Thursday, October 31, 2013

Video Vixens - Halloween Edition: Sensual Harassment

Trick or treat, my little Halloween revelers! Have I got a treat for y'all. Those naughty little dancefloor debauchers of Sensual Harassment have put together a devlish little ditty (a slice of "eerie dark disco" sayeth the Harassment camp) to get your Halloween weekend (Halloweekend) started off in a frighteningly good way. 

"Creature Feature" has all the chilled, spooky, sneak-up-behind-you beats you could crave from a song, and the accompanying video brings together clips from all manner of old horror movies (including some footage from the grandaddy of all vampire flicks, "Nosferatu"). All told, it'll get even the most undead to shake what their Mamas gave them.

Album Review: Psychic Ills - One Track Mind

Spoiler alert: Psychic Ills will end up in my Best Of 2013 list. They've made one of the best records of the year by far and then some. One Track Mind is a fitting name for their latest endeavor, because you just might find yourself unable to think of anything other than this record whenever you listen to it. Experience tells me those odds are pretty good. A murky, rambling wreck of gravelly, gritty psych-heavy rock, One Track Mind is a force to be reckoned with.

"One More Time," the record's opening song, is a little bit misleading. Compared with some of what's to come, it's almost chirpy. But the whispy vocals and teases of haze serve as hints about what's to come. "See You There" is where things start to really get cooking, throbbing with the beat of the bass and rife with crunchy guitar swells. It's not the first time on One Track Mind that the Ills come off a bit spooky, either.

The pretty little mess of "Tried To Find It" sees Psychic Ills dipping toes into stoner psych, throwing smoky washes of ghostly noise together with laconic, lazy vocals to great effect. "FBI" keeps the spectral sounds going with more of the molasses coating and a prominent, Pied Piper drumbeat. The last two songs on the record, "Western Metaphor" and "Drop Out," are probably my most favorite. The slow, steady droned out burn of "Drop Out" preceded by the smoldering instrumental swirl of "Western Metaphor" is rather magnificent to hear.

I first listened to One Track Mind in the middle of those magical mountains of Western Virginia, and being among those mystical peaks proved the perfect time and place for some Psychic Ills. Many listens hence and it still feels so very right, even without the mountains. Lovers of psych should find this record damned irresistible.    


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Bands On Film #48: Augustines @ 9:30 Club, 10/29/13


[photos copyright Megan Petty]

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

October 29: Augustines Day

There are few people in the music industry that I like as much as Billy McCarthy and Eric Sanderson, otherwise known as Augustines (also formerly known as We Are Augustines). Not only good people, these two just so happen to be rather gifted with the whole music thing.

The gents are back in town tonight with their friends Frightened Rabbit, and in honor of this event/in honor of a name tweak, I'm decreeing today to be Augustines Day (though March 24th should still be considered We Are Augustines Day, of course, and yes, these dudes ARE worthy of two honorary days). There's also a new record lurking in the near future, and I'm looking forward to volume two of their honest, heart-rending Americana. No doubt I'll see some of you at the 9:30 Club tonight for the late show, but make sure you get there in plenty of time for Augustines. You'll be so very glad you did. 


Monday, October 28, 2013

Good Cover Version: Murder By Death Does Sam The Sham

Pulp gave the world the song "Bad Cover Version." But seeing as I'm a sonic optimist, I'm of the belief that there's more likely than not more good cover versions floating around than bad ones. Good Cover Version celebrates the good, and leaves all that bad and ugly stuff alone.

It's Halloweek, otherwise known as my favorite week of the year. Which naturally means it's time to talk a little about one of my favorite Halloween-appropriate songs, "Little Red Riding Hood." Given fame by the campy, fabulous version done by the glorious Sam The Sham and The Pharaohs, Murder By Death takes the song and gives it a decidedly American gothic treatment, that somehow remains not really any less camp (complete with wolfy howling). Nothing will ever best the Sam The Sham version, of course, but Murder By Death does it pretty dang proud.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Week In Shows: 10/28-11/3

I'm feeling industrious, y'all. An impossibly beautiful Saturday afternoon is as good a time as any to plot ones weekly live music schedule, I think. Let's take a look at what's happening in the greater DC metro this week, with the added bonus of filling you in on what I'll be taking in over the course of the week. Hot diggity!

It's the most wonderful week of the year, my friends. Halloweek! Besides plotting last minute costume stuff, there's quite a few shows worth attending during this wonderful week. You just might see me out and about (with or without Little Red Riding Hood costume) at the starred shows. Happy Halloween, y'all! 

MONDAY, 10/28/13

-William Tyler + Janel & Anthony + G.B. Parker (DC9)
-The Weathervanes + Mandolin Orange (Iota)
-The Plums + The Bugs (Galaxy Hut)**

TUESDAY, 10/29/13

-Frightened Rabbit + Augustines (9:30 Club - Early Show)
-Frightened Rabbit + Augustines (9:30 Club - Late Show)**
-Southern Culture On The Skids + Los Straitjackets + The Fleshtones (U Street Music Hall)
-Cults + Sacco + Mood Rings (Black Cat)
-Pree + Conveyor + Brandon Ables (Velvet Lounge)

WEDNESDAY, 10/30/13

-Fitz & The Tantrums + Capital Cities + Beat Club (9:30 Club - SOLD OUT)
-The Dickies + Dot Dash (Black Cat)
-Crystal Stilts + Zachary Cale (Black Cat - WIN TIX!)
-Paint Fumes + Grooms + Guantanamo Baywatch + Nervous Ticks + The Ar-Kaics (Strange Matter, Richmond)**
-Mike & Cody + Great Caesar + Silent Lions (DC9)
-The Dirty Guv'nahs + The Federal Hillbillies (Rock & Roll Hotel)
-Neko Case + Shonna Turner + Eye Candy (Lincoln Theatre - SOLD OUT)

THURSDAY, 10/31/13

-Fitz & The Tantrums + Capital Cities + Beat Club (9:30 Club - SOLD OUT)
-The 2013 Halloween Circus (Black Cat)
-The Sea Life (Costumed Halloween EP Release) + Sun Club (DC9)
-Neko Case (Lincoln Theatre - SOLD OUT)
-Bootsy Collins (Strathmore)

FRIDAY, 11/1/13

-Built to Spill + Slam Dunk + Genders + The Warm Hair (9:30 Club - Early Show)
-Holy Ghost! + Midnight Magic + Ozker (9:30 Club - Late Show)
-King Khan & The Shrines + Hell Shovel + The Ar-Kaics (Black Cat)
-Elikeh + Mallu (Iota)
-Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside + Mount Moriah (Rock & Roll Hotel)

SATURDAY, 11/2/13

-James Blake + Nosaj Thing (9:30 Club - SOLD OUT)
-The Fratellis + The Ceremonies (U Street Music Hall - SOLD OUT)
-The Black Lips + Subsonics (Black Cat)
-Death Valley Rally + Ceremony + Under The Wire (Tree House Lounge)
-Tera Melos + Fang Island + Zorch (Rock & Roll Hotel)
-Pelican + Coliseum + Highway Cross (DC9)

SUNDAY, 11/3/13

-James Blake + Nosaj Thing (9:30 Club)
-Albert Hammond, Jr. (U Street Music Hall)
-Sebadoh + Octa#grape (Black Cat)
-Hunters + Baby Bry Bry + Big Hush (Comet Ping Pong)
-Born Ruffians + Twin Peaks (Rock & Roll Hotel)
-The Irrepressibles  (Atlas Performing Arts Center)**

Singles Club: The Flying Eyes

Some of my favorite Baltimore dudes, The Flying Eyes, are celebrating the release of their latest lp, Lowlands. You'll hear more about that later (and by later I mean soon). 

For now, I'd like to share with you a b-side from the Lowlands recording sessions, entitled "Raise Hell." It's a song very much in the Flying Eyes wheelhouse, full of bluesy, boozey psych rock posturing and Will Kelly's unholy, pitch-perfect rock god vocals. It's more than a worthy teaser for the record.

Get you some here.

Album Review: Crocodiles - Crimes of Passion

When I was younger, I decided to read some of this Marquis de Sade fellow I kept hearing about. I ended up tackling his tale entitled The Misfortunes of Virtue, which, perhaps quite obviously, chronicles the downfall of a virtuous young lady. Essentially, said lady endures unspeakable atrocities, yet keeps firmly to her mentality of the high road. The Marquis, cheeky bugger that he was, drags the heroine through mountains of mud with glee, highlighting at every turn the pitfalls of being good. My takeaway was de Sade's praise of all things decadent, debaucherous, and just plain bad. You might say that when it came to the Marquis de Sade, being bad felt pretty good indeed. 

It's my belief that, should their paths have crossed on this mortal coil, the Marquis would most definitely have approved of Crocodiles, and been quite a fan of their latest full-length Crimes of Passion. After all, there's enough decadence, angst, and sacrilege to sate even the pickiest de Sade accolyte. When it comes to Crocodiles, being bad sounds pretty good indeed. 

Sticking with their blueprint of Jesus & Mary Chain inspired noisiness, the Crocodiles gang shakes, shimmies, and occasionally blasphemes their way through ten killer songs. Opening track "I Like It in The Dark" kicks up the dust of Madchester, complete with gospel quality vocal accompaniments and a more than kicky beat. De Sade would be mad for his titular jam, "Marquis De Sade," with such lyrics as "I know you're not mine/but I'll be yours tonight," and that girl group meets the gutter grit of the instrumentation.

There's plenty more to love where those came from, from the dizzy beat of "Cockroach" ("Maybe I was sleepin/but I'm certainly not dumb") to the frantic fuzz of "Teardrop Guitar" ("When life is all turned inside out/all I've got's my teardrop guitar/I wanna see you cry") to the "You Trip Me Up" ode "She Splits Me Up" ("Her graveyard eyes they lured me in"). There's a joyous abandon to the sacrilege in "Gimme Some Annihilation," and a punchy beat to go along with it. 

My favorite song, at this very moment, is "Virgin," another scuzzed out ditty tackling the concept of being, a virgin again ("I'd put a locket on my lust and bury it beneath the dust"). It's a fairly interesting notion wrapped up in a ferociously frothy package. Closing song "Un Chant D'Amour" strikes a chord, the tranquil, heartbreaking prettiness in direct contrast with the unabashed aggression of the majority of the prior nine songs. The theme of disintegrating love is quite unexpectedly powerful. 

All told, Crimes of Passion is more than likely my favorite Crocodiles lp to date. It's a naughty thing indeed, and probably best enjoyed by those of us with a little bit of a bad streak. Of course, the good guys might just find themselves enamored of the dark side by the time they've had a listen.

mp3: Heavy Metal Clouds (Crocodiles from Crimes of Passion)       

Newsflash!: Win Tickets to Crystal Stilts @ Black Cat 10/30!

I love giving you treats, y'all, and there's no better treat for Halloweek than a pair of tickets to see the one and only Crystal Stilts at the one and only Black Cat. How very fortunate it is, in such case, that I happen to have such a pair of tickets to give away.

If you love Crystal Stilts (and of course you do), you've had this show on your calendar for a while now. With their spooky, slinky psych, they're the perfect band to get cozy with on Halloween Eve. If you want these tickets (and of course you do), just drop me a line and tell me why you want them. Easy as pie. Just get those emails to me no later than 5pm this Tuesday (that'll be 10/29). Good luck y'all!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Live Review: Deap Vally @ Ram's Head Live, 10/2/13

I've been curious about the ladies of Deap Vally for a wee while now. Sure, they can wail like nobody's business on record, but how does their dynamic duo act play out live? 

It was silly to question, really. Turns out this feisty pair was every bit as great as I had hoped they would be. Raw and dynamic, they were like fury in petite, badass babe form, channeling the days of killer arena rock with a take-no-prisoners stone cold fever.  

Shoeless, Lindsey Troy and Julie Edwards shook, rattled, and rolled the heck out of their set. Their songs have sass for days, fireballs full of gritty rock and blues. They wailed, they were magnetic. Their set was liberating in its wanton abandon and obliviousness to the rules. "You guys rock," someone yelled towards the end of the set. Friends, he was spot on.

These two spitfires are serious, y'all. Deap Vally is it. They've got the chops, they've got the look, and they've got it in the bag. Most highly recommended. 

[photos by Megan Petty]


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Get Yer Pedals Out #15: Starring The Cherry Wave

I couldn't quite tell you why, but for the longest time I've been somewhat moderately obsessed with pedals. Since I'm no guitarist I don't really have a valid reason for this, other than the fact that they both make pretty noises and are rather nice to look at. Much, really, like the folks who use them. I've decided to turn my inexplicable pedal fancy into Fuzzy Logic fodder, and I do hope you'll enjoy my foray into the ins and outs of pedal worship.

Listening to The Cherry Wave, it's not much of a stretch to imagine these gents have quite the pedal collection. Which of course makes them ideal subjects for this flight of pedal fancy. Not one but two of my new favorite Glaswegian shoegazers (Paul, guitar/vox, and Bill, bass), sat down to talk some saucy pedal talk, and they had quite a bit to say on the subject. Read on, fellow pedal lovers.  

Fuzzy Logic: Which pedal is your very favorite and why?
Bill: [intro to current lineup] My current pedalboard setup consists of a Boss TU-3 Tuner, a Zvex Octane 3, a TC Shaker Vibrato and a Tronographic Rusty Box, connected up in that order. This is a completely revamped setup that I've only started using this year, essentially because I want to try and replicate the recorded sound of my bass on our Blush EP live. When we recorded Blush the crux of my bass sound was my Rusty Box running into Paul's Blackout Effectors Musket Fuzz.

Prior to the Blush
recording, I was using a much simpler setup that was only comprised of the Boss TU-3 Tuner and a Shin-ei Companion Fuzz FY-2 clone called The Unpleasant Companion by Fredric Effects. This setup was decent enough but I realised that not only did I want a sound similar to that of the EP, but I also wanted to play about with dynamics more live than previously, without messing about with volume knobs all the time.

I find I can get similar tones to those recorded on Blush by running the Octane 3 into the Rusty Box with the right EQ settings. Using the Rusty Box last in my pedal chain seems to be very beneficial live too as it allows me to keep my clean tone as loud as my fuzz tone which means less messing with amp volumes in between songs. Furthermore, the Rusty Box's boost switch has allowed me to ramp up the level of my bass for choruses and the like, which is great for making things sound a bit heavier. The TC Shaker vibrato is something that is even newer to my setup than the Rusty Box or Octane 3, I use it as a slight chorus effect on some of our less fuzz driven tunes and for some end of the world style feedback at the end of our set!

My favourite pedal that I use currently in my setup would have to be the Zvex Octane 3. It's a crazy (Univox) Super-Fuzz-esque fuzz that emits octave up sounds on certain settings, I usually dial those out but it has an insane amount of low end which is ideal for trying to be heard in a band with three fuzz-mongering guitarists.

Paul: I pretty much couldn't do anything I do without using the Eventide Space, it's a stupidly vast reverb with a ton of sounds based on 12 algorithms. I use the reverse reverb algorithm a lot and I use one called Mangledverb loads too. You take one of the algorithms as a starting point then there's a ton of tweakability to each one, then you save and name that tweaked algorithm as a preset that you can easily recall instantly when you want it. I have a particular preset I've created called 'Washhaze' that is based on the Mangledverb preset, which is a huge reverb with a fuzz after it, which creates a particularly massive sound as the fuzz is after the reverb as opposed to what you're supposed to do which is place fuzz before reverb. If fuzz is before, you get the sound of a fuzzy guitar in a reverberated space (a church for example) whereas if you place the fuzz after the reverb you get the sound of a church being distorted. It's a pretty awesome sound. It's all over our second EP.

I'm also pretty ridiculously obsessed with fuzz and right now I have 4 on my pedalboard, a Blackout Effectors Musket, which is a highly tweakable Russian Big Muff clone, a Blackart's Tonework's Pharaoh, which is a fuzz that holds low-end really well. I particularly like using the germanium diode clipping options on it. The other two are a ZVEX Fuzz Factory, which is a pretty famous pedal, but for anyone who doesn't know it's a Fuzz Face based circuit but with a few added options, like a voltage starve control. Great for glitchy, noisy tones, and last but definitely not least I have a Smallsound/Bigsound Fuck Overdrive, it's probably my second favourite pedal behind the Space, I never turn it off. It's technically an Overdrive, but it does great fuzz sounds and it has a momentary footswitch that makes your amp sound like the speaker's blown. Aside from those I have a tuner (Korg Pitchblack) and an EHX Freeze which 'freezes' whatever you played when you step on it. Great for washes of noise.

FL: Favorite chord?
Paul: I don't know any haha. There's a shape I like, and I use it a lot, but I've no idea what it is. It makes a pretty sound.

Bill: I'll go with G Major as my favourite chord, I write a lot of songs in G Major.

FL: Who's your guitarist icon?
Paul: I have to mention a few! Firstly and probably most obvious is Kevin Shields, the man is just a complete genius and his music and guitar playing is a constant source of inspiration. Gregg Ginn from Black Flag was the first guitarist I became obsessed with, you can tell it's him playing, he has 'his' sound, and that sound is just so, so good. Dylan Carlson from drone pioneers Earth is just an astoundingly inventive and natural musician, I could listen to him play for months on end and just get lost in his droning guitar sound. The Gibbons brothers in Bardo Pond are like my fuzz gods, they create such a huge wall of psychedelic, beautiful fuzz. Lastly I'd have to say Scott Cortez from Astrobrite and Lovesliescrushing, he's probably the biggest influence on my sound. He just creates such pretty sounds in amongst waves and waves of fuzz drones and noise.

Bill: I don't really have an icon as such but bassists like David Wm. Sims of The Jesus Lizard, Bob Weston of Shellac and Blacky of Voivod are probably my favourites. They all have similar bass sounds, I must have a type!

FL: With all the pedals out there, how do you decide which ones to procure?
Paul: I'm on lots of gear forums and in particular I spend lots of time on, if folks on there think it's a good pedal, I tend to agree. I'm also a stickler for a pretty looking pedal, if someone has made something that I think looks sweet, they've probably made something I'll think sounds equally sweet. Fuzzhugger and Smallsound/Bigsound make some particularly astounding looking pieces of art, and yeah I spend a ton of time watching pedal videos online. A stupid amount of time actually haha.

Bill: Once I find out about a pedal that I'd like to try out, I usually search for demo videos of it on YouTube. This normally gives me a general idea of what the pedal sounds like, which is great. However, I am sick of hearing people demo pedals with the same riffs and blues solos all the time!

FL: What's your dream pedal?
Paul: I'd die of ecstatic dream fuzz death if I ever got my hands on a Smallsound/Bigsound Poly-Grace. It's a pretty astonishing fuzz/amp pedal. Probably best I just cut and paste what Brian from SS/BS says about it rather than have me trying to explain it's mind altering amazingness:

mystery fuzz and mini-amp.
The smallsound/bigsound Poly-Grace is a mystery fuzz pedal with highly interactive controls that can create a variety of damaged sounds. Easily achievable “tame” fuzz tones give way to unpredictable sonic behaivior with the flick of a switch or the twist of a knob: heavy psych bass fuzz tones, shoegaze textures, volume swells, octave jumping, weird gurgles and buzzsaw sustain…
For the technically-minded, the Poly-Grace is an interesting pedal; it contains a bypass-able transistor fuzz section, a unique IC fuzz section as the heart of the circuit and a push-pull output stage with selectable voltage – making it a mini-amplifier in itself that will power a speaker! Plug it into a 4 or 8 ohm speaker cab for amplification from speaking to shouting volume suitable for studio recording or just playing at home. The circuit reacts slightly differently whether being used as a speaker driver or as a pedal… so experiment!
The original idea behind the Poly-Grace was to build a small run of pedals which could be used by anyone – non-musicians alike. I looked in the direction of the super fun Cracklebox (designed by Michael Waisvisz and built by Steim) for inspiration and though the end result will have little value to the non-musician… this is the result of those explorations.
This is a very limited run of 20.

Bill: I'd quite like an original Univox Super-Fuzz!

[photo courtesy The Cherry Wave]

Bands On Film #47: Ttotals @ Kung Fu Necktie, 10/14/13


[all photos copyright Megan Petty]