Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Helen Culver - EP Seven Year Glitch - Part Silk and Part Barbed Wire

Seven Year Glitch (see what she did there?) is the latest dark synth stirred EP from London's Helen Culver. The sounds are cagey and spartan. On the lush Selfish Lover the groove provided by a deep buzzy synth bass and beats stalks. The track lyrical content is delicious. A sort of tug of war from the "text book things" (sexually) to "I've made all the right noises in all the right places" to "It's my turn to be a selfish lover" and more.  On Drink By Myself the beat feels in slow motion, the head bop cadence feels dub steppish on a bong. I wanted a seriously good rapper to paint his words on this one. Very cool like driving down Hollywood Blvd on a Friday night. Culver coos vocals "you're a really nice man and you're trying to make me laugh but it doesn't take me long to zone out of every paragraph" and later, "I don't think we'll tell our kids we met at the hotel bar" but it doesn't get that far as Helen wants to drink by herself. Helen slowy sends daggers out.

As a singer songwriter Culver does double duty as lyricist and as she says "making noise" and Liam Alexander produces the tracks tightly. Ctrl-Alt-Delete has a sweeping deep groove. The track is cool, exotic and feels both retro and futuristic at the same time. Culver's vocal performance on these tracks and specifically this track is at once sultry but aloof too. It is as if she keeps you at arms length as a matter of control and empowerment. She may want you but doesn't need you. Ctrl-Alt-Delete is my favorite track with the most sweeping and dynamic production arcs on the EP. I love the heavy handed walk into battle synths on this one.

On Red Light there is an almost Mid-Eastern tone. Once again Helen is speaking to the need and desire to raised standards in terms of "relationships", of having fine cuisine as opposed to fast food. At least that is my interpretation. In the end Seven Year Glitch is about self empowerment, not standing for anything that is subpar or emotionally cheap and who wants that. Helen Culver says it with dark grooves, clenched fists, sexy hip sways and maybe a taste of blood from biting ones tongue.

Robb Donker

Helen Culver Bandcamp      Facebook

Monday, September 25, 2017

OPINION: The New England Patriots Acted Like True Patriots Yesterday As Did Many Other NFL Teams In Reaction To President Trump’s Statement.

My heart swelled up with pride when the NFL in mass supported free speech, self determination and the American way yesterday in reaction to President Trump’s statement at a political rally in Alabama where he stridently raised a finger and said:
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired,’” Trump said. “Wouldn’t you love it? Some owner’s going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy who disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner … — they’re friends of mine, many of them — they’ll be the most popular person for a week in this country.”
Many teams including coaching staff and even some owners locked arms in solidarity. Even players who stood placed their hands on the shoulders of those who decided to kneal. “Decided” is the operative word here. America like no other country in the world is about the individual, about individual rights, individual freedom as opposed to the “group think” mentality of (let’s say) North Korea. Don’t think for a minute that anyone not saluting or standing when they are supposed to in that country would be tolerated. In deep contrast, individual rights, free speech, protest is the sinew that constitutionally holds America together.

Group Thinkers

Hand in hand with group think is pier pressure. Mob mentality is not far away and that is why I reveled in delight when San Francisco 49ers player Colin Kaepernick “took a knee” last year to protest the oppression of people of color after the wake of numerous police involved shooting involving people of color. His reason for protesting is important but even more important is that in this country he has the right to do so. In doing so he opened up a virulent strain of hate. Hate is often times a by product of group think. It creeps up and spreads like a cancer. Hate can muddle your mind, your thought processes too and cloud your perception. The hateful crowd only sees what it wants to see, what the group sees. That crowd saw Kaepernick’s protest as a slap in the face of the flag, the country and even the armed forces who put their very lives on the line in conflicts around the world while Kaepernick’s protest was / is about social justice. I argue that Kaepernick’s protest was not against the flag or country at all but instead an attempt to make this country better. It was a patriotic stance really, a defiant one. Being a patriot and having a healthy does of difiance has always gone hand in hand. This concept is hard for group thinkers to understand.
While many of those who wanted Kaepernick’s head say that politics should not be injected into a sports game, President Trump in an attempt to stoke up his supporters injected politics into sports, into private business in a big, big way. It struck me as odd. He is a business man. Most business owners do not want governmental interference and here he was telling NFL business owners what to do. Maybe President Trump was counting on the power of group thinking. He does like to play to the crowd and whip them up in any way he can. Whipping up crowds tends to turn off their brains as group think takes over. Yes, solidarity is a powerful tool and can be positive but their is a tipping point when things go south. When it tips into the aforementioned mob mentality, when the mob rules then atrocities happen. Blind obidience can lead to lynchings, to genocide.

President Trump Makes Kaepernick A Winner

In the end, I always champion the right to protest and the peaceful protester. Colin Kaepernick is the embodiment of a true American, a patriot and I couldn’t understand for the longest time why more NFL players did not support him. Why weren’t there more “think for yourself-ers”? President Trump inadvertantly opened the floodgates and in doing so has fused Kaepernick into a pivotal free speech icon.
I applaud all those NFL players, staff and owners who took a stand yesterday. It was the American thing to do.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

London Electro-Pop Outfit Crooked Teeth's Release "Mirrors" And Yet Unreleased Songs Portend A Stunning Debut

The mainstays, the meat and potatoes of rock and roll are guitars, drums, bass and vocals from the heart and soul. Obviously and orchestra of instruments stimulate that heart and soul and when the Mellotron and Moog synthesizers arose in the 60's minds were blown. The critical mass of synthesizers in popular music was and may always be the 80's and since then there are bursts of synth based bands now and then. Amid the guitar fueled indie bands, the sometimes over saturationg of the same thing those synth bands can feel like the circus is coming to town. Electronic strains, synth dreams and robotic beats can still, if done right, feel like the future and nostalgia as one at the very same moment. There is something particularly trancy and sinisterly cool. If done right there is a deep tone of romance and hope too. When it is done right it can feel like pop gone awry in a good way. The 3 piece band that call themselves "Crooked Teeth" out of London get is so right.

Their relase Mirrors is so lush and infectious fueled by pumping synth engines and dreamy drones of sound. Robert Armstrong's vocals are incredibly cool and yet drenched with an almost aloof sense of sadness. This song kills because it exists in that vacuum of time when your heart is either going to swell with love or be broken into a million pieces whether in a highschool gym shaking under a glitter ball or under the lamplight of a seaside pier in the embrace of middle age. Cool stuff.

As engaging as this track is I am blessed to have heard some yet unreleased tracks. One that is rumoured to be named "Sand and Stone" in it's emotional complexity is just drop dead gorgeous. It does everything right in such an utterly understated way. The lyrics are wistful and cinematic. Seeing as these UK boys sing about the "American Dream" I wonder if it is with derision or a sense of glory or something in between. However you take it, the result lyrically but more importanly melodically is very moving:  "Bless these walls with pace, you bless the American Dream for you. Blistered by the screen, salute the lone star’s what you do boy. Southern by demand, you god speed your John Glenn for you boy. Hit and hope in hell, you bless the American Dream for you boy."

The track Oh Toronto Nearly Done feels more chill and cagey. There is a sense of wanderlust tool. Of travel and movement. The track Lungs has an uplifting new romantic wave come over you.

Yes, the circus has come to town and it is grand.
Robb Donker

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

American Pancake Podcast #9 - F.U. IRMA Edition - Brunch, Flesh World, Adult Books, Phoebe Bridgers, Bauhaus, and Much More

As Tropical Storm Irma reaches it's tentacles into Georgia- I podcast under an umbrella and the AP sunroom and bring you incredible music while watching huge trees swaying and shaking like they are angrily animated. Thanks to Jack Bacon from Tuckshop Community Radio and Hoxton FM for turning me on to Brunch. They are so awesome I play not one but two of the songs off their "Useless" album. Also kudos to the track Motion Sickness by Phoebe Bridgers whose trajectory is at a sharp angle to the top. Her lyrics have always been so special and pointed really. Rosetta out of Philadelphia make their sludgy metal space rock so incredibly beautiful. I share one track of my Dying Star album up on Bandcamp expound on Bauhaus and struggle with the possessive of Buzzcocks. There is the total surprise track Glow Buddy by Lovely Bad Things and the incredible super cool Flesh World out of San Francisco. And more-- you gotta check it out and make me happy.
What else would make me happy is if you donate to help the poor people who are suffering from this natural disaster.
Robb Donker

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Warp / The Weft Hold A Mystical Swagger In Their Tales On The Album "Mapping The Absence"

The Warp / The Weft out of Poughkeepsie, New York twist old folk and old world frames creating their own earnest kind of chamber rock tableaus. Their is a definite homage to old styles via classic progs and licks in the same way that standard blue licks remain constant to some degree in all blues song but it is the way they torque and twist the aesthetic down coalescing it into an almost heavy metal gothic theater. Theater is the key word as Shane Murphy's commanding, trembling vocal performance holds sway squeezing all the storytelling out of the songs. His performance feels like it is at a full tilt leaning over the footlights and staring into your eyes. The performances, the songs have a tone that feels fable-esque even when they rock out. Step into the fog and check out Briars and if a chill runs up your back step further and check out the entire album. My guess is that the bands mystical swagger will wrap around you soon enough.
Robb Donker

Saturday, September 9, 2017

GGOOLLDD : "Excelsior Springs" Lush Synth Pop Will Embrace You

GGOOLLDD : "Excelsior Springs"

I am going to start this track review off with my strong impersonation of the "get off my porch" old man. God you should see this, it is so good.
IMPRESSION:  "Kids today with their rock and roll names. How the fuck do you say GGOOLLDD?? Whatever happened to good solid names like the Everly Brothers or the Rolling Stones!! Now those were rock band names but what the hell is a GGOOLLDD and if you pronounce it GOLD then double what the fuck!"

Thank you, thank you and I am sorry you missed the shaking pointing hand. GGOOLLDD is a 4 piece band out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Their new single Excelsior Springs is a silky smooth electronic pop track propelled on lush groove of bass and synth flows and ambient noises that bring winter melting ice to mind amidst airy dance moves. Margaret Butlers vocals have an embracing quality with a romantic underbelly. The aesthetic here feels sweet but also love struck or torn like some scene out of a highschool dance in a 80's John Hughes flick with moments of sad reflection and arms outstretched to fly. Very cool track out on Roll Call Records. Check out the band on tour.

Robb Donker

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

OFFICIAL VIDEO: Bad Pop's "Other Spooky Is" Bristles With a Thick Coat Of Gleeful Psychosis

Bad Pop's new single "Other Spooky Is" bristles with a thick coat of gleeful psychosis. The Canadian trio's brand of art punk is playfully heavy (metal) and yet powerfully cinematic too. Lead singer Chris Connelly spouts his words with the whimsy of Isaac Brock (Modest Mouse), the theatrics of Tommy Scott (Space) and the caterwaul of Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys) all rolled up into one.

The video for "Other Spooky Is" is at once ridiculously funny as it is disturbing depending on your point of view. For me, the superimposed close up face is a bit disconcerting and I found myself just listening to the song that is just a wild ride, crazy, psychotic and powerfully fun. Of the song, Connelly says:  ‘Right from the start we always wanted  "Other Spooky Is" to be the first thing that we'd release. It always felt like a big, bold, ridiculous statement... the kind of thing that you'll either love or hate.  There's no middle ground with this song.  If you're still listening by the time the demonic robot shows up, you're probably hooked.’
Robb Donker

Press Notes:
Awe-stricken by each others' SXSW performances, Bad Pop and SuperGlu are embarking on a week-long  UK tour in mid-September. Mixing Bad Pop's dichotomous joking-intimidation with SuperGlu's self-branded bubblegum rock, the co-headlined set is sure to be a hard-partying alt-rock banger.


8th September - The Swan, Ipswich
9th September - Esquires, Bedford
13th September - Facebar, Reading
14th September - The Cellar, Oxford
17th September - Hope & Ruin, Brighton
18th September - Old Blue Last, London