Monday, May 22, 2017

Swaylex - Raging Rapids

Swaylex - Raging Rapids 

“Raging Rapids” is the hardest hitting of the three recent compositions Swaylex has uploaded to YouTube. It has consider Sturm und Drang derived from a series of crushing guitar riffs that veer from the melodically direct to fiery lead work seemingly intent on grabbing listeners by the throat and keeping their attention. There’s a lot of confidence coming off this two minute track as well – it is rather impressive that he can make such a memorable impression within such a short amount of time, but the focus he brings to bear on the song enables him to do so. Another crucial factor in its success is the song’s construction. Obviously, due to the composition’s length, there isn’t an assortment of changes during these two minutes, but the segues from one section to the next are flawlessly handled.  It is quite obviously a rock track – but he never relies on the standard genre tropes to capture the audience’s attention.  
There’s a bit of fanfare in the way he introduces the song with some screaming lead guitar notes reinforced by patient rhythm guitar running underneath. When he launches into the song properly, the riffing has a leaden tempo and the lead guitar continues accompanying things, but never in too obtrusive of a fashion. The drumming spikes the tempo some with some well timed rolls and fills, but otherwise Swaylex keeps things as straight forward as ever and never clutters up the composition with too many unnecessary notes. It’s quite impressive to hear the confidence he has rolling through these changes, despite how short the song is, and he should have little trouble keeping a listener’s attention for the duration. 
Often times, you will listen to an instrumental and the lack of a vocal, especially in the realm of popular song like rock, will seem glaring. There’s none of that here. Instead, Swaylex specializes in a strong theatricality on this song that’s quite intense will retining enough melody to keep the audience’s attention. His guitar work is fluid throughout and the live quality imparted by the video helps increase its physicality and brings listeners even closer to the experience. There’s a palpable confidence in the performance, as well, that sets it apart from typical forays in this area. He sounds surefooted throughout and certain of where he;s going from the first note on. Some may dislike the relatively leaden tempo, but he wrings every bit of possible drama from the tempo and the running time is ideal for such a pace. Perhaps if this song ran, let’s say, four to five minutes with little deviation, we might hear it as something entirely different. That doesn’t happen here. Instead, it flows quite nicely from one passage to the another and the individual parts lock up in such a way that the song never fails to make sense or sounds disjointed. Swaylex’s “Raging Rapids” is a reminder that great talents aren’t always signed to major labels or performing for capacity houses. Sometimes they are just a few keystrokes and a click away. 

Lydia Hillenburg

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Chameleon Project - Funk n Space

The Chameleon Project - Funk n Space 

The power and undeniable energy that The Chameleon Project brings to the ten songs on Funk n Space isn’t something we’ve heard much of in recent years. The Toronto four piece burn with rare ambition bringing together an array of musical styles into a signature approach that doesn’t seem like it would work, but nonetheless sparks with genuine and artful creativity. Led by guitarist and vocalist Josh Laing, the quartet tackles the songs with a wild and wooly willingness to try anything once and the gambler mentality driving these compositions and performances make Funk n Space a truly revelatory experience. This fiery blend of funk, EDM, disco, jazz, dub, and rock is absolutely irresistible. They show some obvious influences from bands like The Disco Biscuits, John Scofield, and Bonobo, but there’s little question before half of the album has concluded that The Chameleon Project play by their own rules and make it work on the basis of talent alone.  

Despite the influences cited above, The Chameleon Project has their own identity and it’s clear from the outset. “Milky Way” takes a number of musical elements onto its back and makes it all work. The keyboards and drumming are particularly effective here and the incidental human voices rising out of the mix are further adornments that set the performance apart here and elsewhere on the album. It’s a relatively bold move to open your album with the second longest song on the release, coming in at a little over six minutes in length, but “Milky Way” never feels that long and there doesn’t seem to be even a sliver of wasted motion in the track. “Steppin’” shares a similar economy despite its length and shows off the band’s penchant for pouring old wine into new bottles with ingenious revamping of standard reggae tropes. It mixes the electronic textures that are one of the band’s hallmarks with the usual approach to this form. This primarily instrumental album continues to impress with the art rock style distinguishing “Kraken”, though it is a little disheartening to hear such an obviously intelligent band opt for ambient aquatic songs in a song about a water beast. It makes sense for them to do so and they never succumb to overkill, but it just seems a little too obvious.  

“Reactor” is the first outright foray into EDM territory, but The Chameleon Project mixes up the punches with some stunning guitar work that achieves unexpected lyrical heights thanks to its phrasing. It makes utter sense to pair this track with the follow up “Bigfoot” – The Chameleon Project opts to go even more sharply in a rock music direction with its forceful drumming, but they keep things surprising with an approach to the guitar playing quite distinct from what we would hear mainstream rock acts ever dare. The final song on Funk n Space, “Wako”, shows a little bit of playfulness, but it’s largely a kind of final musical statement summarizing everything the band’s covered to this point. It can stand on its own, however, as a monumental fusion of the band’s tendencies rather than merely elaborating on what has come before.  Funk n Space has the sort of keen-eared take on genre hopping that such experiments deserve, but they’ve also managed to craft an album with the potential to appeal across a wide spectrum.  

Scott Wigley

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Shelter Dreams - Dreamin'

Shelter Dreams – Dremin’ 

Shelter Dreams have been around since 2007. Songs by Shelter Dreams were played about 190000 times on Number One Music - Radio in USA and reached No 1 in the Charts for Germany - Classic Rock. In January 2017, they released the eight song CD, Dreamin, to the world on CD Baby. They are from Dusseldorf and consist of founder, singer/songwriter Jay Dee, and guitarist Met Jörg Morbitzer. And although there isn’t much to know about them, the music can speak for what can’t be found concerning that. It always helps to start somewhere, but Shelter Dreams are no rookie musicians just because Dreamin is their only release they have out to talk about.

They get started on the CD with the title track “Dreamin” and it’s a groovy number but perhaps misplaced among these eight songs. As I could just as easily take this at the end of the disc. It gets carried mostly by some decent guitars, topped off by a simple vocal that doesn’t wind up its strongest suit. But it gets things underway for “Not Enough” which impresses a lot more in the vocal sector, but it’s still one of the weaker tracks. The guitar of Mobitzer tends to remind of players like Duane Allman, which is never a bad archetype to be reminded of. But he also cuts his own style and it charms the songs with quality playing. And these songs are cut one hundred percent live on purpose.

The opening chords of “Going Down” are nothing much to write home about, but they speak before Jay Dee gets a chance to sing again. And this is a better crack at singing what is obviously not his first language, but German accents always sound great in hard rock and he does better with every track. And “Mean Baby” starts off with proof of that with a sharp twanging of the strings that leads into a nice little blues tinged number. It’s very laid back and I like the way he sings “Oh baby” as the repeated top line. It just cruises right along with a minimum of variation and stays in the pocket the whole time. So far, it’s the tastiest track but the guitar mix could be a lot higher.

This continues, in almost exactly the same way, but with bigger power chords to open “Every Second” and for once there is a hint of that familiar heavy German accent like Klaus Meine of the Scorpions, which can’t helped be thought of when it comes to German hard rock. But Jay Dee makes his own marks. But here is another mid-range track but with a few bells and whistles. It’s probably the best track on offer, but they’re all very consistently even. But for me there is still something missing on “No No” Jay Dee makes a clear effort to deliver a passionate vocal. It has a story that isn’t as easy to follow as other vocal patterns but musically loses nothing with some flashy guitar work.

Track seven is entitled “Maybe Over The Border” and it’s the angriest track on the CD with tales of lowlife experiences, drugs, etc. But even though it’s a dark song, the music is uplifting to its credit on such a doomsday cut. So, it blends together pretty well for what it is, but as a live recorded studio album you can’t always be perfect. It’s not the idea. This track also sports more great guitar tone from Morbitzer that almost has a cockiness worth taking a step further. It could take you over the border, or maybe not. It has a lovely fade-away that is one of the more pleasant moments. And it ends with the bonus track “Sunwave” which goes out on a mellow but tasty instrumental with some smoking guitar and bass. Not a bad way to record for what it is, but Dreamin can benefit from a more polished follow-up release.

Larry Toering

City In The Clouds - The Contents Of Box 212

City In The Clouds - The Contents Of Box 212
Whenever an artist or band takes the likes to the rap, hip hop, genre it could work in their favor or it could not work out if at all. For Clouds In The City with their album "The Contents Of Box 212", consisting of 12-tracks, it takes two of those tracks with guest appearances by artists RJ Paige on "Shower Thoughts", and Mak Twain on "Out To Lunch". Each of these tracks on their own by themselves sound alright for what they are but they are just not right for this release. If these guest appearances and these genres choices for these two song selections was removed the album would live up to its namesake more so without these tracks needing to sound the way they do. It just throws the album off as it were really.
The rest of the album and its assorted tracks like "Singin", "Down To Earth", "Shine", and "To The Sky", are what make this release stand out the most. Like "To The Sky", really embraces the other genres this band picked out like alternative, indie, punk, and rock, this song picks up pieces from those genres to make the track work so well. While the other tracks mentioned like "Shine", bring out this tone to the album that is just pure entertainment. It portrays this essence of music that makes it sound like there is pure magic in the mists. It has that melody of trace that makes it drive the music more so really giving the listener an experience of sorts. While the other tracks "Singin", and "Down To Earth", keep the pace a float by going different and unique. Like you know interesting to say the least, it has the music being creative for itself. Allowing for the vocal chords and instrumentals to come out of their shells exposing themselves more so, that the music becomes more alluring to the ears in question.
As far as the band goes that is City In The Clouds, they give off this early essence of the likes of Hoobastank meets perhaps Interpol. That is the vibe that they give off the most with their music genre interests and style choice with music creation. As for the album "The Contents of Box 212", it is a release that has a hit or miss aspect going for it. While those two tracks of the rap, hip hop genres do not tend to cut it, the others come in just fine, sounding daring yet decent.
Overall though, it's just another one of those bands with an album to their name. It is a nice release with a decent amount of effort and tunes worthy of a listen at least once through. If their material is not to your liking then this may not be the right band for you. If you find yourselves questioning as to why you cannot get into this particular band, then you may just be over thinking it more than it needs to be thought about.
Heather Savage

Round Eye – Monstervision

Round Eye – Monstervision 

Round Eye come to the world from Shanghai, China, with their second release, the full-length Monstervision. They’ve played numerous festivals around the world and honed their unconventional blend of 50s R&B, Free Jazz and Punk. They go even harder on this album, incorporating even more styles to get their message across to the world, which took some time re-developing in the underground. But it comes to the surface where it will boil into another, but without Steve Mackay on sax. So, they’re growing and this is a big sign of their impressive work ethic and progress.

On Sudden Death Records in Vancouver, BC, they have a beast to unleash. This is a band that have been compared to The Stooges, Captain Beefheart, Dr. Feelgood and The Fall. But there is no use seeing them as anything but their own brand of sax-fused punk, leaving the past behind them but keeping one foot in its best memories. That is where influences like the 50s come into their style, also where it crosses with traditional R&B factors. These aren’t always punk friendly but there have been major exceptions to the rule, TRHCP being a strong example. If Round Eye cross those wider barriers for the better, so be it.  You get all they’re putting out there with no punches pulled, but a big sound to most of it, recorded by Li Wei Yu & PK 14’s Yang Haisong. This isn’t something you ponder in the post-punk scene. You either want a glossy sound or you don’t, and there are a couple of rough aspects but it’s necessary on those tracks. This isn’t an attempt to call any over production, it’s worth mentioning that the recording is of the same integrity as the music, both of which are high standard. They brought along US comedian John Bloom to play the part of Joe Bob Briggs to narrate the album like a weekend radio program. This adds to the proceedings without interfering with the songs.

Having never heard anything like that on a punk album before, it gets a plus for its shiny object value. He gets the program going with some introduction and they open with “Commie Blues” which although it is appropriate for Round Eye’s aim, it falls more in the least compelling of songs they came up with. It gets more creative as it gets more aggressive though, and the rest forgives what could’ve been a better choice to lead off with. But Round Eye have something to say on every track, so, don’t let anything you read stop them. On “Hey Dudes” and “Pink House” they hit some adult contemporary notes that put them in their own punk class. These are some magnificent studio performance moments, surrounded by some less clinical but more on point songs that Joe Bob Briggs barely gets his often-funny words in edge-wise.  But it’s not that serious in theory when you’re just rocking and rolling in your own way, without making ten minute songs and breaking all the punk rock rules. There isn’t an abundance of aesthetics about Round Eye, they’re more gut-level but perhaps they’re a cut above on Monstervision. Just check out tracks like “Richie” “Curami” and “Sifter” for all of the combined elements on this burning full-length LP. They may have a long way to go, but they don’t come untraveled.


Mike Tabor

Johnathan Cavier – Blue Room

Johnathan Cavier – Blue Room 

Johnathan Cavier has been making atmospheric pop tunes for long enough to arrive at Blue Room, his latest album of ten songs to add to his catalog of ten releases. It’s an extended amount of time to be recording and still going strong above or beneath the pop radars. The older you get the more odds are there to toy with the idea of creating technically driven ideas to keep up with the times, or throw caution to the wind and just be old fashioned. Blue Room achieves both without shame, as it keeps one foot in the modern and one in the retro-active clichés that keep pop around, rather than run it off to find its wide demographic harder and harder to find. That’s good and bad, as it is everything it sounds, but doesn’t leave this CD hurting any in the songwriting and playing departments. And that is no luck of the draw for an artist who’s been around the block more than a few times. It is a matter of pure skill and the willpower to keep it focused. As most of the tracks on Blue Room keep that focus as long as you’re in the mood for each one, but it doesn’t mean they vary a lot. They don’t start off with much excitement but that changes as it begins to build and go out on a high note. It goes from strength to strength that way. A walk through this ball park is in order as it comes on softly with the opener “Blue Room” itself being the way to come out swinging.

This esoteric number isn’t any better or worse than anything else on the album, but it might be a slow way to kick off any album, nevertheless. It’s ok, because it only gets more interesting and a lot better with “When You Come Around” which washes a great melody through your ears and makes you get right into it and an album seems to be born as he perks right up and show his ultimate pop prowess. What a contrast but it doesn’t mean the opening cut isn’t of as much value. It just took hearing the subsequent result to get going. It is a wonderful follow-up with a melancholy vocal delivery and a classy string arrangement. “Hollywood” follows a whole different vibe but it is a good one, that much is evident. You start rocking back and forth very soon and might even be reminded of everyone from Roxy Music to ABC on this. It’s a cool throwback to the nightclubs of decade’s past, and the glamor And glitz of Tinsel Town. You can tell these are some of Cavier’s influences, without question. But he marches to his own beat, never copying, always keeping inflections of pop and dance music with romantic themes. Your mileage might vary, but this is one of the more well written and recorded tracks and there is still a lot more to go.

With “Phoenix” rising above most of them on one of the speedier moments on the disc. It manages to complement everything before and after it with that excellence to be expected from this artist. Also with “Far Away” “I Believe” and “Somebody Like You” all making their differences for the better in the Blue Room full of illustrious pop mashed with eighties romantic, Bowie influenced music. “Right Place” also holds its own along with “Someday” being worthy of noting for its killer guitar work before the closing musicality cooks up and burns away. It’s not the way you’d expect the album to end but it’s never predictable, even though Johnathon Cavier can deceive on paper. Listening to it in full is the only way to find out just how good he is.

Randy Jones  

Friday, May 12, 2017

David Starr – The Head and Heart

David Starr – The Head and Heart 

Starr has shared the stage with such artists as John Oates (Hall & Oates), Richie Furay (Buffalo Springfield, Poco), Kenny Edwards (Linda Ronstadt, Karla Bonoff), John McEuen (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) and numerous others. He has opened for Survivor, Clint Black, Travis Tritt, Restless Heart, The Marshall Tucker Band and The Guess Who. With Arkansas roots and Colorado wings, David Starr has been making music since the age of 10. He has a new six-song EP entitled The Head And Heart produced and arranged by John Oates.

Having played with so many, it’s no surprise to hear that John Oates would go from playing on his last album to producing this one. But it doesn’t mean it happens every day. You just have to let that be and fall on the ears where it may or may not, depending on whether or not you know their sound and where it comes together. But this is not about the producer, it’s just that if you’ve been around long enough you cannot deny his involvement. It helps the profile as well, but it’s really all David Starr on this EP, as much as featuring such a producer’s sound, which does come out excellent.

There is no time wasted as the beautiful “Edge Of The World” finds itself at your feet with a blissful drawl from his seasoned voice. A vocal that pretty much rules this EP, but doesn’t come without some choice music behind it. The acoustic guitar playing on these tunes is very subtle, but perfectly placed where you can’t forget it. Melodies that produce instant memory. This is a tale about female growth And believing in its magic and how it makes life better to be around if you give her the chance. If it doesn’t sink in, repeat will always do. As this one is as good as the other five tracks.

There isn’t a lot to be criticized about David Starr in general, nor to be found anymore on the title track “The Head and Heart,” than any of the others. It will take you away with its hypnotic lyrics and Starr’s gentle way of conveying relative aspects of life and interacting around them. Burning houses have nothing left to do but fall, and that is what he gets across to me. But a good song can be sliced numerous ways, and none of these tracks forget that. And that makes way for a re-make of “California Dreaming.” And this isn’t something you re-arrange without a lot of guts, and it’s not the best moment on the record for me, but worth anyone’s time to hear this way.

I’d rather hear a straight-forward cover, but I also don’t see how anyone could call this a bad projection or anything. It’s just not what you’d expect, with tracks as good as “Waiting In The Dark” to immediately engulf it. With its positive mindedness cutting through a negative subject at the end of the day. It’s a cool track to contrast the downsides of playing a cover, albeit a fine one. This has some great guitar playing as well. It’s a great way to come back in the middle of the EP. Or, maybe it just works that well for me at a critical point. But it’s just one opinion about it. An original would have been just as good of a choice though.

But he keeps going strong with the adventurous “I’ve Come For You” and the appropriately titled closing track “Dancing With My Pride.”  And these two don’t exactly go together but evenly deliver along the same quality level as the rest, with no debating their importance. They also help beg the question where has David Starr been, and answer it in one fell swoop. As well as it must satisfy any longtime fans, of which I am not but will be delving back, as this turns me onto a legacy that I was not previously aware of. So, it is also a great entry level point to Davis Starr, although he’s been around all this time.



Randy Jones