Thursday, August 10, 2017

John Elderkin and ¡Moonbeams No Mas!

 
John Elderkin and ¡Moonbeams No Mas! 


In some important ways, The Fall and Rise of John Elderkin and ¡Moonbeams No Mas! is a musical narrative about inspiration. This seventeen song collection takes a lot of its cues from David Bowie’s seminal classic The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and, while it may not share its same commitment to gender bending theatrics, it does share many of the same narrative ambitions and clearly draws from Bowie’s album as a reference point. Elderkin, however, is an immensely talented songwriter who never finds himself bogged down risking imitation. The seventeen songs on this album, instead, represent how adeptly Elderkin has proven to be and taking an initial jumping off point of inspiration and expanding on it with a creative and musical vision all his own.
 
Few songs illustrate that better than the album’s first full length number “We Waited Five Years”. You’ll hear few songs capable of conjuring genuine gravitas with moments of unexpected, playful humor. Elderkin’s voice emerges from the mix with bell-like clarity and clearly has the capability of carrying a tune like this with warmth and personality. The golden oldie jump rockabilly flavor of the song “Messy Down Below” sounds like it was cut in a sweaty basement or garage and it’s certainly a major part of its appeal. Elderkin has the voice for this, as well, and throws himself into the performance with wild-eyed raucous glee. There are human voices creeping into art rock atmosphere surrounding “The Message”, but no lyrics or words per se. It is a brief number and has many of the qualities we’d otherwise associate with a spiritual chant augmented by tastefully deployed keyboard textures. There’s some electric guitar heard low in the mix on “Song for David Bowie”, but much of this tune devotes itself to a sprightly acoustic guitar arrangement punctuated by good drumming with a discernible and appealing swing.  
 
The acoustic guitar dominates “Keep It Down” as well, but there’s a dissonant edge cutting into the song’s second half quite different than anything we heard in the aforementioned song. Elderkin consistently makes keyboards work within the context of this music by using them the right now – they are rarely used in a musical “leadership” role and, instead, ably fill the gaps in Elderkin’s arrangements. The beautifully spartan piano of “You Got Sick” finds an equally simplified match in Elderkin’s lyrics. They are words that say more than they know and trying to uncover the song beneath the song, the story behind the story, is part of the immense fun listening to a song like this. “Fat Levon on Acid” is pure hilarity in comparison. The guttural, fuzzed out bass and primordial drumming jarringly contrast with the off the wall lyrics and imbues the song’s character with a discernible shape and mood. “Sore Afraid” comes late in the album and does such an effective job putting over its vulnerable demeanor that you will be immediately drawn closer to its delicacy. “Give Me Your Hands” is a wonderful finale for the album. It has some of the same zany humor that’s distinguished a number of the cuts, but there’s an equal deference to the album’s serious ambitions and a vital humanity coming through during every minute of this performance. John Elderkin and his band have aimed high with this release and it really can’t be heard as anything else but an unqualified success.  


Lance Wright

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Suntrodden III

 
Suntrodden III
“The ear tends to be lazy, craves the familiar and is shocked by the unexpected,” according to W.H. Auden. “The eye, on the other hand, tends to be impatient, craves the novel and is bored by repetition.” Biologically, this makes perfect sense. The eye can take in more information at a faster pace, and the information it takes in is literally right in front of us, so we feel better prepared to deal with it. The ear, however, gets its information around corners, from behind us, and in stereo. To the human brain, sound is intangible and unpredictable, so it’s more likely to be jarring.
By that measure, then, Suntrodden’s latest offering is perhaps the most appealing EP released in years. And if you parse that statement and think it sounds snarky, I can promise you: no snark intended.
Suntrodden III, the final installment of Erik Stephansson’s Suntrodden trilogy, is certainly familiar and expected. You’ve likely heard each track before, somewhere and somewhen, maybe on an elevator or in a pharmaceutical commercial, and when you heard it you mostly ignored it. It’s five tracks blend together, with each melting into the next and making the parts almost indistinguishable from the whole. I know that seems dismissive, but again, I can promise you it’s not.
Elsewhere on the Internet you might find comparisons to Radiohead and Elliott Smith, but III lacks the angsty immediacy of the former and the tortured-artist sensibilities of the later. It’s safer, easier, and less challenging—not quite a watered-down version of those icons, but certainly with a chaser. With III’s jangly tambourines and breezy melodies, a better comparison might be The Archies’ “Sugar, Sugar” or Simon & Garfunkel’s “April Come She Will,” or some other crowd-pleasing 1960’s folk-pop standard. III is lo-fi, indie bubble-gum.  For a musician, that could be a sentence to purgatory, but for the last time: it’s not meant to be.
Suntrodden III doesn’t break new ground or test any limits. Its melancholy opening track (“There’s a Place”) tempers the potential gloom with a xylophone, while track two (“Pure”) gives us a Summer-of-Love tambourine backbeat and an airy falsetto chorus. “Moonflower” tricks us into thinking it will break the mold, but after the piano prelude it relaxes into III’s expected groove. Then we’re on to “Never Again,” which combines all the prior pieces into a thesis-statement whole. Only the final track (“The End [Haunt Me]”) creates a momentary exception to III’s rules--with its rising orchestral opening and a moody, Ben Folds-esque piano ballad in the middle—but even this outlier eventually settles into the formula. 
So, if it’s so utterly formulaic, why give it a listen? That’s an easy one: you should listen to Suntrodden III precisely because it’s formulaic . . . and the formula works. That’s the good thing about a formula: when it’s mixed right, it does exactly what it’s supposed to do, and III is mixed right. Stephansson knows what he’s doing: the song structures are pleasantly predictable, the instrumentation is soothing, and the themes are comfy like a well-worn pair of slippers. It’s the kind of album you can play a hundred times as you go about your day—it’ll provide a soundtrack for a trip to the beach, it’ll help you decompress after a hard day at the office, and it’ll loop in the background, undistractingly, as you write a review of it. It is unassuming in the best way possible, and if that makes it elevator music, so what? No one wants to ride in a silent elevator. 
Suntrodden III’s strength lies in its safety and anonymity. Rather than blazing trails or shooting the moon, Stephansson gives us five tracks of warm blankets on cold nights. He gives us familiar and expected. He gives us bubble gum. Who doesn’t like bubble gum?
7/10 stars
Kent LeRae

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Sam Green and the Time Machine

 
Sam Green and the Time Machine 


Making his own way is what Sam Green is doing with The Time Machine, his music project which gives direction to those looking for calm waters in the music world keeps going on the CD - Which Way Is Left? If you like Australia, folk-oriented rock about the wilderness and all things positive, then this collection of tunes about that and more is right up your alley. If you’re looking for razzle-dazzle and period garb, you won’t find it here. But it does pay some respect to the form of music that some of the folk and world music groups of today are getting away with.

These gimmicks are of no need to Sam Green, that is all. It’s not the millennial style folk, so to speak. What it does have is something to behold for the raw, stripped back music seekers. Acoustic-driven all the way, with some moments that smolder on guitar and violin, however it’s all pulled off around his heavily narrative, spoken-word singing style. Something like that will always be on old school thing, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t any modern aspects to it. There is a substance to any style if you keep to the simple strengths Sam Green does. Otherwise it can be easy to get lost in this rootsy genre. But it’s not exactly easy to take this in large doses if you’re not into folk, it’s just a fact of the matter. It’s best to have some sense of it, rather than starting with Sam Green. But beginners can start wherever they want, it’s just that appreciation for such art is tricky. Not being a major fan doesn’t help me any better than anyone else. But knowing and liking are two different things, so, the album works if you have and use that sense. But on the down side, tracks like “Eli” and “Howdido” tend to drag somewhat, even though they also hold some fantastic guitar works and technically stronger parts than other songs.

These are times where it doesn’t come together as much as during more successful efforts but they’re somehow better songs anyway. It’s worth mentioning because it’s hard to find anything lacking in these songs. But as an artist Sam Green doesn’t rely on bells and whistles to get by with. Take it or leave it, but like with most folk it is the downright honesty in the music that matters. Marketing will never come first in this category, but this CD deserves as much coverage as any. I liked “Mist Of The Dersert” but couldn’t understand why it is spelled that way when it isn’t pronounced that way. Maybe it should be “Desert?” But you never know anymore with titles in the internet age. For my attraction to folk, that’s the best song but not the only one featured. There’s several to chew on that keep up with it. “Google Me” gets down deep, and so does “Love For A Moment.” Those two work the same way as more like love songs that can be called music pieces just as much as being storytelling vehicles. Both are soulful, thoughtful and well-written for the times we live in. Of-course there is a lot more to this CD and Sam Green himself, but it would take up too much space to cover every single angle. I will point out another Sam Green song “Angelsea” to get an even better read on the Time Machine, as well as all to be found at the website.


Todd Bauer

Paul Kloschinsky

 
Paul Kloschinsky 


Paul Kloschinsky was born in Saskatchewan in 1963. He attended the University of British Columbia in the 1980’s and received a BSc in Computer Science and an MD. After living and working across Canada he has returned to his hometown of Delta, BC, Canada. He has played in a few rock bands in the Vancouver area since High School. He is now a Folk-Rock Singer Songwriter. He won the 2007 MusicAid Award for Best Canadian Songwriter for his original song Wearin’ Blue. He released his first album, Woodlands, February 24, 2009 on Prism/Universal in Canada. In addition to being a songwriter, he is also an avid poet and photographer. That is as much background he’s working with besides the mention of several subsequent releases which have culminated into “Crime Of Passion” with mixed results coming from this direction. The songs are good and his voice is strong, but the songwriting and production are what suffer the most for a better than not album. This makes it worth sharing some good and bad thoughts, which are neither here nor there, but might help anyway. It wasn’t easy to even get in the right mood to give proper perspective to this until it hit me and dawned that it’s folk for the most part, when I was expecting a “rock” artist.

Once that was over I was able-to give it a better chance but still don’t find it overly spectacular in the process. As a folk-artist I would still expect more energy to back words of wisdom usually contained within the songwriting formula, but it could just be my own in-familiarity with him. That’s no mark against this release, it just shows my lack of knowledge and leaves me up to describing some of the tracks, hoping to turn the right ears onto it. For the sake of the song it’s never that hard to give an objective opinion no matter how into the genre, as-long as it’s good it’s still worth expressing a thing or two about.

“I’m Still Waiting” doesn’t promise a lot, so you can see hesitation is already temping, but it’s not a total loss as the album opener either. You do get where he’s singing from, which is straight from the heart. It helps him to get these lyrics of his mind, and that is clearly written all over the words. It’s pretty-deep but not so deep that it bores you to tears or anything. There’s just a pedestrian vibe to this, which doesn’t impress right off the bat. “Crime Of Passion” would have been a better opportunity to open with more punch, and that’s only the first thing I noticed. There’s more, much much more.

This follows with an even more melodramatic vocal delivery that actually-works this time. But this all takes a few listens to really absorb the beauty of this album as a-whole and that is why the most inspiring moments make up the best way to get the word out there about it. The product always deserves more description than the artist, so if you want the best of what this has-to offer, look no further than the tracks I’ve described, along with the greatness to be found in that of “Sooth Me” “Not Frightened To Be Free” and last but not least the final sleeper track “Gates Of Heaven” which you’ll have to hear to figure that and the rest out.


Mike Tabor

Kazyak

 
Kazyak

What Kazyak lack may in one aspect, they make certainly up for in others if that is the case to be made. It depends on your line of thinking, as they put together more than one style on Happy Camping. Let’s stick to what’s great about this album, which by the way is too short to be referred to as anything but an EP. Albeit it that way, it does have its big moments to hold it down and keep it classified however the consumer sees fit, and that includes any outlets where to find it. So many reviews are getting out without the artist being signed, all that matters is to give an opinion on their work.

This album starts out with “Sacred Cow” and it’s a killer way to come in and ease the mind of any mystery as to what this band are capable of. It is absolutely a cake walk listening to the beauty of this, but you don’t get a read on the rest by any of it. It’s the only drawback to this amazing way to get the ball rolling. It might drone on too long if you don’t get off on the pace, but if you do it does a job on the senses that puts some other tracks on the album beneath it. I’m not saying they don’t stand up, but it is a cool way to ring in what they have-to say and entice with a finesse not often found anymore. What that all means for anyone is usually good things when it reaches the right ears, but are those ears in the right places or not is the question so many are looking for the answer too. It doesn’t appear Kazyak are doing that. They seem to be riding with their own tides, and ebbing on as they see fit instead of following any trends. They could be setting trends for all to see as time keeps on. “Sundial” is an equally remarkable tune that doesn’t let up anymore-than the former. Both cruise into where the horizon comes out for you or not. It’s the rest that you’ll consider smooth or lumpy gravy.


“Basin” is where that journey begins, but it might be good enough to blind you from getting there, by already being there thus far. Some things are so good the rest don’t matter, if that is any hint to drop concerning this track. It takes effort though, or no difference can be detected. If that works, then so should “When I Lived In Carolina.” But if it doesn’t, you might as well give up. This is where it all sinks in or doesn’t. But once again I’m not going to spoil it be describing how. Let the music do the talking after, not before the chance to rate it with any substantial points to be made.


“Darker” is just that, a darker song to throw another stick in the mud. It brings out a four of-six overall rating from me, but it doesn’t mean there is one bum note to actually-be found on it. There’s just a couple of lows among the highs to reach for in the balance of light from darkness and vice versa. You also should read up to know where this album comes from in concept, to help all-the more without getting too deep in this review. “Happy Camper” gets to take the exit spot, which is another oddity thrown in, as the title track usually opens and doesn’t close an album. This is another mark for, and not against it. 
 


Elvin Graham

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Elle Casazza - ‘PROOF’


 
Elle Casazza - ‘PROOF’
From the so many things that I have heard and of which I have made some reviews, this is by far one of the most interesting. It is about the songstress Elle Casazza, originally from Michigan and currently based in the city of Chicago. Casazza shows us a proposal of how business were done way back before and are still in force today, the golden age of jazz, soul and GOOD pop music is not dead yet (our hopes in pop music have revived). This project brings to life an interesting infusion of genres and musical forms that you don’t see frequently on the radio but once it gets noticed people will be asking for it over and over.
The content is appropriately delicate resulting in a very careful, sensible and very well thought-out sound, true to the roots of the forms that can be appreciated and the times it is inspired from (seriously you are going to take a trip back in time and you will feel that you are in a 60’s movie and some hipsters are going to recognize the smooth vibes from the 40s). The first thing you can see on the record and what you will reign is jazz, with elements of the rock'n'roll form, in the tracks 'Hey', 'Save me', that serve as an introduction to the album. You can also notice in 'Last word' (if you've listened enough to Bruno Mars) those funky vibes that will surely make you want to move your feet to the beat. These first two songs illustrate very well what you can expect from the rest of the tracks. Then we find mergers between reggae and jazz elements in 'Too bad' and 'Cooking' respectively, the last one mentioned containing harmonizations in the style of the 30s and 40s. Casazza also shows us her most sensitive side with the ballads 'The Body Knows' and 'You' showcasing the genius within the composition of both and the clever result of mixing a jazz, blues and pop cocktail. In these she makes a great sample of her vocal abilities and set thing straight about her as a real singer, consistent vocals and definitely is not another one using and abusing autotune. 'Is not it good' is the closing theme of the album that although it is a beautiful ballad in coherence with the previous ones, could be used for a romantic scene of a film according to the whole concept of this record, a perfect ending for a perfectly made compilation of sounds. As for the visual and photographic concept, there is nothing more to say than simply beautiful, the selection of colors and frames were selected perfectly, the style is girly, flowery and very fresh. Visual consumers will love it and appreciate it. Elle Casazza has a proposal which not only is very smart, but also original, not everybody who mixes several rhythms has a successful or at least a pleasant result. Her ideas are exposed in a very clear and concise way, rather than looking for a direction she makes her own way and creates her own path without any fear of trying and experiencing.
I assure you, this will appeal to you. Take some of your time to enjoy her music and show her some love. Also, be sure to check out Elle Casazza's official sites and pay close attention to her social networks for upcoming events, news and more.
Jamie Thomas

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Paul Childers - Naked Poetry

 
 
Paul Childers - Naked Poetry 


The thirteen songs on Paul Childers’ debut album Naked Poetry are an emphatic musical statement. It’s a reverberating opening salvo for a career seemingly certain of longevity and leaving behind a meaningful influence for performers who follow him. Few singers and songwriters land in the public consciousness with such resounding effect and it virtually assures anyone listening that this is an artist who intends to produce high caliber music for years to come. The dominating style on Naked Poetry, nuanced R&B typically boasting a brass section, There are some interesting variations occurring over the course of thirteen songs, but Childers moves from one approach to another with unshakable confidence. It’s not the sort of thing musical performers typically possess so early on, at such a young age, but Childers has the sort of poise that comes along once in a generation. This is a potentially iconic career in the offing. 
 
His self-assurance comes through from the first. “Music Will Pull You Through” and “The Art of Being Twenty” are a fantastic one-two punch that serves notice Naked Poetry aims to be a substantive artistic statement. The first of the two songs concentrates more on conveying a sense of universality through storytelling while the latter song hits on much more personal sounding sentiments and strikes a nice contrast with the album’s opener. “Why Don’t You Stay?” shows that Childers has a remarkable talent for inhabiting the slow drag of a real R&B burner. It’s all the more remarkable how well Naked Poetry holds together when you consider Childers’ willingness to take different directions from song to song. The track “At Our Own Pace” moves from a patient R&B style with an emphasis on blues to the deep pocket and slinky sounds heard on “At Our Own Pace” and do so without missing a step. He projects the same vocal confidence on this song that’s stamped on the album’s other ten tracks and it makes it quite an entertaining ride. “My Love of the Rain” comes at an excellent place in the album’s procession – near the mid way point – and works better than you could ever expect as the album’s cinematic heart. It does a superb job with only a few essential musical elements and builds to all of the right crescendos without ever cheapening the moment. 
 
“Emma” has a very different flavor from the other songs for a variety of reasons but the curious rhythms of the song differ most noticeably from his approach in the other material. It doesn’t compromise his vocal, however – time in, time out, on Naked Poetry, Childers gives evidence that he can handle any style. “No One Goes Dancing Anymore” is one of the high points of the album’s second half and blends stylish R&B with pure pop strengths in a way that’s sure to win adherents. “Disclosure” is a different kettle of fish as well. It recalls the personal touch we heard on the album’s second track, but there’s a much cloudier tint hanging over the track than we ever heard from “The Art of Being Twenty”. “Throwing Shade” is the album’s last moment of pure glorious invention. The incongruous marriage of the upbeat musical arrangement and the darkly comic, somewhat cynical lyric is quite dramatic. There’s an embarrassment of riches on this album – Paul Childers has clearly harnessed all of his powers to make this a meaningful initial album that will stand the test of his sure to be long career.


Michael Saulman