Categories
Classic Album Review

Ultra-Depressive Rap Rec : Bedwetter – vol 1

Travis Miller is no stranger to stark, disturbing content. After several early (largely ignored) stints in genres like black metal and noise, he gained notoriety with his half-parodic Memphis rap homage persona, Lil Ugly Mane. Pushing the already dark and murky sonic elements of the genre to the absolute brink of their extents, Ugly Mane tracks either came out hilariously listenable (“LOOKIN 4 THA SUCKIN”), as legitimate, raw bangers (“CUP FULLA BEETLEJUICE”), or sinister, avant-garde opuses (“UNEVEN COMPROMISE”). Travis took the latter style and ran with it on his 2015 project Oblivion Access, his planned final project under the LUM moniker. Though largely ignored or underrated by critics upon release, Access created something otherworldly with Travis’ bleak and cynical vision — no longer seemingly drowned in irony or imitation, he ditched the pitch-shifted vocals, derivative or quasi-experimental beats, and gratuitously vulgar lyrics for a Travis that had never sounded so concurrently confident and insecure. Diving into mental illness, mortality, filth, social issues, critics, and fans, backdropped by a harsh, spacious, and disturbed array of instrumentals sounding unlike even other experimental or noise rap contemporaries (e.g. Death Grips, clipping., or BLACKIE), Oblivion Access seemed Travis’ ultimate sendoff.

Yet suddenly at the start of 2017, Travis returned with a brand new alias, sound, and supposed series. The first (and for now, only) installment was titled “Flick your tongue against your teeth and describe the present” listed as “bedwetter.”  His Bandcamp description of the project opens with “I really thought today would be the start of something different” and the album itself with a distorted, chopped up sample of John 1:1. Initially, it all feels a bit melodramatic and edgy. Until the actual music starts.

“man wearing a helmet,” the second track but first actual song, has Travis at unprecedented levels of vulnerability, fear, and agony, not just for his own music’s standards, but for truly anything I’ve ever heard before. Bedwetter raps from the perspective of a frightened young child being kidnapped — perhaps young Travis himself, or a recurring nightmare of his, or even a metaphor for the clutches of his depression. Travis scrawls this uncompromisingly brutal and grotesque portrait in blood and Crayola, filled with “chafed legs, denim tears, piss, vomit” and narrating his further decent into his (and his parents’, as bedwetter also notes) personal hell in this “hidden jail.” The song climaxes with a chilling return to the present: “all this time passed, I’m scared that I’m there still” before the drums and foreboding piano melodies kick in, with Travis’ urgent and deeply pained refrain: “all these f****** years, I just don’t remember.”

The album continues with further ventures into bedwetter’s corrupted psyche and personal agonies, via both bitterly candid verses and myriad instrumental interludes, venturing through experiments in electronica, sparse guitar riffs, unsettling samples and ambience. Travis flashes forward to the present day with “stoop lights,” a meditation on a life in decline. Bars contemplating family rifts, alcoholism, and self-hatred flow over the closest thing to a modern trap beat Travis has ever worked with.

vol 1’s truest moments of doom and utter frustration come on the final rap track of the record, “haze of interference,” an apocalyptic instrumental teetering between dark heavy synths and hi-hats and low-tempo boom-bap drums with the specter of a repeated Jandek sample looming over all. The raps are beyond cynicism, beyond fear, beyond contemplation — it’s a screaming, utterly defeated polemic against the agonies mental illness have brought him his entire life. Beyond even this, biting self-awareness and direct references to the audience and his fanbase are slung toward the end — “You’re treated like a muse / Are you happy now, Travis?”

-Ethan Myers 

Categories
Classic Album Review

Retro Review: Serotonin – Future Anterior

Serotonin - Future Anterior

Girls and ghouls this album is more than meets the eye! What a mystery – we love to see it, especially during the Halloween season. I’m not even talking about sound here, I’m talking about publishing. Whether you look for this album on a search engine or in an app, you’re gonna get a different publishing date. How old is Future Anterior? We don’t even know, but let’s go with the date a popular band info website used – 2003! 

At first glance, you know what I’m thinking. We’re probably all thinking it. Another butterfly. We saw it 2009 on brand new eyes, we see it now as a popular back tat, and we see it on this Serotonin album, but I’m not mad about the butterfly these folks chose! I can appreciate the symbolism. I can also appreciate that this butterfly is basically half robot. Look closely and you notice a circuit board shaped into a wing. Excuse me but that’s pretty cool. A twist on a classic that I’m here for. 

Now when I stumbled upon this little number in the music library the only thing written on it was a short review with a bunch of exclamation points – perfect summarization. I am not a big fan of heavy sound or screaming because I don’t get it and it scares me, but I love some angsty half-yelling. As the person who reviewed this back in 2004 said, it is off key, but wonderfully so. Future Anterior doesn’t hold back in this album, even in songs that start off a little slower like Impulse Response. The whole thing seems very genuine. Even if you don’t like the vocals, these band is full of incredibly talented musicians which is obvious throughout. I could totally listen to this album while building a chair or something. Would recommend. 

 xoxo

your trusty music librarian 

Categories
Classic Album Review

Album of the Week: Metallica – Master of Puppets

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The third studio album by the (now) legendary Metallica, Master of Puppets is so important to the history of music generally, and the evolution of it specifically that in 2015 The United States Library of Congress preserved the recording in the National Recording Registry; the first heavy metal recording to do so. It was recorded September 1 – December 27, 1985 at Sweet Silence Studios in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was released on March 3, 1986 by Elektra Records.

Whereas Kill ‘em All (the band’s first studio release) is straight-forward, in your face thrash metal, and Ride the Lightening (their 2nd release) evolved further into unchartered Metal waters (both of these records were heavily influenced by original lead guitarist, Dave Mustaine – Megadeth), Master is a full-blown leap off the map! The album is nearly universally praised as the best heavy metal album of all time, both inside and outside of the metal community. The record peaked at #29 on The Billboard Top 200, and was the first “Thrash Metal" album to be certified Platinum. It was certified 6X Platinum by RIAA in 2003.

Metallica was formed in Las Angeles, CA in 1981 (San Francisco has been the band’s base) by guitarist/vocalist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich. Dave Mustaine (Megadeth) was the original lead guitarist, but was fired just before the recording of Kill ‘em All. Cliff Burton was the original bassist until 1986 when, during their European tour, the band’s bus crashed in Sweden killing Burton. Kirk Hammett (Exodus) was tapped to replace Mustaine and has been a constant ever since. Jason Newsted (Flotsam and Jetsam) replaced Burton (R.I.P.), until January 2001. Robert Trujillo (Suicidal Tendencies; Infectious Grooves; Black Label Society) stepped-up in 2003 and has been a solid member on the bass to the present day.

Master stretched Metallica’s previous “thrash metal" sound, and invented a new one! A heavier, darker feel than any offering of it’s time. Hetfield’s vocals are deeper and chunkier and all guitars are drop tuned. The overarching theme of the record concerns control and the abuse of power (notice the cover art), as the title track suggests; as well as Battery, The Thing That Should Not Be, and Leper Messiah (directed toward the televangelists of the 80’s). Welcome Home (Sanitarium) expresses a result of such abuse. Disposable Heroes addresses the subject from the point of view of soldiers sent to endless wars on behalf of the elites. And Orion is a beautiful instrumental, composed by Cliff Burton, putting on full display his classical training. Don’t let my “beautiful” description fool you, though, this song is a beating; while Battery is the fastest, and The Thing That Should Not Be is the heaviest.

The “O.G. Metalhead" (a.k.a., my dad!) saw Metallica (with Cliff on bass) in 1986, in Binghamton, NY during the band’s first arena/stadium tour supporting Ozzy. “We had never heard of them. Upon seeing them perform, we had never seen or heard anything like it before! The rest is history!” I finally got to see them in Atlanta in 2018, and again right here in Raleighwood, January of this year (2019).

Favorite songs: Master of Puppets (duh!); The Thing That Should Not Be

Rating: 10/10!!

Stay Metal,

THE SAW

Categories
Classic Album Review

Retro Review: Hafdís Huld – Synchronised Swimmers

Hafdís Huld - Synchronised Swimmers

Aw. It’s nice. More like pop, with very sweet and gentle vibes. I probably would not put Huld’s Synchronised Swimmers (she spells it that way idk) on at a party, but I could appreciate it playing at my local bookstore. Perhaps it might do well in a quaint coffee shop as well. It definitely doesn’t rock, but Hafdís Huld’s talent is undeniable, so I’m not mad about.

 All of these tracks sound nice. That’s really the best way I can describe them. Each track is cute and sweet and kind of makes me picture bunnies in the grass. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of my day could be backed by this type of music. It’s just soft. As I said, though, Huld pulls it off. The vocals really are beautiful, and you can hear the raw talent. The lyrics are also gentle on the ears and the mind. It’s hard to screw up soft words sung by a soft voice. Again – it’s NICE. Like I would maybe be friends with it, but Synchronised Swimmers is not marriage material. I wouldn’t be excited to commit to this album.

I think what brings it down for me is the way this entire album is produced. The finishing touches seem heavy-handed. Huld DOES have a beautiful voice, but these songs seem too polished. Gentle guitar with occasional piano and very soft percussion is basically Huld’s voice in instrument form. They clash. What I would really love to hear is Huld uncut backed by some soft acoustic sound – something not as shiny.

Basically – fine album with fine tracks. Maybe play it for your grandma while she sips some tea and you help her organize her file cabinet. Synchronised Swimmers is mild and unoffensive. Not mad about it, just underwhelmed. Ending this review with a shrug.

xoxo

your trusty music librarian 

Categories
Classic Album Review

Retro Review: Hive – Ultrasonic Sound

Hive - Ultrasonic Sound

Phew. This album is a beast. Hive really went all in and you can hear it in every song. You can detect the hint of a thought process in each track but the genius is that the flow still leaves you guessing. Ultrasonic Sound was put out in 1998 (!!!) and still sounds fresh to me. Gives this album a listen if you want some new afterhours stuff, if you need to pretend you’re a spy, or if you just wanna hear some dope music.

            Firstly – that sampling. These tracks all have seemingly random soundbites from all over but they’re perfectly chosen and perfectly placed. They can make you laugh or pull you in as they blend with the rest of the track or scare the hell out of you when you realize how creepy they actually sound. The way these tracks are mixed just gives them so much power. Ultrasonic Sound only has seven tracks and all of them feel 3-D.

            The first song on this album, Ultrasonic Sound, originally grew in popularity after people heard it on the Matrix soundtrack. Although it can sometimes be dangerous to link music to other media and ignore that it exists on its own, grouping that first track with the Matrix is a perfect way to understand it. These tracks give you that feeling of anticipation and confusion, and the film really is a great depiction of the sound. That being said, this music easily creates a complete experience on its own. You can hear all of the elements in each track yet Hive has managed to create a balance and flow, in addition to evoking a response. Ultrasonic Sound is just a great album. It’s cool and weird and gets you in your head. Futuristic 90’s trippy hip-hop. Pretty Cool.

 xoxo

your trusty music librarian 

Categories
Classic Album Review

Retro Review: Havok – Burn

Havok -Burn

I’m not even into metal, or thrash metal, or anything cool like that, but SHOUT OUT to Havok. Killing it since 2009 before I even knew what metal was. Burn has that classic metal sound that would probably disgust your mom and plays in the background of a movie scene where the protagonist goes on a rampage or does illegal things for the first time.

            If we’re analyzing an album from the start rather than hearing it single by single, the starting point is obvious – covert art, and this one’s a cutie. Who doesn’t love skulls and weird dead trees? The subtle yet timeless metal vibes are present with a unique twist. I honestly think the combination of a softer color palette and spooky archetypes like the skulls illustrate the feel of the album perfectly. Yes, it is intense as metal often is, but it has gentle moments similar to classic rock.

I have to say I was hesitant about this one as I rarely listen to metal. In all honesty I often find myself avoiding it – but I am a fan! I just like it. Burn is a good album and there’s no getting around it. You can hear the talent Havok has and how well they work together to create a cohesive sound. Metal often gets put into a box and I used to believe the stereotypes I heard about the genre. I’m happy to say I have been wrong for quite some time. This album is what you need to hear if you haven’t yet developed an appreciation for metal. The vocals aren’t super heavy, and the foundation is built by great musicians that rock hard enough for it to be metal but won’t scare a newbie like me. I recommend! Yay!  

xoxo 

your trusty music librarian 

Categories
Classic Album Review

Retro Review: So Many Wizards – Heavy Vision

So Many Wizards - Heavy Vision

What a bummer. So Many Wizards is probably best known for a super popular track of theirs, and it saddens me to say that said track is the best thing they’ve put out. Lose Your Mind really is a great single, and I had high hopes for this earlier So Many Wizards album, but it’s really nothing to get excited about. As per usual, Kazerouni sounds great, as does the rest of the band, but all of the songs kind of blur together. It pains me to write this, but there’s just nothing special going on here. Heavy Vision gets a 5/10 from me. Sorry guys.

            At first glance, I was excited to maybe hear a little something darker from this group. The album cover they chose for Heavy Vision really had me convinced that I was gonna hear something a little gloomy from the group. We all love a dark album every now and then. This is not what we have here.

            Of course, one of the worst habits us listeners have is expecting every song by every band to sound like their hit single, if they have one. Even if we aren’t aware of it, it happens. One thing I can appreciate about So Many Wizards is their consistency. Their work sounds like them, through and through. They’re talented so they sound good, but there’s nothing that really reaches out and grabs the listener– kind of a letdown considering they had 12 songs worth of music to do so in Heavy Vision. Because all of the tracks in Heavy Vision sound so similar but are missing that pizzazz, the whole thing kind of runs together. So Many Wizards is talented, but it doesn’t shine through in this album.

xoxo

your trusty music librarian 

Categories
Classic Album Review

Retro Review: Rock*A*Teens – Sixth House

           Okay. Here’s the thing. We can all appreciate something that sounds even a little bit different than what we usually get from Merge. This album is different. I like that. Sixth House isn’t whiny and sounds like real rock, a lot less moaning and fewer ‘recorded on a laptop next to my dead aloe vera plant’ vibes – a nice switch up in my opinion. It’s also nice to have an experienced band in your local mix, but the vibe of this album is almost too gentle. Rock*A*Teens has been around since the 90’s so of course their sound has changed some, but they rocked way harder in their earlier stuff.   

            Besides being kind of underwhelming, the sound is also kind of confusing. The cover screams indie and makes me think of someone with long hair singing about crying and then starting to cry while singing. I wasn’t expecting to hear a dad voice when I first popped in my headphones.

            Sixth House sounds kind of like if Tom Petty was backed by a younger band that started off in a garage but upgraded while still holding on to their grunge roots. It’s almost jammy. Or jammish. Laid back with little to no frill, Rock*A*Teens is a respectable group. But if I had it my way, they would have stuck to their original sound and gone a little harder on these newer tracks. Sorry! Try again next time!

– Music Librarian 

Categories
Classic Album Review

Retro Review: Pie Face Girls – First

Pie Face Girls - First

It’s time to talk local. It’s time to talk classics. It’s time to talk local classics. Basically, it’s time to talk Pie Face Girls, Raleigh legends. The trio has pumped out newer tracks and continues to absolutely crush the game, but this is a retro review after all, so we’re gonna get as retro as we can with these local celebrities. 2014.

            The geniuses of PFG gifted us with First in early 2014. Hard to believe this album is almost 6 years old, and even harder to believe that these lovely folks have stuck around oak city for all that time! We’ve been riding this rollercoaster of jams ever since this initial release, and although the group just keeps getting better, their debut is nothing to stick your nose up at.

            First screams Pie Face Girls. It’s just so them. The cover is essentially looking at you and asking you what you’re staring at. It’s not anything other than what Pie Face Girls really is. We get the message without any frill. If you check out this album online, you’ll also see that it contains four songs, none of which are child friendly per se. Three out of the four titles could not be spoken in full on air and I’m pretty sure all of them violate FCC regulations – but what a perfect illustration of PFG this is. They rock and they know it. Each of these sweet tunes has the essentials: Klay, Dani, and Tiffany rocking our worlds with earth shattering beats and perfectly yelled vocals telling us what we need to hear. The shortest track, F*** You I’m Pretty…? Sheesh what a tune. First of all, gold star for that title. We love to see it. Second of all, hello perfectly performed grungy drum moments. Hi scary bass riffs that prepare me for battle. NICE TO MEET ALL OF YOU. This song makes you wanna jump up and down in ugly pants and fight to destroy oppressors. Same goes for the whole album, honestly. This energy is what Pie Face Girls does best. They kill it every time and this first album is no exception. LONG LIVE PFG!!!

xoxo

your trusty music librarian 

Categories
Classic Album Review

Retro review: The Zephyr Bones – Secret Place

Um hello, if the Secret Place is an actual place then it’s a place I wanna be! This Zephyr Bones album is only two years old, but it definitely has that classic indie sound that can be hard to come by these days. This is a great album that will absolutely stand the test of time for several reasons; perhaps I shall make a list:

  1. That cover art. Sheesh. Wowza. What a cotton candy dream. Of course the album cover doesn’t affect sound quality but it’s what caught my eye in the music library and helped The Zephyr Bones stand out against thousands of other artists we have music from at KNC. If you aren’t looking for a specific artist’s work when you’re shopping around for some new music – then what will catch your eye? That cover babie! Before you even hear it, you see it, and the artwork for Secret Place is the perfect illustration. You can’t tell what it is. The landscape drawn out appears strange and feels hidden, as a secret place should.
  2. Lets hear it for the boys! Indie rock has always gotta be rooted in ‘rock.’ I know it. You know it. The skater kids know it. Fortunately, Secret Place fits the bill! It’s definitely on the right shelf in the music library. The foursome combine all the right elements in just the right way, making a mellow, beachy sound that isn’t missing any of the great parts of rock we all love. These guys seriously know what they’re doing.
  3. I’ll take those tunes with a twist – a modern twist. A great album sets out to do something different, which is not an easy task when so much music already exists. The Zephyr Bones do a great job of showcasing their individuality in Secret Place. Psychedelic soundscapes back up their already solid foundation and gentle vocals bring everything together in a way that just works.

If you’re looking for some indie rock to set a relaxing mood that isn’t lacking in genuine talent, this is the album for you.

 xoxo

your trusty music librarian