Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Album: Paradox - Chapters

Paradox band Cork Chapters Grunge

Paradox, 'Free As A Bird'

Info: Paradox are a three-piece alternative rock and grunge band from Cork who released their fourth album, Chapters, at the start of this year. Paradox have previously supported legendary Irish rockers Therapy? and Kerbdog as well as Japanese punk band Shonen Knife. Formed in 1996 by brothers Pete Mac and Mike Mac the early Paradox sound was heavily influenced by the Grunge Era of the 90's. The band shaped much of their music around many vocal harmonies layered on top of power chord riffs. After playing the local circuit, recording many demos and fine tuning their sound Paradox headed to the US and secured a record deal with an independent label based in Los Angeles, California. Pete and Mike flew out to LA for 2 weeks and recorded their debut album 'Circle of Growth' in December 2000. They both played all instruments on the album as well as producing the album themselves.

That 90's grunge sound pervades the album from the first full track 'As the World''s opening thick bass-line and the droning drums and guitars, straight off the bat you can tell Paradox understand the nuances of timing in their music, briefly holding off before crashing down with precision time and again. The first single from the album, 'Nothing Lasts', begins like an Elliott Smith track, softly spoken vocals and gentle acoustic strumming, but you know this isn't going to last for too long, as the songs title suggests, unbridled rock is unleashed at the 2 minute mark and I'm feeling old sounds from my teens re-enter my head, Metallica's Black Album, where did I leave it, why haven't I listened to it in so long? 

Paradox, Chapters

Next track 'S.A.D.''s opening riff is bloody delicious and it's so nice when it crops up again during the song, the band get lost in a smoke-filled chaos on this one and it sounds really good. Above track (video) 'Free As A Bird' develops in a surprising direction, again the tenderness of the acoustics and vocals lay the foundations, reminding me of a bit of a Foo Fighters first album and Eddie Vedder mash-up with some hard-rockin' balladry in between. Another highlight is 'Little Lives', it may be my favourite track on the album, alongside the rock opus that is 'In Disguise', but I need a few more listens just to be sure, there's definite Cobain stylings going on, vocally and in the trashy (not thrashy) guitar-playing, this is a very, very enjoyable foot-stomper, and again the bass is great, devil horns with your fingers on this one. 

'Beating Down' again has it's Nirvana-esque elements but quickly strides off into Pearl Jam's Yield, another nice rocking number that casually loses itself in the second half. Chapters closes with the easy-listening and smooth tones of 'Other Side', giving you a chance to contemplate on what you've just heard. My own conclusions were that while I enjoyed the final third of the album, I really enjoyed the harder edge of the first 9 tracks and it's touching points, it feels like an album that has been sent into the present day from the past to remind us of the finer music that was produced during the grunge era. On a personal note I'd like to see more Irish bands do what Paradox have done here and make their own interpretations of the genre, if no other reason so I can rock out more like I did to Chapters, incredibly selfish, I know!

Paradox Cork Chapters Grunge

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Sunday, 30 August 2015

Single: My Fellow Sponges - Air

My Fellow Sponges Air Galway Music
Photo: @Topfloorhub

My Fellow Sponges, 'Air'

Info: Galway band My Fellow Sponges have released their latest single, 'Air', a lovely trip-hop song that evokes elements of Portishead's Dummy, lo-fi end Massive Attack and Moby's 'God Moving Over The Face Of The Waters'. Without getting too serious, the band describe the effect their music can have; 'Come with the Sponges as they take you on a bright and colourful journey, with music that will have you falling over with laughter, floating on waves of sadness, and climbing trees of elation. Their trickster melodies will ensnare you like an old crone merrily luring children into a gingerbread house. Whispers in the forest warn that, once you see a live gig by the Sponges, your life will never be the same.' 

Although mostly a simple 'camera from the car' video, I though it worked very nicely with the track and the interspersed effects added to the ambience of the escapist and groovy sound that My Fellow Sponges bring to the table. The track's slowly rising tempo, impending drums and Anna Mullarky's soothing vocals, coupled with a deliberate but intermittent restrained bass-line, all combine to great effect on 'Air' and it's great to see an Irish act dip their toe in this genre. 'Air' is by no means a narrow reflection of the overall sound of My Fellow Sponges however, see below the theatrical and equally enjoyable 'This Dream Song' below, and is that Richard Dawkins blowing in candles (yes, you read right) at 1:15?

My Fellow Sponges, 'This Dream Song'

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My Fellow Sponges Air Galway Music

Album: Freudia - Spirit Bear

Freudia Spirit Bear Wisconsin Green Bay

Freudia, 'Vanity Beach'

Info: Just released last week, from Green Bay, Wisconsin, comes the second album from Freudia, Spirit Bear, the follow up to last years Cornucopia which came out in September, 2014. Scarily only in his late teens, multi-instrumentalist Nick Williams has created an album that spans some of the best sounds of 60's folk, electric rock n' roll and chamber pop with a nice dash of jazz.

Opening with 'Spirit I Am', a track that echoes a more bolshy and modern take on a version of the bossa nova of João Gilberto and Stan Getz on 'The Girl From Ipanema'. Third track 'Warehouse' has a nice, sharp and raw tinny sound to its drums, vocals falling somewhere between Interpol's Paul Banks and a long lost deeper-toned Everly Brother. Then 'P. Rosso' happens and it's arresting, nowhere to be seen on the horizon as you've travelled through the first three tracks. It's straight in with solid drumming and percussion that would make Buddy Miles crack a smile, a smoking hot guitar riff and delicious hammond-style keyboards, two minutes of mania followed by a sudden and soft-landing. 

Freudia, 'Another'

The next track, 'Another' (above) is a joyous piece of music, with stand-out trumpet playing and crooning vocals, there's a hint of The Flaming Lips or Mercury Rev in both the music and singing and it's crescendo as all of the instruments tie together at the final third is very satisfying. Easily my favourite number on the album is the sixth track (very top), 'Vanity Beach'. Starting out with its playful acoustic strumming and Beach Boys harmonies, you're on a Californian beach as the sun sets, at least for a little while until there's an elongated pause, and then, magic. It's lo-fi Clapton blues-rock heaven for me, keyboards holding their notes while the slow drum beat maintains the lazy mood alongside the bluesy electric guitar-playing. 

Freudia, 'P. Rosso'

'Home for the Holidays' enters late-1960's psych territories, reminiscent of The Moody Blues, simple cymbal playing and again the hammond effects resurface just before it enters into a cacophany of chaotic sound emulating theatrical seventies prog-rock. The album's title track towards the end again reaches into Flaming Lips territories, see-sawing between crescendo and calm. Freudia bids you farewell with a fitting concluding track on Spirit Bear, 'Worth', it's like a cheesy band on board a cruise playing the final song of their repertoire before diners depart for the night, you are being waved goodbye as you drop your napkin on the table and push in your chair. I'll be listening to this album for a long time, and while I detest associating age with musical talent, I just can't help but admire the quality and natural feel of Spirit Bear's protagonist, Nick Williams, who has created a superb album by any measurement.

Spirit Bear is available as a free download here on the Disco Yeti independent label, but if you enjoyed it and think you'll be listening to it more than once or twice feel free to donate to future music here.

E.P.: Penrose - Live For The Dream

Penrose Live For The Dream

Penrose, 'See You Again'

Info: Dublin indie-rock band Penrose released their debut E.P. Live for the Dream last month with a launch night in The Grand Social. Beginning as a duo founded by Darragh McGrane, the band's early days were spent growing a fan base at venues such as Sweeney's, The Mercantile, Sin É and TGS in Dublin's city centre. Due to open the main stage of the cancelled Killarney Festival this summer for Duran Duran, Texas and The Proclaimers, the band dusted off the disappointment by heading along to the INEC in the town to back up Damien Dempsey and Mundy. 

Where do they sit musically? The Penrose sound is distinctly along the dual lines of 60's and 70's pop-rock acts such as The Kinks, Beatles and ELO, but more noticeably influenced by the Britpop / indie era of the mid-90's, jangly guitars leading toward Oasis' 1998 compilation album The Masterplan or some unwritten Boo Radley's material. Opener 'See You Again' will certainly bring a flood of nostalgia to listeners of all generations, it's a nice slice of summertime indie with sharp pop threads running through it, and it is damn catchy, belting choruses and a psychedelic hippy mood abounds on the rolling guitar riffs.

Penrose Live for the Dream

'Harmony' is indicative of a more contemplative side of Penrose's song-writing capabilities, tiny pings of Elton John and Billy Joel at the piano early on and then some really nice guitar solos are accompanied by grand orchestral strings. Final track 'Where You Go Now' is also a more withdrawn affair in contrast to the E.P.'s opener, the chorus is anthemic and a call to arms, unrepentantly sounding like something from post-Rubber Soul Beatles before going full-indie with harmonies and Kula Shaker electric guitar solos to draw Live for the Dream to an energetic conclusion. It may become a happy coincidence that Penrose's influences and sound actually fill a current gap on the Irish music scene that will appeal to many, but it will also be interesting to see how their sound develops in the future as there are small (perhaps almost subconscious) and promising shoots of other genres peeking through at us on this E.P.

Penrose, 'Where You Go Now'

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Album: Wheels Collective - Liquid

Wheels Collective Liquid Barcelona

Wheels Collective, Liquid (Album)

Info: Sergi Boal is a classically trained guitarist who has previously released 3 albums and an E.P. as a solo artist, his latest venture sees the formation of Catalonian 5-piece act Wheels Collective and their debut album Liquid. Self-professed influences include modern classical composers Philip Glass and Iceland's Ólafur Arnalds (Gimme Shelter) as well as pop and classical music. Among the themes covered by Boal on Liquid are the reality of the world, the cruelty of war, the drama of the plight of refugees ('Eco Eterno'), velocity of the pace of change of the current times (reflected in the album title), and the hope of a better world ('When The Lights Are Everywhere').

The film score influence is evident from the very opening of the album on 'Fred Roig', rhythmically held together by the acoustic guitar playing and enveloped in operatic string arrangements which soar as the song reaches it's middle. One of the early favourites of mine is second track 'When The Lights Are Everywhere', which has a nice baroque style before suddenly breaking in the first signs of 80's pop elements with vocalist Alba Serrano eerily sounding like Jeff Buckley on 'Opened Once' from Sketches.... In the midst of the string arrangements on 'Lovers' is a slight country western twang, with the track closing with a nice melting electric guitar solo. 

'Satel.it' is possibly the most intriguing feature of the album, you think you are about to hear the most authentic traditional sounds as a 5-minute instrumental before a brief almost dance-pop vocal sequence lands upon you, the track then winds down into Fleet Foxes territory, an unusual mix in such a short space of time. Towards the album's close comes 'In This Cold Place', very much back to the film score tones of it's beginning, strong jazz vibes come into play with both trumpet and clarinet featuring heavily, a very soothing piece. The bonus track, 'Faces' provides a snapshot of Sergi Boal's solo guitar song-writing and is a good pointer to his previous work, much in the mould of José GonzálezLiquid will require a few more listens for me to figure out how everything comes together, but it's equally enjoyable to try and make sense of an album over time, maybe it's disjointed or maybe it's a very clever blend of sounds that shouldn't work together. 

Sergi Boal, 'Nuvol' / 'Ice Voice'

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Interview: Monster Monster @ The Sound Feed

Interview with Ríona Sally Hartman of Monster Monster @ The Sound Feed Studio, Dublin

Remy chats to Ríona Sally Hartman of Dublin duo Monster Monster about a year of pleasant surprises, playing Electric Picnic and their upcoming E.P. launch in Whelans on the 23rd of October. For all the latest news from Mon Mon Land head along here…

Interview reproduced here from www.thesoundfeed.com

Monster Monster, 'Christmas in Liverpool'

Video: Kingdom Of Crows - Beauty Is The Witch

Kingdom Of Crows - Beauty Is The Witch

Kingdom Of Crows, 'Beauty Is The Witch'

Info: Kingdom Of Crows started out in Dublin as a one-man acoustic operation back in 2011, when Stephen Kelly headed into the studio in 2012 to start recording his material, he was joined by two session musicians which carried over into live shows as a three-piece. With the live performances receiving a consistently positive reaction, Kelly felt compelled to get working on a first album without delay. A further metamorphosis was to occur with the original trio now being joined by vocalist/lyricist Lucy Earley, bassist Robert Stanley and drummer Ken McGrath. 'Beauty Is The Witch' (above) is the 5th single to be released by the band from their forthcoming album, The Truth Is The Trip, which will be released at some point over the next month or so. 

The first thing I liked about 'Beauty Is The Witch' was the utilitarian hair-rock sounds of the intro guitar, starting out at Deep Purple / Blue Öyster Cult and moving along the timelines to Queens of the Stone Age's track which shares the 'Witch' of the songs title and finale scene. The song, video and vocals from Earley nicely strike a perfect balance between creating dark and sinister moods whilst clearly reminding you that you shouldn't take it too seriously, we're only here to burn a witch after all! The video, as you may have noticed recreates 1970's cult horror classics and was produced by Bad Apple Films. The package presented here between the video and track is very enjoyable but it's worth noting that Kingdom of Crows have many more strings to their bow, as mentioned previously this is only one of five singles released from the new album to date. Other tracks, including the beautiful video and song 'Dreamless Sleep' (below) are a redux of the above focusing more on acoustic and alternative folk styles, First Aid Kit's recent Stay Gold album springing to mind. Check em out!

Kingdom Of Crows. 'Dreamless Sleep'

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