Spotlights- We are All Atomic

I already thought Spotlights were brilliant. This is next level. Seriously, this ep (almost an LP- four songs, total running time about 25 minutes) is a new evolution. To use musical hairsplitting like I often do- it’s like the Barbarians in Neurosis crashing a Parisian cafe inhabited by Slowdive, but then, everyone is brought together by Isis.

But, what does that mean? I guess I could put it this way- you’ve got proto- post rock melodies- stuff that sounds like a particularly evocative soundtrack to a very artsy film, but you also have a crushing, nearly undefinable heavy, savage pounding. A symphony of bulldozers and windchimes. Twinkle Twinkle LITTLESTAAAAAARRRRRRRGH. Get the idea?

I like the art that presages something different- like how The Chameleons figured out “post rock” before there were shoegazers, let alone their spiritual descendants in Mogwai, or how Neurosis melded noise, hardcore, Metal and european folk music before there was a real sludge metal scene, let alone a Blackgaze or a Post Metal. This is where Spotlights are- poised on the brink of creating the thing that comes after the next new thing.

HOVENWEEP- Salvian Journey

Once again, I have to warn you- these are friends, so feel free to discount my opinion.

So, Hovenweep is a national monument. The name means “deserted valley”, and it features six deserted pueblos. It’s also the name for a Phoenix based Stoner rock band. Well, more of a heavy Psychedelic, post-metal band. What do they sound like? Well, I hear heavy groove based 1970’s rock- key words for me would be Hawkwind ( “Silver Machine’ era) Can, Faust, Deep Purple, and heir more modern equivalents. There are also elements from the ‘post metal scene”- some shoegazerish guitars, some post- rock walls of sound- you get the idea.

The EP is called “Salvian Journey“- this is likely a reference to the latin name for the Sage of the Diviners- a plant used by the Mazateca for shamanic purposes- but could also reference Salvian- a 5th century french historian and philosopher who wrote a contemporary history to the the fall of the Roman Empire with the conquest by Gaul. More on why that’s possible in a second.

So, track one “Cave” is an atmospheric meditation on Plato’s parable of the cave. It’s like Isis jamming with Jon Lord. Track two “Salvian Journey” is the basis for me to invoke the Krautrock names I did- fans of “Tago Mago” era Can, or “Faust So Far” please take note. Track three “The Last Ones” is a sinewy Hawkwind style bass-based jam and a live show favorite. Finally, track four “I am a Locust” expertly marries a post-metal lead guitar (think Pelican, Isis, Cave In) with a Fu Manchu style stoner rifforama. ( Can you tell it’s my favorite?)

Honestly- this is just a teaser. You really should see them live, when you can- they have an affable nature that belies what’s going on underneath- the lyrics are neither dark nor light, but grounded in philosophy, religion, and experience, celebrating enlightenment, but decrying intellectual and emotional decay, in a far more balanced way than most bands in the broad “Doom” scene, with the possible exception of Yob. So, when this Coronavirus pandemic is in the rearview- have a Corona with these guys.

Aeges- Cover Songs From When Shaking Hands Was Cool

So, yeah- times are really rough right now. The quarantines, self-isolation, and social distancing are ruining lives.A severe recession seems very likely. So, it’s good to share. Try to keep that in mind.

This freebie ep was released friday in that spirit. Kemble also is aware of how to market and promote in guerrilla ways. So, these are old recordings, of the former line up- I can see how these songs couldn’t be released in a ‘for profit” format. Most of these were bonus tracks on the “Above &Down Below” but there’s one song I’ve been waiting for years to see released- a mash up cover of “Dangerous” by Big Data and “Only” by Nine Inch Nails- it’s really phenomenal! Also, no slight meant to players before or since but this is my favorite line up of the band. So, accept the gift, and give this a listen.

Envy- the Fallen Crimson

Ever consider that you might be listening to music incorrectly? I mean- take Envy, for example. I slept on them, just like everyone else. When I first heard them, somewhere around 2003-2004, all I heard was another knock off ‘screamo” band. I had no idea that they were an authentic OG “post hardcore” band who had been around for 10 years at that point. Then, when I was re- introduced to them around 2011, I thought they were fantastic- a fearless “Post metal” band. But do you see the pattern, yet?

If we are to consider music, especially commercially released music to be an art, we have to drop the thinking of faddishness, which includes so-called genres, and styles. Sometimes the best way to communicate through music is by a clear, clean simple melody, and sometimes, the best way to communicate through music is with an aggressive screech, and sometimes, a swirling mass of indistinct notes, and sometimes, even with quiet, murmuring noise. The difference between “high” art, the “canon” of established art, and “low” art, the body of popular entertainment has been long since proven to be a function of time and technology. This renders most of what we dismiss as ‘fashion” and that even includes genre as our own wrong-headed short sightedness.

Our tools shouldn’t be references- as has been said before- we should listen without prejudice, and simply determine if the art communicates a message to us, that we can incorporate into our world view.

Listened to, in that way- I find Envy’s latest record “The Fallen Crimson” to be an evocative success. I don’t speak Japanese, and I haven’t looked up any translations- the result is that I mean in a purely musical way. It’s the beauty in the way sunlight reflects on the barrel of a gun, and the way that love never seems more intense than when it is dying. The use of distortion, either on the instrument or the voice, is just a tool to indicate aggression, intensity, passion, and action. The use of melody is another tool, used to indicate order, and passive acceptance. The use of other electronic effects just is used to indicate uncertainty and restlessness.

Are you starting to see that it’s impossible to accomplish the task? We cannot listen truly without prejudice, we bring secret histories and occult creeds to our perceptions. However- I would suggest that for so-called ‘genre-defying’ artists like Envy- the wisest way to get the maximum enjoyment out of it is to attempt that impossible task, and abandon linear meaning.

Fotocrime-South of Heaven

Masks. There is a thought process behind a mask. Sometimes, it’s just an alteration, like phrasing history for a resume, or a little make up. Other times, like with sunglasses or a filter, it’s protection. My point is that we might think negatively about masks, yet we use them- sometimes the artificial distance is necessary.

So, Fotocrime is Ryan Patterson’s mask. He even altered his name for this- calling himself “R Pattern”. Musically, it seems like the kind of post punk the kids are calling “Dark Wave”, and lyrically, it’s all metaphors and unspoken similes. Even all the imagery is a stark mask of retro goth, like it’s 1980, and some British kid with a yen for Cabaret Voltaire, got ahold of tons of stock photos from 1956. This is all a necessary mask for a personal, vulnerable communication. It’s like “camp”- like what drag queens used to do- show your pain, fear, anger, and yearning through gaudy wigs and loud clothes- building up an image concocted from everything you have wrong.

This is similar to what Anders, Dennis and Sara are doing with INVSN, only more self conscious- and my reaction is similar: because of age and circumstance, this is “Soul music” to me. It speaks ancient pains and insecurities, from my early adolescence , circa 1980-1983 in a way I can process, almost even accept. Ryan’s artistic artificiality allows me to see through the masks of both personal history since then and the myths I told myself at the time to see who I am as a person, in reality. In short, this is art that speaks to my soul.

As such, I cannot be objective- I cannot wear that mask. I can only say that if you have worn darkness as a mask, and if you secretly love melody, and revelry at 110 BPM, you may love this record as I do. I really would suggest that you give it a try.

Torche- Part Time Punks Session

My heart bleeds. I’ll bet so does yours. That’s usually a pejorative, but think about it- since when is compassion anything other than a sign of strength- to be so resilient in your emotions that you can afford to be wounded on behalf of others? Compassion should be in every code of honor, every warrior’s creed.

So, in these days of pandemic, and quarantine- people are hurting in very real ways. First, consider how many people cannot afford this. I mean, how many people were just getting by, barely in service industries, or in events, or in other businesses that provide huge value to others, but little in the way of pay- they cannot afford this, and I can see a wave of destitution on the horizon, on the level of the Great Depression. Then consider the plight of people who already are vulnerable- people who don’t have the immune system you might possess, or might not have the emotional reserves to survive isolation. Imagine your lonely elderly aunt, already sheltering in place, who has her best days when she can make it to the grocery store, and maybe talk for a minute or two with a stranger. Taking this away might very well kill her.

So this is a musical release. I should be talking about the music, right? Nope. It’s an act of compassion. Not on the part of Torche- on your part. They have been hit really hard, and this is them virtually passing the hat. If your heart bleeds as mine does, you might want to consider throwing a dollar or two their way.

Wire-Mind Hive.

This is going to be short. For the most part,this record is Wire being Wire. Pop rock songs crafted to sharp edge, in the way only Wire does it. While there are no others like them, you know what to expect. Then, there’s “Hung”- 8 minutes plus of Krautrockish feedback, loops and dread. That’s not like Wire at all, but somehow it is.