Four reviews today, Portland’s two-man experimental, Mother Tapes, Fresh Snow Out Of Toronto, Synkro and Olympia’s pure metal provocateurs, Christian Mistress.
I suppose the fine line between what sticks and fades comes down to a matter of impression. Whether an album or an artist breaks out of the hum drum “oh yeah, heard it” cycle rides on a first, deep listen.
No record over the last ten days has made a stronger impression on than Do Make Say by a home town duo, Mother Tapes. I swear I’m not partial simply because these guys hail from somewhere near my general postal code, but this melodic post rock record, full of dramatic and inspired turns is both sophisticated enough for repeat listens and turn up the volume satisfying.
If prog rock is making another come back (and thankfully, it most certainly is) then it is experimental albums like Do Make Say that I feel house it’s greatest opportunities alternating between lush (“Debts Bets”) and heavy, knee bending rock anthems (“Carrot Stick”) and songs (“Beta Bank”) thick with that spectacular otherness.
Bands like Mother’s Tapes succeed because they take necessary chances. So many times I paused Do Make Fade in my head and felt a wave of Radiohead’s Kid A and even early Wye Oak efforts, albums that pushed a splendid boundary with neat production, erudite song craft and an explosive heart. Highly recommended.
While I’m inherently suspicious of such refinement and effervescent cool in those electronic beats delivered on Changes by Synkro, this absolutely pays off what it sets up. The Manchester DJ/producer tugs hard, ambitiously laying out a succession of confident and absolute grooves.
The ten songs on Changes aren’t heavily affected (outside of the last song, “Harbour” which feels odd for this reason) nor are they riddled with gimmicks or eye-rolling irony. This allows their emotional pull to translate as altogether genuine. In this achievement, Joe McBride, the man behind the Synkro mask, has pulled off a coup that a strong majority of his contemporaries simply cannot claim to.
The Synkro Soundcloud page goes so far as to call McBride’s style “intellectual” which I’m inclined to agree with (although, who wants their dance groove to be best described as a synonym for smart?). Regardless of adjective, this record stirs and it provokes, even the most moribund imaginations to color. Synkro delves effortlessly into tight hooks, interesting layers, leaning on sensuous progressions, alchemy for one of 2015’s best electronic albums.
“Fuck my eyes, that’s good pesto” or…
“Fuck my eyes, did you see that girl?”
I have a sneaking suspicion that if he had caught a few chords of Toronto’s Fresh Snow from my stereo, he would have asked, “Dude, what is that?” and I would reply honestly. “Well, this is an album called Won” and he would proclaim, in his often loud baritone, “Fuck my eyes, Dude. Play that shit again.”
Everything on Won is right on point. Its pace is delightfully frenetic, the pulsing guitars are relentlessly out front and the left of those pitiful concerns get left in the dust. This record is about a driving mood and songs that don’t sound like other people’s.
I have been Tweeting about this album and everything else Fresh Snow for weeks (actually clamoring for their attention because the dudes are obviously way cool and I want them to like me) since I heard the record and I still contend this is a sorely underrated hard rock gem that’s worthy of a few of your shekels (and if you don’t mind me saying, I dug into the rest of their catalog and this record is just the tip of an edgy and necessary iceberg).
I loved The Scorpions. I mean, even before their glasnost seized fame (BTW… the song, “Winds Of Change” was the worst consequence of the Cold War’s End, I mean, worse than a whole fleet of Trabants forcefully dropped in the American driveway) I spun those teutonic metal records and didn’t give a damn that my friends liked Kreator more.
In so many places, Portland, Oregon’s Christian Mistress reminds of everything that I adored about The Scorpions. Their new record To Your Death has the taste and feel of 80’s era, vintage metal with soaring guitar solos and production focus on clearly understood vocals (which with Christine Davis on the mike is a natural inclination) rather than thunderous, murky percussion (see metal, stoner, which I’m inclined to say this is not).
While I gravitate to the denser, more ominous sounds of where metal has arrived now I hear this record like a love letter to more accessible eras that I’m willing to unfold and read (over and over). Bring me the explosive thrash of “Stronger Than Blood” and “Neon” and the progressive undercurrents on “Ultimate Freedom” and I’m a happy fucking camper.