Buried Treasure: Midnight Legs // Marathon Lungs – Aesthetic Medicine

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This is a guest post from Aaron Edwards, better known as Foofer. Aaron has written about music for many years, getting his break on Postrockstar (where he had the weekly column Foofer Fridays), before writing for Echoes and Dust, and now Arctic Drones. He lives in Boise, Idaho with his wife and two young children, and hosted me (Joseph) when I was travelling through America in late 2017. I emailed him recently asking if he would like to tell us about any underrated bands who deserve more attention, so he graced us with his writing to promote Boise locals Midnight Legs // Marathon Lungs.


Midnight Legs / Marathon Lungs - Aesthetic Medicine

First and foremost I would love to thank Joseph for letting me come out of my cave and show him how it’s done. This past year has been crazy in a lot of ways, and I think everyone knows how easy it can be for good releases to slip under the radar or fall through the cracks. Midnight Legs // Marathon Lungs is definitely one of those. 99 times out of 100, a début album from a new band is ignored. And it only gets worse in states where the population is less than the number of cows (or potatoes).

Being from my neck of the woods (which I don’t get to say very often) means that they were on my radar from day one, basically. I went to their album release show, and they were kind enough to supply me with my own copy of their CD. For weeks it was all I could play in the car. Their bandcamp page says “We’re not sad. We’re contemplative.” and it’s crazy how true it is. I’m not usually in the mood for ‘Aesthetic Medicine’ unless I’m already inside my own head, or have a long car drive ahead of me. I cannot and will not ever claim to fully understand lyrics, but I can say that I probably do more thinking due to their words moreso than their music.

There’s something raw about the music that’s so appealing. There’s a very strong Slint vibe in a lot of their sound, but they also have a tendency for sounding very Post-Rock, with their bass-heavy melodies and twinkly guitars. However they don’t fall prey to post-rock pratfalls, how they do more strumming than tremolo picking. It’s a breath of fresh air for someone who’s listened almost exclusively to post-rock this past year. Imagine if Slint had made something a little more melodic and peppered it with screaming, and you’ll be close to imagining ‘Aesthetic Medicine.’

Considering that this is a début album for a local band that’s all DIY, the production is surprisingly solid. It was recorded, mixed, and mastered locally and it still sounds better than some of the local stuff that was mixed and mastered elsewhere. Even the acoustic guitar sounds how it should, I can even play it on my phone speaker and it won’t suck.

Overall, I would recommend this album to all the sad bois out there. Since this release they’ve added a keyboardist, so you can look forward to another layer of depth, and another mind to add to their potential which adds up to more than the sum of their parts. It’s not exactly within my wheelhouse of music, I didn’t even think to write about them until Joseph asked me if there was anything I’d want to bring to attention from this last year. However they’re from my neighborhood. They make good music. And while it didn’t make it to my year-end list on Arctic drones, I appreciate what they’ve made and I’m excited to hear more of it.


Midnight Legs / Marathon Lungs links:

Bandcamp: https://midnightlegsmarathonlungs.bandcamp.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/midnightlegsmarathonlungs

Buried Treasure: Mineral – The Power of Failing

Mineral - The Power of Failing
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Mineral

Buried Treasure is a semi-regular feature that explores some hidden musical gems – the rare and forgotten B-sides, covers, hidden tracks, live versions and alternative takes that deserve some recognition.

The further away you get from a pivotal moment in your life, the more important it seems.  Sometimes you don’t recognize the moment as being truly crucial as it is happening.  It usually takes several years for the weight of it to settle in.  It’s this slow passing of time that lends the moment all its lofty nostalgia.  A nostalgia that fills us to the brim with terrible longing and beautiful memory.  Music has a way of pinning all your best and worst memories to a page.  No band did this to me more than Mineral.

The year was 1995.  I was an awkward Sophomore in high school in Illinois.  My mother was shopping for a birthday present for me and was apparently having difficulty in doing so.  Maybe 15-year-old boys are hard to shop for.  She would end up running into a guy in a record store at the mall (a fellow I would eventually become friends with) who told her to buy Diary by Sunny Day Real Estate.  My mom is a conservative Midwest type and it amazes me still that she took the advice of a stranger in buying a record.  I would devour this album whole.  Something just clicked.  It resonated with me and my extremely impressionable 15-year-old mind.  Diary would change me down to my core and would set me down a road of music that, even at 38 years of age, I’ve yet to stray from.

Fast forward to 1997.  My best friend Steve and I were all over the Midwest emo scene.  This was before GAP got hold of the word and cheapened it.  The post-hardcore scene of D.C. that was the birthplace of the sound we adored wasn’t that far in the rear view mirror.  This was in the early days of the internet.  Steve and I decided we’d start an online “zine”.  Looking back at it now, an online “zine” in 1997 was probably a little ahead of its time.  We called our little project Quagmire 9 and did music reviews, show reviews and collated all information for upcoming shows in a 100 mile radius of where we lived.  Eventually we’d end up getting into the show promotion game.

Imagine 17 and 16 year old kids being able to pull in bands like Cursive and Boilermaker to a sleepy, blue collar town on the Illinois River.

All of this eventually led to a small relationship with CRANK! Records.  We’d get little press packages that had all kinds of release information for bands they were distributing.  This is where we would become familiar with Mineral, a relatively unknown group at the time from Austin, TX.  We hopped in my 1985 Delta 88 and made the 30-minute drive across the river to CO-OP Records in East Peoria and picked up a copy of The Power of Failing, Mineral’s first album.  If Diary shook me to my core, The Power of Failing would resonate with me on a biochemical scale.  Every vital process of my entire being was owed to this album.  I came out the other end of my first listen as something different.

Listening this album in its entirety can still elicit a plethora of feelings inside of me.  A lot of my reviews right here on this wonderful site take on a theme of hopeless joy and redemption.  These are concepts that I often latch onto.  Looking back I would have to believe that it was lead singer Chris Simpson’s vocals that shaped my love for these ideas.  The album is just full of moments where it feels as if the world may collapse in on itself, only to come up for air and become awash in the sun’s healing rays.

“Tears stream down my cheeks only to meet their redeemer and be wiped away.  And there is joy.”

I’m unsure if it was the equipment used or just a lack of money for quality studio time, but The Power of Failing has one of the most incredibly raw and visceral sounds on a record that I can remember.  This rough-hewn sound gives The Power of Failing an almost violent edge.  It makes the melodic portions uneasy but uplifting while the more riotous and distorted parts come across as angry but supernal.  It would be difficult to imagine this record with anything other than the sound it has.  It’s since been remastered and it managed to retain the punch-you-in-the-gut sound that made it so absolutely brilliant.

I remember trying to get all the Smashing Pumpkin and Veruca Salt kids in high school to give Mineral a chance.  They just didn’t get it.  The younger me couldn’t get over how they weren’t moved by what they were hearing.

Mineral’s importance to the mid-90s emo scene is undeniable.  There were a lot of bands doing the Rites of Spring thing back in those days, but none of them did it with as much raw emotion as Mineral.  The lyrics weren’t weighted down in hyperbole or symbolism.  Chris Simpson spoke his mind and put everything in such a beautifully poetic prose.  It tore at your heart and left you smiling with a sort of recognition.  Pardon the cliché, but he was able to paint a picture.  A picture we’ve all found ourselves in but were always bereft of the words to accurately describe it.

“And I don’t know if I should say “I’m sorry” or “Thank you”.  I’ve tried to speak but the tears choke the words.  And I think I finally know what they mean when they talk about joy.”

This is just part of what made Mineral so damn special.  If the lyrics and vocal melodies weren’t tearing at your insides, it was the guitar, bass and drums.  They just had a way of making their instruments cry in torment.  I understand I’m starting to sound a little corny here, but before Mineral and bands like SDRE, guitars and rhythm played second fiddle to vocals.  Listen, I was an idiot kid but Mineral opened my eyes musically to concepts, ideas and feelings that I barely knew existed.

It sounds weird but this all started with my mom.  I honestly have her to thank for all of this.  If she hadn’t gone against her better, more conservative judgement and bought a Sunny Day Real Estate album at the behest of some skateboarding punk kid behind a desk at a record store, none of this would have happened.  Hell, I wouldn’t even be writing this. Thanks, momma.

 


MINERAL LINKS:

Facebook

Mineral Official Page

Twitter

Live Review: Guitar Wolf at Meow, Wellington

Guitar Wolf Meow - Will Not Fade
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Guitar Wolf

w/ Huge Mutant

Meow, Wellington

Friday 24 November 2017

I feel that I need to explain my choice of attire.

Yesterday I posted on Instagram about how I was so excited for the Guitar Wolf gig at Meow tonight, and that I was planning on wearing my finest Hawaiian shirt. Someone from the band Hiboux commented, asking if this was a thing.

In short: no. But there is a weird rationale behind my decision.

You see, this is my third time seeing Guitar Wolf live. The first time was at Bodega. It was the night after seeing Foo Fighters at Western Springs in Auckland – at the time easily the best live act I’d seen. And as amazing as the large-scale Foo Fighters concert was, Guitar Wolf came damned close to topping them in terms of putting on a phenomenal live music experience.

One of the highlights of that night was when the singer pulled me up on stage to join a human pyramid. Another was when he pulled up a guy with a large beard and Hawaiian shirt. He handed his guitar to our lumberjack-looking friend, compelled him to “feel the rock” and instructed him to strum out.

The second time I saw Guitar Wolf was at Mighty Mighty – another defunct Wellington venue. And lo and behold, the same guy – wearing the same Hawaiian shirt and rocking the same awesome beard – was pulled onstage to feel the rock and play guitar. This second time I figured out that he was selected because he won a thumb wrestle.

I vowed to myself that next time, I would like to win the thumb wrestle and transform into a rock god onstage, under tutelage from Japan’s finest. And just to somehow enhance my odds, I decided to dress the same as the lumberjack dude. My thought process doesn’t make much sense, but oh well.


I’m lucky I even made it to the gig. After a long week at work I was knackered. I work as a preschool teacher, and the combination of heat, hay fever and loud children had given me a severe headache. I decided to have a short nap when I got home.

Turns out I needed that nap more than I’d realised. I woke up at 10pm – four hours later! I quickly threw on the all-important Hawaiian shirt and raced down to Meow. I’d missed the opening acts, but thankfully got to the gig in time for the main act.

And what a beautiful sight it was. Three grown men onstage wearing leather jackets and velociraptor masks. The guitarist cracked a can of beer open and emptied it into the mouth of the dinosaur.

Guitar Wolf Meow photo by Kay

Image: Kay Hoddy

After a short intro track the trio ditched their dino masks. Seiji led the trio on vocals and guitar. He wore wraparound sunglasses and was dripping with sweat for most of the set. Half of the appeal of Guitar Wolf is their energy, and Seiji injects so much of his personality into the show – making exaggerated expressions and motions as he plays. Toru kept the beat on drums, and frantically combed his hair back – rockabilly style – between songs. They also had a new bass player – Hikaru. I remember previous bassist, U.G. had taken to his bass guitar with a saw, cutting off the bottom portion that he didn’t need, seeing as he only played three strings. Hikaru was great, energetically flicking his hair around, and supporting on vocals.

Guitar Wolf are not for everyone. They take cues from punk, rock, rockabilly and garage to create their unique “jet rock n’ roll” – think Japanese Ramones. They’re ear-splittingly loud, with plenty of feedback and distortion. And they’re fast too. OK, so they’re not the tightest act out, but why let technical ability get in the way of a good show?

Seiji had good banter – or at least from what I could understand. He made a shout out “my cousin, Prime Minister of New Zealand” during their cover of “Summertime Blues”. He asked if we had boyfriends/girlfriends/both, before teaching us how to love. He also asked the crowd what the highest mountain in New Zealand is, which had him stumped when he couldn’t understand the name Aoraki.

Guitar Wolf Meow photo by Kay Hoddy

The pick of destiny. Image: Kay Hoddy

If you can’t tell yet, the show was great. I had the best time.

Like, literally.

BECAUSE THE HAWAIIAN SHIRT WORKED!!!

Ok, so maybe it wasn’t the shirt. But I accomplished my goal.

As soon as Seiji removed his guitar strap I knew my time had come. He thrust his arm out into the crowd and I raced forward to grab his hand. He didn’t thumb wrestle me as I’d expected, but I clung on hard, trying to gain favour with him.

Seiji pulled me onstage, gave me his guitar, turning a knob so that the volume maxed out, squealing with feedback. Then he placed a guitar pick in my hand, raising it high above me head in a classic rock star stance. He shouted instructions my ear. To be honest I can’t even remember what he said – I was on such a buzz – but the gist is that I had to rock out.

I began strumming in time with the band. I’m not a guitarist and had no idea about chords, so I just played open, with my hand resting lightly on the strings on the neck to prevent too much feedback. My apologies to those who attended and had to put up with the cacophony I cause.

Seiji instructed me as I played. I don’t know if I understood correctly, but he guided me to wait, before strumming when he cued me. The next challenge was to jump in time with the band as we played. They all crouched down and I followed their lead, unsure of my role.

Image: Kay Hoddy

I have no idea how long I was on stage, but I was having the time of my life. I had bloody fingers and knuckles from the sharp guitar strings, but I didn’t care – it was worth it. At one point I noticed that one of the guitar strings had broken, and I wondered if I had done that, or had Seiji broken it earlier?

To finish, Seiji held me and pulled me down to the floor of the stage, removing the guitar from me. A man at the front of the crowd grabbed my legs and hoisted me up, and next thing I know, I was crowd surfing. It was unnerving, but I felt supported and nobody dropped me.

Guitar Wolf Meow photo by Kay Hoddy

Image: Kay Hoddy

The rest of the set was great. People congratulated me on my newfound rock god status. Guitar Wolf kept playing their furious music. It was fun.

They left the stage, before coming on with an encore of a few more songs, and Seiji wrapped up with a second, solo encore.

Guitar Wolf prove that a rock show needs to be exactly that – a show! They have the look, the attitude, and the energy – as well as the music. If you get the chance to see Guitar Wolf in action, do it! Just don’t forget your earplugs!

Rock and roll!


Guitar Wolf have three more dates in New Zealand:

Saturday 25th November, Whammy Bar, Auckland
Sunday 26th November, Kewpie Party Boat, Tauranga
Monday 27th November, Secret Show, West Auckland

Tickets at Undertheradar: http://www.undertheradar.co.nz/tour/7227/Guitar-Wolf-New-Zealand-Tour.utr

 

Words by Joseph James

Photos by Kay Hoddy (https://twitter.com/KayInNewZealand#)

Album Review: Vorn – The Winter Session

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Vorn is a twisted genius.

The man is brilliant. One of the more able musicians I know. Listen to his works and you’ll find him spanning hip-hop, rock, pop, blues, disco … uh … polka… Look, he’s diverse, OK?

He’s also sick in the head. He sings about drowning puppies and delays on the railways caused by suicides. My favourite two Vorn songs are about buying condoms and weed. But his music is good enough that people tolerate his content to the point that no-one has called the authorities yet.

Vorn

Never one to miss a chance for ironic humour, for the video Vorn has the entire band dressed in camo, meaning that you can’t actually see them.

For the latest album, The Winter Session, Vorn has taken a different direction. He and his band recorded and filmed the entire album in a continuous take, like a self-indulgent prog-rock band. Recording 50 minutes of music without break provides challenges. It necessitates good flow. There isn’t the same opportunity to re-tune or rest.

This can be seen as a downside because the music isn’t as varied as we have come to expect from previous Vorn records. At the same time, it makes the album cohesive. We still get a small cross-section of the music spectrum – the hip-hop track towards the end stands out – it just all feels same-y.

The Winter Session has a strong electronica vibe, relying heavily on synths, keyboards and effects like looping pedals. The inclusion of violin provides an interesting baroque-meets-new-wave feel.

In many ways The Winter Session contains elements expected from your typical Vorn record – witty, self-aware lyrics that see-saw between braggadocious and self-loathing; harmonised chanting; catchy choruses; crisp drums with strong focus on alternating sticking on the hi-hats; the signature violin; Vorn’s falsetto; sheer weirdness… But long instrumental interludes bridging songs and the over-saturation of sci-fi sounds add new flavour to the Vorn arsenal. I especially like the tabla beat on the midi keyboard that complement the drums at one point.

Because he is so odd and quirky, Vorn is doomed to both critical praise and public indifference. Thankfully in recent years some of NZ acts who dare to be different have garnered success (Kimbra and Lorde), but it’s still a tall-poppy market. Singing with a Kiwi accent is borderline heresy, so Vorn may as well burn himself at the stake.

But at the end of the day, this is the main thing you need to take away from watching The Winter Session: Vorn has a fender squier strapped to his front for the duration of the recording, but spends the whole time playing keyboards instead of riffing on his guitar.

Who would have expected something so pretentious from a dude from Taranaki sporting a mullet?


Vorn links:

https://vornnz.bandcamp.com/

http://www.youtube.com/vornography

http://www.powertoolrecords.co.nz/

Joseph James <3 Vorn and has drummed with him on a few occasions separate from Vorn’s main project.

EP Review: His Master’s Voice The Devils Blues- Woman

His Master's Voice The Devils Blues Woman EP Cover
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I first heard of His Master’s Voice when Mathias Hallberg reviewed Into Orbit’s latest album release show. I had been in the South Island at a sporting event, and came back to Mathias raving about this bluesy band from Auckland.

Needing to make up for missing the show, I made a point of seeing the band next time they visited Wellington, and Mathias was 100% right. They’re damn good.

The band sent me Woman yesterday. I’ve been playing it on repeat non-stop since.

His Master's Voice - The Devils Blues. Family of Strangers Tour. Valhalla, Wellington

Image: Will Not Fade

Take the blues and revive them with dosage of danger. Add filthy southern rock riffs. Swirl in a generous serving of Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. Drop in a few drugs. And then, amidst the swirling haze, you will find you have produced His Master’s Voice.

They play with such a swagger. Whether laying down a doomy groove, or ripping into a fast-paced swing section, the music is saturated with infectious feel.

My personal favourite is first track, “Burning” – a slow burner with a smooth, rolling riff. That is, until frontman Jesse Sorenson cries out “Come the groove!” And that’s exactly what happens. It all kicks in. If the bass line doesn’t get you moving then wait til the tambourines start ashakin’ and the primal drums kick in. And then, just to send you over the edge, we have a guitar solo.

There is no denying how much Black Sabbath have influenced His Master’s Voice’s sound. The title track on this EP reminds me of “Electric Wizard”. Sorenson channels his inner-Ozzy as he wails over a sweetly picked guitar melody. The rest of the band joins in, and the soaring guitars and organs elevate the music to the next level.

The only problem with Woman is the duration. 20 minutes is not enough! But I’ve been playing it on repeat and I can’t see myself tiring of these songs anytime soon. But honestly, what more do you need? Groovy blues with a heavy edge. Music that will possess you to dance. It’s just fantastic.

His Master’s Blues have pulled it off again, and Woman comes with my highest of recommendations.

His Master's Voice - The Devils Blues. Family of Strangers Tour. Valhalla, Wellington

Image: Will Not Fade

Woman is due out digitally on Bandcamp on 1 October 2017, and will also be available through the usual streaming platforms. The CD will be available at the EP release show at The King’s Arms on October 28th.

His Master’s Voice links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thedevilsblues
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thedevilsbluesnz/
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/thedevilsbluesnz
Bandcamp: www.hismastersvoice.bandcamp.com
Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/brando28
Reverbnation: https://www.reverbnation.com/hismastersvoice
Merch: www.thedevilsmerch.com

His Master’s Voice are:

Jesse Sorensen – Vocals and Guitar
Brandon Bott – Bass
Az Burns – Guitar
Renè Harvey – Drums
(Plus Paul Lawrence – Keys on ‘Evil’ and ‘Woman’)

 

Words and photos by Joseph James