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

Shakey Graves – Roll the Bones

This is one of the absolute best albums I have listened to coming from the internet homemade music scene, straight from Austin, Texas. It’s incredibly pretty music, but it’s also mature, complex and rich of emotion. The lyrics are wonderful, delivered with beautiful singing in breathtaking melody. The banjo-playing is just perfect. Taken aback by the quality of the first track, I thought to myself that they couldn’t keep that level for the whole album, and wondered if any track is less than repeat-listening worthy. None at all. The last song is one of the most beautiful also.

The album goes back and forth between alternative country a purer folk and country music, with a few stops for overwhelming Tom Waits influence (Tracks 7 and 9, at least). You get the great feeling of listening to something that has deep root in culture. For Americans, the “100% made in America” feel must be very satisfying. The lyrical content is less rooted in the imagery of its lyrical content, but that’s skin-deep. The deep American folk view of looking at the world is the most important thing to preserve, and it’s all here. The folk phraseology is there, the way of talking, centered on very real things and their emotional meaning, with expressions such as “cherished more than gold” and “I think I’ve grown a little thinner”. No embarrassing stories about a horse sung by a twenty-something guy, just a country sort of thinking and talking, such as in the marvelous “Proper Fence”. A spoken voice sample about the penis is the only very disconnected thing I could find, in the most out-there tracks, the farther away from country, with a nice alternative country melody.

Only bad thing I can say about this is that I miss having the lyrics somewhere. (edit: lyrics here)

-Carpeaux

Mark Przybylowski – Lonely House

Recorded in Philadelphia, PA, Lonely House is the latest tape from multi-instrumentalist Mark Przybylowski, released on Galtta Media.

At the foundation of Lonely House are a collection of seven quiet and simplistic instrumental pieces that rely on it’s ambience, not in a textural sense but more so this overall stripped down nature of the music allowing the listener to focus in on one or two prominent instruments at a time putting Przybylowski’s tender and moody playing style at the forefront of Lonely House. There is never really a whole lot going on and all of the songs stay at a similar pace, each track taking it’s time, which isn’t a bad thing at all, it actually adds a good deal of consistency to the album which is necessary for something as skeletal as this is.

The songs here are primarily made up of cold acoustic guitar, serene cello, and the warm hum of the double bass. There are also a few occasions where vocals are used, albeit, they are used sparingly and expressively in the sense of another instrument as opposed to their traditional use in singing lyrics, which being an instrumental release their are none of.

Everything sounds very nice, each instrument is played delicately, never breaking free from the somber steady pacing. The sound quality has a very upfront home recorded sound about it; the shrill screeching of fingers sliding up the neck of an acoustic guitar, the natural room reverb, minimalist song structure; it all carries a sincere message, something that says: “Hey, this is some sad sounding instrumental stuff and this is what you’re going to get, I hope you like it but if you don’t that’s ok too.” In general I feel like this album would be suitable for a nice autumn night’s listen or a winter’s evening by the fire place. The tranquil gloom that is presented here evokes memories of watching the trees lose their leaves, oranges and reds raining down, painting the earth as it prepares to renew itself, to briefly die for the winter. Its a very emotive piece of music, something like a poetry of the senses, an album that doesn’t try to sound sad but just is and even so, this sadness isn’t necessarily overt; like a long sigh, the music just breathily moves, carrying itself from one note to the next, passively moving along until the album’s end.

Although I enjoy the low-key feeling of Lonely House its biggest flaw is exactly what it succeeds in doing. For some, the lines between consistency and repetitiveness will be marred; the seemingly purposeful restrained nature of every track can feel monotonous. It isn’t a huge problem seeing as this is kind of the appeal of the album but it does hold it back from what I think could have the potential to be even more emotive and touching than it already is. Lonely house is definitely a moody set of tracks, it’s all kind of cold sounding, like the first chilly winds of fall, or the cold bite of winter but at the same time, it’s just as warm, touching on the senses with every slow moving stroke of the bow or pluck of the strings and better yet, it’s just in time for the summer’s end.

Rating: 7.2

Favorite Tracks: ‘Slow Winter’, ‘Sunday’

Recommended: Prime Winter / Fall listening.

Released: 15 July 2012

Links:

Lonely House via Bandcamp

Visit Galtta Media

Foxxhound and 28 North – live at The Mint, Los Angeles, August 5

Beautiful concert, very pretty, well-constructed music. Acoustic guitar, cello, drums. It’s all gentle, all of it including the singing, with the exception of the lyrics. They carry real drama, feeling and are pretty interesting in themselves. Not as “song about absurd concept”, but as “yet another take, interesting at that, on real life stuff”.

The album linked above includes the songs they played and it’s pretty good as well.

You know, “indie”. Is it exceptional? Sorry dudes, I don’t think so. It isn’t as hard as it seems to find nice music around. Damn if it doesn’t feel good when you actually find it though. Has this band enriched my musical appreciation? Nope. But I feel glad I won’t die without listening to “When you wish upon a bar” and “Seams”, because they are gorgeous and our universe isn’t  infinite, it isn’t even the only one. There are actually many universes sitting side by side in the cosmos, the scientists are trying to prove it by finding sings from another universe sitting next to ours. You know? It’s all so big, there are so many aliens we will never meet because everything in the multiverse is so far away, we just do things and die here in this universe, what’s the point. But those songs are pretty, so I’m glad I didn’t die yesterday before going to the place.

They were very, very fun. But they don’t have bandcamp or soundcloud. Here’s their website:

http://www.28north.com/

Anyhow, as the lead singer mentioned, the 90’s were pretty awesome, and they really have their hand at the 90’s version of pure rock n roll, the Guns n Roses sort of stuff. It isn’t the most interesting music, but it’s pretty fun alright, I wish them the best. Since they have been opening for more notorious bands and actually touring the US, it kind of falls outside of the scope of the blog. This is more like a recommendation to go see them if they are in town.

Two other bands played, Gabe Rosenn Band and Lumaria. The first is one of those blues bands, you know? Yeah. Lumaria is awful.

-Carpeaux

ek (swe) – vårkänslor

http://ekritualer.bandcamp.com/album/v-rk-nslor

This is an album I randomly happened across while I was browsing through the “field recordings” tag section on bandcamp. The cover art and odd name (Google translate tells me it’s Swedish) intrigued me and I decided to check it out since it was a free download and I needed some new music.

Now just let me say, this is pretty fucking cool and actually really different than I expected. It’s a bunch of folky, largely instrumental, acoustic songs, often with more than one guitar playing, with nature recordings and occasional other ambientish sounds playing in the background. It’s pretty straightforward with what it’s trying to do but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The field recordings add a nice ambient aspect to the acoustic guitars and compliment them well. This album is fairly lo-fi but the recording and mixing isn’t really that bad, it’s just not very produced. There are occasionally some slight effects on the guitars but they are subtle enough to miss if you aren’t really paying attention. Altogether it was quite an enjoyable experience and I’ll definitely be listening to it again.

Recommended if you like Sung Tongs, Pullhair Rubeye, or maybe even Grouper. It has that kind of naturey feeling.

Rating: 7/10 (on first listen, may change later after more listens)

Crywank – Narcissist on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

http://www.mediafire.com/?03yoqg056ejd8dl

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”