Album Review: Man Mountain – Infinity Mirror

Man Mountain Infinity Mirror cover

Last year I spent two weeks on the road with Ranges, touring across America with them as they promoted their latest record, climaxing with the inaugural dunk!USA festival in Vermont. They teamed up with a few other acts along the way, playing multiple dates with: Tides of Man, Vexes, This Patch of Sky and Man Mountain.

I’ll forgive you if you weren’t familiar with Man Mountain before now. It is hard to maintain a presence with only four recorded songs out (The 2013 EP, To Call Each Thing By Its Right Name, and 2015 single “To Be Made As New’). I have a feeling that this début album, Infinity Mirror (Spartan Records) will change this, and earn Man Mountain deserved awareness within the scene.

Man Mountain David in Columbus

As I mentioned, I’ve spent a bit of time with the band. Man Mountain shared a four dates with Ranges on tour, and we all hung out over dunk!festival weekend, so I came to befriend them all. I remember standing outside a venue one night after the show, and Bryan shared with me about how Lowercase Noises influenced him to start playing ambient guitar music, which led to him joining the band. It’s a big effort because he needs to travel a long way to attend band practice, but is totally worth it because his friends in the band are awesome. And he totally has a point – they’re all genuine, down-to-earth guys who all share a love for the film Face/Off. Plus Mike has one of the greatest beards I’ve ever laid eyes on – who wouldn’t want to be in a band with a man that facially talented?

And their music is great too. Their playing casts a hypnotic spell. There are certainly a few videos floating around of me dancing along to the music, caught up in the immense magnitude of it all. It’s a shame that Man Mountain didn’t actually play dunk!fest, but they are more deserving of a slot on that festival than many of the bands who did play.

I love the DIY ethos that many American bands work by, the way that they create things for themselves. When Man Mountain played they would use flood lamps with foot switches to give visual oomph to the climactic passages of their music. It’s such a simple idea, and about as budget as it comes when you think of dynamic lighting rigs, but it packed such a punch. I can’t listen to their music without visualising that searing yellow beam.

Man Mountain Columbus

Something that stands out for me on this release is how well recorded it is. Mike Kalajian (Circa Survive, Prawn, Moving Mountains) mastered the album, and did an excellent job. By the sound of it, the recording process was somewhat experimental too, with the guys really taking their time to nail the sound. Things sound clear, crisp and articulate. I wish I had a copy of their vinyl record to hear the album in its full glory, but tell you what, it still sounds darn good just through middle-of-the-road headphones.

Jacob Goins just kills it on the drums. I already share a bond with him over our mutual love for Into It. Over It., but after hearing his playing on this record my opinion of him has skyrocketed. He showcases so much finesse and technical ability with taste. He’s not a hard-hitter, nor does he demand your attention, but he plays damn well, albeit subtly. The open/close hi-hat in lead single “Memory Trace” makes me think of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” – hard to pull off so precisely. And the excellent polyrhythmic intro of “Elysian” could just as easily lead into a Karnivool song.

Unlike your traditional model of lead guitar playing intricate melodies and rhythm guitar just filling in the rest with chord progressions, Mike and Bryan take turns playing dominantly. Like alternating sine waves, the two almost volley off each other. One will swell up as the other retreats, just for the opposite to happen soon after.

This music doesn’t attract many hyperboles. It’s middle of the spectrum – not especially fast, heavy, calm… But it is good. Nothing extreme – just done really well. Delicate and dynamic, with plenty to pay attention to.

Man Mountain’s music is reflective of the personalities within the band. At first unassuming and pleasant, and once you dig deeper you find quality gold inside. Understated, remarkable, and brilliantly crafted and recorded, Man Mountain’s début album Infinity Mirror is worth paying attention to. Listen with headphones on for the full immersive experience.

Man Mountain Mike in Ypsilanti

Infinity Mirror releases March 16th on Spartan Records. The 300 vinyl pressings have already sold out, but the record is still available on CD or digital download.

Man Mountain have also remastered their two previous releases, available for “Name Your Own Price” via Spartan Records or their Bandcamp page.

Man Mountain are

Mike Reaume – Guitar
Bryan Cowles – Guitar
David Reaume – Bass
Jacob Goins – Drums

Man Mountain Ypsilanti

Man Mountain links:

Spartan Records pre-order:



Twitter: https://




Review by Joseph James.

Photos taken by Joseph in Ypsilanti and Columbus in September 2017

Live Review: Thundercat at NZ Festival, Wellington

Thundercat Wellington

Thundercat playing NZ Festival

Odlins Plaza, Wellington

Thursday 1 March 2018 (first show)

I must say, I’ve been looking forward to this show. I last saw Thundercat at San Fran in 2016, and it was a blast. One of the most proficient acts I can think of, and with a generous dash of humour.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the venue. A quick search on the Googles told me that Odlins Plaza is on the Wellington waterfront, next to the stock exchange. I’ve been to events located there before (like Homegrown and Lux Festival), but I wasn’t aware of an actual venue. Was it in the whare? Or maybe a makeshift gazebo? And if so, how would thing affect acoustics? I made sure to pack my backup camera lens just to ensure that I was adequately prepared for any eventuality.

I arrived to find the snazziest darn temporary venue ever. I’m talking chandeliers and stained glass windows. It was octagonal shaped with a bar, outside eating/drinking areas, and terraced wooden flooring. Flaaaaaash!

Thundercat Wellington

God bless NZ Festival. Typically going out to see a show on a school night means getting home at some ungodly hour and feeling haggard and sleep deprived at work the following day. But these festival shows are well run. No opening act, and the Thundercat trio graced at stage at 8pm, as advertised.

I was disappointed to see that Thundercat (real name Stephen Bruner) wasn’t wearing his trademark Birkenstock sandals and socks, but rather red Chuck Taylors covered in comic book related patches and buttons. He also had Asian themed silk shorts and jacket adorned with embroidered dragons – giving off a Thai kickboxing x Chinese emperor vibe – and rounded off his look with a red LA Dodgers cap atop thin pink dreadlocks.

Thundercat Wellington I think as a general rule, most guitarists own a pedal board the size of approximately three newborn babies, dotted with small boxes that boast dials and flashing lights that sometimes enhance their overall tone, but are more likely there for show. Bass players tend to cope with less – usually two fewer strings and smaller pedal boards – although they compensate by having heavier amps and speakers. Thundercat didn’t even have a pedal board. He just had two effects pedals and a setlist sat upon a music stand at waist height. That said, he managed to pull off some of the most unearthly tones you’ll ever hear come from a bass guitar – six string or otherwise.

Bruner was joined by Dennis Hamm on keys and Justin Brown on drums. And although Bruner is the star attraction – known as the mad bassist who has played a part with acts like Suicidal Tendencies, Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, even our own Kimbra – his band members demonstrated a heroic effort by not only keeping up, but matching him.

Thundercat Wellington

Together the trio treated us to roughly an hour of fantastic music. It bordered on free jazz, but surely music this complex has to be rehearsed? Busy, cosmic tunes, almost like a continuous evolving solo with the barest of structure.

Bruner has such a great low-key vibe. He’s not one to take himself too seriously, and laughed a lot at his own expense. There were a few moments that he hinted at losing his cool over technical moments like an monitor mix and a cable crapping out, but they were few and fleeting. He laughed at how nerdy he was, trying to drum up conversation about comic books, video games and twitter.

Thundercat WellingtonThere’s no denying that Thundercat has mad talent. He plays bass guitar like few I’ve ever seen. You wouldn’t even believe that it is a bass if you didn’t know. It certainly doesn’t sound like one. He sings his smooth falsetto verses into the mic before stepping back to launch into extended interludes, his fingers racing atop the fretboard like wired up arachnids.

The highlight for me was watching Justin Brown play. Earlier today I was thinking about great drummers I’ve seen play live. You have your solid rockers from bands like Foo Fighters, Chili Peppers, Shihad. There’s the prog/math guys and general prodigies from bands like Russian Circles, Karnivool, Biffy Clyro, Gary Clark Jr and Incubus. And then you have your freaks, the guys who play for genre-bending technical bands like Mars Volta and Tool. After consideration, I still think that Brown rates among the best I’ve seen. Better yet, I had the pleasure of crouching about a metre away from him to see his playing up close for an hour.

All up it was a great gig. How often do you get the chance to see such amazingly proficient musicians in such an intimate setting? I was impressed by the new venue and had a great time, still getting home for bed at a reasonable hour. What more could you want?

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Thundercat is playing another sold out show at Odlins Plaza for NZ Festival on Friday 2nd March, before heading to Auckland for Auckland City Limits festival on Saturday 3rd.

Words and photos by Joseph James

Live Review: Guitar Wolf at Meow, Wellington

Guitar Wolf Meow - Will Not Fade

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.


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:


Words by Joseph James

Photos by Kay Hoddy (

Ranges Ascensionist Tour Update 4: Wichita, Colorado Springs, Billings

Ranges Hard Style

Tour Day 14: Thursday 12 October

Kirby’s Beer Store, Wichita, Kansas

w/ Honey Cloud

I can’t believe it.

It’s finally happened.

After two whole weeks, CJ has finally decided to rest. He asked Jared to drive from St Louis to Wichita. The dude with more longevity than a ultramarathon runner has reached his limit.

I’m excited for Wichita. Jared attended university there, so I imagine lots of his friends will be attending. Staying with his friends in Minneapolis was a fun time, so I hope there will be a similar party tonight.

We listen to the band Kansas on the way to Kansas, and then I put on Fleetwood Mac. It just feels right to listen to classic rock today. This is followed by the likes of Thin Lizzy, Led Zeppelin and Queen.

Kirby’s, the venue is a tiny bar opposite the university that Jared studied at. Emphasis on the tiny. It is plastered with stickers, posters and graffiti, and there is no lock on the door of the bathroom. Jared tells me that he used to work there.

Loading in is interesting. There’s barely enough room for four musicians to stand onstage, let alone with amps and drums taking up space as well. I spot a poster advertising a Staghorn show stuck to the ceiling. I send it to Alan from the band, having met him in St Louis a few nights ago. He loves it, but is shocked to hear that Ranges fit on the stage.

The band play well tonight. They play a 40 minute set rather than the usual 30 mins. The extra song is awesome, with thrashy drum parts. Why don’t they usually play that song???

But things fall apart after the set. There’s an argument between some of the band members, with accusations that some members didn’t put in as much effort as usual. I personally think the set went fine. It’s a telling sign that we are all getting too worn out from the long drives and inadequate sleep. It doesn’t help that the next band plays horrible, erratic free-jazz. That crap is enough to put anybody in a bad mood.

Jared loves catching up with all of his arty friends from grad school, and one couple hosts us at their house that night.

Tour Day 15: Friday 13 October

Triple Nickel Tavern, Colorado Springs

w/ Eyelet, Blind, the Thief, Euth, Shiii Whaaa

I had thought that we were due to play Denver tonight, going off an old tour poster. Turns out that gig had fallen through and we had a gig in Colorado Springs instead, a few hours drive south of Denver.

We stop at a shopping mall on the way to the venue. We’re all running low on clean clothes so a few of the guys grab buy some fresh gear to prolong the illusion of cleanliness. I buy a New York Yankees baseball cap to please Mark. He used to write for some baseball publications covering the Yankees on their way to the playoffs, so insists that I rep his team. He’s as pleased as punch once I start wearing it around, especially when the game is on at the bar later in the night.

We eat at El Taco Rey, just around the corner from the venue. It’s one of the meals I’ve had on tour. The food tastes outstanding, and it’s affordable too.

Triple Nickle Tavern reminds me of Triple Rock in Minneapolis. There’s a distinct punk feel to it. Lot’s of bands are playing tonight so it’s a struggle to find enough space for everyone to put their gear.

Shiii Whaaa start the night off well with their fun punk style. The following two bands are horrible, with lots of screaming, so I head outside to chat to Sam, a Ranges fan who has driven for over an hour to get to the gig.

My highlight of the night is the last band, Blind, the Thief. They play upbeat math rock, similar to Toe. It’s fantastic. I love dancing to energetic music so I make sure to get my fill.

Tour Day 16, Saturday 14 October

Shooters Bar, Billings, Montana

w/ In Rapture, As The Crow Flies

Everyone is in good spirits today. The last night of tour! The guys are keen to get back to their families and sleep in their own beds.

I sleep during most of the drive up through Colorado and Wyoming, but when we stop for gas I notice that we are in the middle of a snow flurry. It snows in New Zealand, but usually I need to go up a mountain to get to it, so it feels novel to experience it here.

Shooters Bar in Billings feels more like home. Good old Montana, with plenty of red necks wearing trucker caps and no sales tax – one place in America free-er than most.

Joey’s wife and daughter have made the drive to Billings to see us, and CJ’s sisters come to the show as well.

First act As The Crow Flies are from Bozeman as well. They play awesome, stomping southern styled blues rock. The use a truck exhaust pipe as a mic stand, and Mario the singer plays a sci-fi looking guitar that he built himself.

Following act In Rapture are a sight to see. They play industrial tech metal. They’re good, but their sound mix lacks punch. And although I like to see musicians getting into it as they play, the way they moved onstage felt forced. The girl on keys actually ran out into the audience and started pushing people to start a moshpit. The music was good, and if they spend some time refining their tone and mix they’ll sound great.

I know the guys in Ranges were excited to finish. We were so close to home. They dedicated their final song of the tour to me.

We finish the night with shots and beers (a double shot of mountain dew for CJ because he was driving). Joey is dropped off somewhere in Billings where he is staying with his family for the night, and the rest of us get back to Bozeman around 2am.

As hard as it was sitting cramped in a van day in, day out, as tiring as it was pulling the late nights, as grotty as it made me feel eating pizza and gas station food for many meals, I’ve had the time of my life.

In the past few months I’ve traveled from the east coast to the west coast of America, and then met up with Ranges and driven most of it all over again. I’ve seen some amazing places, but more importantly, made some amazing friends.

dunk! was incredible. Truly memorable… well… the parts I was sober for. Certainly a great time.

And the guys in Ranges are the best. It is hard saying goodbye and returning to New Zealand after having lived in such close quarters with them for two weeks. It’s crazy that I can count them as some of my closest friends after only having known them for a short space of time.

I’ll wrap up my tour blog with something absurd, an in-joke within the band that sums up our journey well:

Greets and great times.

Joseph James