and others are just about people and scenes. They where mostly fueled by stupid dark thoughts, and through songwriting I’ve tried to get past them.”

I listened to this awhile ago when it first came out because James posted it on /mu/. I didn’t think much of it at first because I’m not usually into this kind of music, but re-listening to it again now I realize that this album is actually really great. It gives off such a personal and honest feeling that I personally wish I could pull off with my own music. This is probably one of the most emotional and hard-hitting albums I’ve heard so far this year and if you are going to listen you better be prepared for some damn emotional music. Despite the sloppy guitar playing (sorry James), this album doesn’t lose any atmosphere or impact from it. In fact I believe the mistakes and bad technique add a lot to the massive personality of this record, something which a lot of bands/artists try to achieve and fail at.

In conclusion, have some tissues handy if you’re gonna listen to this album because you’ll probably need them.

Rating: 8/10

Favorite Track(s): “Now I’m Sad (Boo Hoo)”, “It’s OK, I Wouldn’t Remember Me Either”, “You Couldn’t Teach Me Integrity”

Orphan School – Secret Admirer

On the two track EP, ‘Secret Admirer’, Orphan school deviates from the mysterious dark ambient / noise of his previous recordings and shoots for a strange combination of simplistic folk and throat singing to create a haunting and dark encapsulating experience.

‘Secret Admirer’s’ sound relies on it’s simplicity; these stripped down folk songs utilizing ukulele, strange background noises and deep resonant throat singing that puts emphasis on creating a dense and vivid body of music. Secrete Admirer’s lack of instrumentation results in a skeletal sound that forces the listener to pay attention in ways not possible otherwise. Where this EP really shines is the range this guy gets with his voice, from a cavernously deep drone to something of a midrange nasally hum that results in some of the most expressive throat singing I have come across. I think that even for those familiar with this style of singing the vocals will be an immediate deterrent but for the more adventurous type, for those who won’t have a problem embracing Orphan School’s distinctive sound this will be something of a gem.

In terms of folk music most will argue that having a beautiful voice or even displaying the ability to sing “properly” is almost always absent. Instead the musicians abilities are focused on enhancing other aspects of their craft such as songwriting, lyrics, and story telling – not to say that the style of singing employed on this album isn’t beautiful but that the lyrics are also a standout part of the music that adds to ‘Secret Admirer’s’ creepy world and alien imagery. On the second track, ‘Next Year’ Orphan School Sings ‘ if you take a look outside there is always something beautiful to find’ which makes for an odd but extremely stimulating juxtaposition with the unusual vocals. The two tracks on this EP do well in projecting a strange feeling, a sense of anxiety and awkwardness through the vivid lyrics utilizing this lovesick character to project them. Orphan School is telling a story and I can’t help but become enthralled in it.

This will undoubtably be challenging piece of music to digest for some but if you can get past the initial shock of what you are hearing the experience is a disturbing, strange, surreal, and sometimes beautiful venture into new sonic territory. Check it out for yourself, take from it what you will, and enjoy.

Overall rating: 8.1

Favorite Track: Enjoyed both tracks

Recommended: Be prepared for anything and embrace it.

Released: 14 February 2012

Links: Peep Orphan School on Bandcamp


Track Review: Little House – Avocado

see? pink hair i told you

here she is being indie

Little House is some chick with pink hair in australia singing twee shit like the exchange rate for cute lyrics is 10USD per cute line.
Anyways, in her song Avocado, she incorperates some interesting textures and beats in her simple chord progression and melody. Rest assured, this  doesn’t go beyond regular delicious twee pop. It DESTROYS regular delicious twee pop. she sings of whimsical things like the moon and you and how frightening heightning science can seem and it’s magical. one of those times when the lyrics and the noises match up perfectly. Oh, and there’s glitchy hip hop beats

She also has a cute accent which is good if you need a quirk before you check something out, but otherwise it’s relatively unimportant.

As far as her image goes, I feel like she could easily be one of those attention whores who goes out of their way to make you fall in love with her, only to be all SORRY MOTHERFUCKER IMMA FUCK THIS GUY AND CRY WHEN HE DUMPS ME. YOU AINT GETTIN SHIT THOUGH, I AINT EVEN GONNA HOLD YOUR HAND and then you cry yourself to sleep while pretending to hold her, attempting to fill the hole in your heart with some delusional fantasy cooked in your brain just for this special occasion. But I kinda hope she’s not that, I would get depressed

Cute song. Little short though


I had a hard time in high school if you couldn’t tell already

New Orleans Swim Team – To be Something, to be Anything

Do you ever find yourself listening to a band or musician that comes along with something so original that you find yourself asking, “how are these guys not famous yet”? Well, New Orleans Swim Team happens to be exactly that. New Orleans Swim Team is the solo recording project of Alberta based musician and multi-instrumentalist, Jacob Ulickij and this release is the second under this project.

When it comes to self recorded music, typically, punk rock is a signifier of the success one is able to achieve without a record label and for that matter a professional recording studio. Bands recorded and distributed their own demos, EPs, and full lengths, made their own t-shirts, posters, and created their own press though the distribution of zines and word of mouth. It was a genre of music that showcased the hard work and dedication that a generation of young creative people were capable of producing independently. With the rise of the internet, artists have taken advantage of file sharing sites, utilizing mediafire and megaupload to share their music. Now, with the success of Bandcamp and Soundcloud it has made it even easier for artists to independently put out their own releases and allow their music to be heard. It speaks volumes with just how much a band or even one person alone is capable of without the outside help that, labels, expensive recording studios, and “producers” claim to be capable of and Jacob has articulated this fact with the release of ‘To be Something to be Anything’.

It is clear that Jacob has a lot to say; ‘To be Something, to be Anything’ is 21 tracks of short songs, filled with delicately executed spoken word poetry and tender singing. This music is honest as hell and lately, with everything that is happening in the world I feel like a little bit of honesty is exactly we all need. It reads like a novel written in a stream of consciousness and I swear words have never been more perfectly spoken. ‘To be Something, to be Anything’ has an overarching folkish sound, albeit, there is much more to be heard than just one style of music here and instead of making the mistake of pigeonholing the music into a set style, Jacob strove to create a sound of his own.

With the opening track, ‘Overture (Dreamer)’ I was immediately under the assumption that the guys in Sigur Ros had begun a side project. The track plays out like an opener, it is short but it sounds as though the same care that is displayed throughout the rest of the album was applied just as evenly here if not more so. It is as if entire orchestra is warming up; cymbals build and crash while the drums roll on and the winding strings play randomly giving one a sense of fidelity, building anticipation for the next track. Its not just this portion, the entire album is full of a variety of lush instrumentation and sound, spanning from guitar, piano, violin, drums, bass, flute, and horns. What makes it even more impressive is Jacob, as a multi-instrumentalist and his collaborator’s ability to compose and play these instruments proficiently. The dedication and minuet attention to detail is what makes all of this work out so well.

The vocals are distinct and and are generally the focal piece of the music. For some, the vocals may be a turn off considering  how raw they can be, perhaps even in a juvenile sense; although, for me this is not so much of a negative thing as it is an important aspect that effects the music positively. As I said before, there is a lot to take in, especially lyrically. Jacob speaks in a manner of rhythmically constrained poetry similar to a stream of consciousness, as though making up the words on the spot which is where the vocals perfectly communicate his words even if I am unable to catch what he is saying all at once. Because the vocals are raw in this juvenile sense it is very easy to identify what emotion is being conveyed, whether it be angry, compassionate, or caring; it is universal in that way. At times his voice quivers indicating something like a nervousness or perhaps a loss of breath in the wake of all the words that are spoken but as soon as the singing comes in he is as confident as ever, not to say the spoken word sections that make up most of the album aren’t just as rewarding. The singing can be heard at the most emotive right from the start of the song, ‘Degrees’ which quickly leads into more of the spoken word vocals just as the track wraps up with a burst of strumming and passionate singing. Sometimes Jacob comes off as sincere as the poetry he speaks while at other times his words communicate a menacing message. ‘Prairie Winter’ is a statement of biting cynicism, one that is dark and heavy without being loud; a sharply executed track. On ‘Wanderlust’ Jacob showcases his ability to access a more aggressive sound in terms of vocal dynamics, one that exhibits his capabilities of screaming, which is achieved surprisingly well considering the primarily reserved nature that is practiced in his craft. The final and longest track, ‘Whatever You Want to Be’ is an epic full of cymbal crashes and builds. All of the Instrumentation eventually cuts out and the listener is left only with Jacob’s articulate and masterful poetry before the instrumentation eventually makes its appearance again as the track finishes up. It could not be a more perfect finish to this album.

Although ‘To be Something, to be Anything’ was recorded in the back of a house it does not show any signs of a loss in sound quality. Everything comes through in so crisply, it is obvious from the masterful recording and mixing and the attention to the clarity of all the instruments coming through that nothing was sacrificed at the expense of a lo-fi set-up. At times the lo-fi nature of the album is apparent but otherwise, if I were unaware of the background regarding this release I would have been under the assumption that the album was recorded professionally. That said, if one person is capable of composing, recording, and producing all of this it leaves me to question the legitimacy of what is considered “professional” recording. Whether it was intentional or not this piece of music speaks beyond the limitations of sound, working as a statement; one that indicates a distinct work ethic within the individual.

There is a lot of experimentation that shows through in this release but even so I would not go as far as to call this an experimental record at all seeing as the experimental elements work out in a very unified way being that there is a sense of direction here and to label it experimental would be doing it a disservice. ‘To be Something, to be Anything’ is a tale depicted in the most sensual way with a certain familiarity and yet, at times so distant that just as soon as you think you have tackled it you find yourself swallowing your words and throwing out all of those Listener comparisons, searching for something other than “beautiful” to describe it by. This is inspirational; an enjoyable and refreshing listen, one that I cannot recommend enough. Thank you.

Visit the Bandcamp page

Overall Rating: 9.3

Favorite Track: Degrees, Wanderlust, Prairie Winter, Whatever You Want To Be

Recommended: Fans of Listener; something to accompany you during the fall season. A piece of music to watch the leaves fall to.


The Mad Pride – Scary Poppins


Although the musical aspect of this is very important for its overall effect, it as also very lyrical driven. The way this manifests the most is by the length of the tracks. They tend to linger on for a bit longer when the musical message has already been delivered. At the same time, there isn’t much musical development, as in extended bridges and instrumental sections, the general idea being to lay down this backdrop against which the singing is placed. The way it is done, though, is very moody, atmospheric, with a clear desire to that “experimental” feel, with different bits and pieces coming up occasionally. That’s pretty much how to describe it: singer-songwriter stuff with a psychedelic/experimental background.

The singing is halfway between more ethereal schools of folk (Tim Buckley and such) and psychedelic (the tracks as a whole wander between these two poles), being the most important contributor to an eerie feel that is on the musical background, but gains much by being boosted by the singing. There is serious musical and recording technique effort to make the tracks sound this eerie though and, when you get the hang of it, this might be the most interesting aspect of this album: checking out the chord progressions, melodies, playing styles and ornamental musical ideas, as well as the effects and techniques applied, with the objective of making it sound eerie and ominous. Most of those musical ideas are very straightforward and classic “psychedelic” stuff – think Syd Barrett, which is one of the actual tags actually used on the bandcamp page.

The lyrical content couldn’t be any different. As far as ominous goes, this is very spot on:

“It’s gonna be a beautiful night
If I can get you away
From your telescopic sight
The targets are already dead
And you’ll save yourself a fight
If you can just let them
Fade away ”

I don’t know about you, but I consider that class A pop music lyrics and it fits really well with everything else. It’s nice to see such effort, thought and care going into music, which makes the experience of listening to it from beginning to end very cohesive and satisfying.

I see no reason why this can’t be released by an independent label as is, but what do I know. Check it out, it’s well worth a listen.