August 14, 2016

Deep Sea Diver: Secrets Sublime (Album Review)

In a few months’ time most music magazines, well known newspapers as well as bloggers worldwide will be publishing, posting and babbling about their best 2016 albums list. Many of us will be surprised about some of the choices, but in general, there will be some sort of temptation to rank as much mainstream sonic boredom as possible on the top ten of most magazines, whether on paper or digital. After all, the music industry must have its share of return over investment, which proves that neurologically the common sense listener is easily lured by the “one chord progression fits all ears” algorithmic formulas of success.

These introducing words go to say that I do not expect to see the album I am reviewing in this post highly ranked in most of all the year end lists. Apart from such a future factuality if there’s one thing that I can assure, unless I have suddenly got deaf and dumb, is that the album in question here hardly isn’t, and according to my assessment, the best album from all those released so far this year. Without any overexcitement or exaggeration, it is a breathtaking gem, a source of endless pleasure.

If we stick to the listener’s perspective, the aural experience can vary in grade and intensity. There are albums that pluck the right chord at the wrong time and those which supposedly pluck the wrong chord at the right time. Thankfully, there are a few that pluck the right chord at the right time and these are often the albums of a lifetime. Those that will make any season perfectly comfortable. These sorts of albums belong to a timeless order where one is oddly struck with some fierce universal energy in a singular moment and that generates a specific inner harmony whatever that means.

Either they are deeply skingasmic or ephemerally spiritgasmic this type of albums is artistically equivalent to comets and shooting stars. They only come from time to time, but they bring the same glamorous feast of light even when they sound dark sad melancholic built upon some muffled anger. There are albums that are only a poor assemblage of songs; they aren’t even an orderly purposeful collection although with no particular intrinsicality. They are made instantaneous to be consumed like mashed potato for the eardrum. Just like matches burning to the speed of light. They are not intense; there is no depth in them. They are the sort of albums made to numb not to instill any kind of awareness in the ones who appreciate it. Aseptic. They are made for very shallow waters definitely not for a deep liberating plunge.



The album I am essaying to write about was released this year February 19 while the world was still recovering from the death of David Bowie and all the others that followed. The world was in a freaking state of shock eulogizing BLACKSTAR because it would not be trendy to do otherwise. People can be monotonous as fuck. So much good music emerging out there, from so many talented and highly promising musicians, but due to the circumstances, it is no easy task to catch people’s attention. They are, either too focused on the influence of a legacy or too excited with the prospects of a new long awaited album from any musician with very good press.

While for different reasons people were mourning iconic artists, the best album of 2016 first semester was due out. A Seattle based indie rock four piece managed to make a bold masterpiece without much fuss in a world, amidst the turbulence of an artistic sense of loss. They named their delicate work of art “Secrets” and secrets like theirs, ought to be treated like priceless treasures. These “Secrets” were told us by a fabulous musician, singer-songwriter who answers by the name of Jessica Dobson and her troupe of equally amazing diver musicians. They are Deep Sea Diver and they are a rare case of wonderment.

In order to cut a long story short, I’ll state that Deep Sea Diver debut EP “New Caves” came out in 2009 after Jessica Dobson parted ways with Atlantic Records. Their first full-length “History Speaks” appeared three years later and it was the stepping out of the shadows or to be more precise the plunge into depths never experimented before by Jessica and her three diving companions. The next step was the release of their 2014 “Always Waiting” EP. Jessica Dobson was committed to release Deep Sea Diver sophomore album around March/April 2015 as a way to ride the band’s momentum of creativity and cohesiveness but due to further advice, their soulful masterpiece suffered a nine-month delay and was only released February 2016.

Probably good counselling given to her, though I believe that such a wonderful album could have been released anytime. It is too precious an album, too masterfully crafted and its lyrical circumstances and existential angst perfectly translates the human experience. Afterwards, Jessica Dobson plunged into anxious waters and accepted the fact that her sonic gem would have to marinate for almost a whole year before turning into the sacred record it would become.


What is so special about Deep Sea Diver’s “Secrets”? Everything I am tempted to say. Just as the name of the band that made it possible this is an album that gets you immersed into it. It suffocates you in a mesmerizing elegy. You start approaching the seawater then you let it get up to your knees until it gradually takes you some meters below to some different light, strangled noises and awkward density. “Secrets” works like a pact in which you willfully accept to be drowsed into some mind-blowing vulnerability and uneasiness. Moreover, the odd thing is that there is beauty in all this. A rare balance: grasping for air and deep inhalation; a fragile equilibrium made out of liquidity and the solid evidence of living experience.

“Secrets” is a challenging album, a voyage to the center of individual fragilities, an intense narrative of the aches and pains of getting into and getting out love. "Secrets" is about the quest for the necessary awareness after peeling all those layers of blurred circumstances that keeps us far and away from the intimacy of the inner self when the human relationships leave behind a trail of bruised disillusionment that sometimes only by means of a deep plunge into the profundities of universal renewal.

I would not say that “Secrets” is a concept album, but i believe that the set of songs is far from being accidental; in fact, it seems pretty much the way it is purposely. It could easily be the soundtrack for a contemporary ballet such is the anthropological appeal of this particular album. There is a strong sense of movement and choreographic plasticity emanating from this group of songs that undoubtedly illustrate some sort of substantive corporeal intensity that guides this intimate map of redemptive songs. This album is pure witchcraft. 10/10.

TRACK BY TRACK

I cannot precisely say how many times I did listen to "Secrets", but make it probably about one hundred times. In addition, I am far from fed up. One of the most spectacular features of this album is that the more you listen to it the more you perceive its technical subtleties and charms, but the influences that either intentionally or unintentionally seem to be present in its making. Apart from some aspects that we could redirect to “The Shins” influence (though much more audible on History Speaks), or to Karen O and the “Yeah Yeah Yeahs”, it is the experimental presence of sonic structure deconstruction, so keen to Krautrock movement that are surprising.


NOTICE ME The opening track is a deliberate submersion into depths that embrace without any resistance and full of those troubled noisy silences of soon past relationships, which have entered a ghostly dimension of non-communication. The guitar work is incredibly imagistic and the song structure and all the instruments compromise in an elegant chaotic dialogue signaling this initial plunging therapy in such epic way. This is definitely a deconstructed pop song in Krautrock-esque fashion, reminding the riffology and the rhythmically dilettante beats of German band CAN. Fabulous song for exquisite eardrums.

WIDE AWAKE This song illustrates eloquently the plunging into the deep waters. The distorted psychedelic rock intro paves the way for a stead indie rock beat with some grounding drum pattern and hypnotic bass line with some top of the cake fuzzy guitars. Once again, both tonally and rhythmically, a very experimental noisy stunning song that guides you to meditation domains if you just focus on the viciously addictive beat.



CREATURES OF COMFORT Another great theme. Not surprising for this album will remain as a case study for the many years to come. Pure indie-rock again with vicious guitar work and excellent rhythm section collaboration with some additional dreamy keyboard and synths that gives to this song a brilliance and a textured density that makes of it one of the standout tracks of the album with a soaring chorus that makes putting it on unstoppable repeat mode.

SECRETS The song that gives name to the album is a piece of indie-rock anthology. The guitar work is a true delight for the eardrum going from a softer pop riffing to a more edgy and noisy sonic patterns with a superb bass and drum beat that emphatically remind of a fast train on tracks until it crashes into some imaginary unknown wall. The additional percussion details and the subtly of the synths all through this track along with the brilliant, at all levels, Jessica’s singing and background vocals. This song is like an ultimate underwater sword fight with those meaningful tormenting though liberating inner demons. It makes you want to suddenly cry such is its beauty. A definite masterpiece from intro through outro!

GREAT LIGHT Another uncompromising beautiful song signals the turning of the tide of the album. Underwater therapy structured around deliciously nostalgic synths. Then again, you have Jessica’s sweet soft singing. You can easily imagine yourself surrounded by a silent luminescent mass of water. It is a resistance song It is somehow the flip side coin of the closing album's song and announces the upward movement of resurfacing. That’s the kind of song that deeply touches you. There is an intense sad melancholy traversing it all.



SEE THESE EYES This song is another brilliant example of guitar playing full of delightful rhythmic and melodic details. Taking into account what was said about the album’s first set of songs and metaphorically considering that there is an ongoing emotional healing underwater therapy, this is the right song to open the second set of songs from “Secrets”. The opening guitar riff and synth swell that incidentally lasts the whole song serve to announce a thrilling track. Amazing percussion and drumming work of Peter Madsen, admirable the way he keeps the song on pace with his, I dare say, perfect notion of time with the efficient help of a gorgeous killer jazz funk bass pattern. Adorable match of tone and rhythm. This is the kind of song that the more one listens to it the more it unveils its musical structure.

ALWAYS WAITING This song appears on the album with an alternate version. In fact, this is the title song of Deep Sea Diver’s sophomore EP. A well crafted lo-fi ballad with some great bass playing plus ethereally gorgeous synth melodic details. An exquisite piece of beauty. Waltzing underwater. Delightful.

IT TAKES A MOMENT The distorted guitar open and the rhythmic percussion pattern make this song vicious and addictive. Then you add it with the spacious psychedelic keyboards, the background guitars and the sweet singing that sometimes reminds of a sort of Baptist church chant you simply have a killer song with that exquisite surplus of a string orchestra that transforms this song in some kind of an audacious aural experience.

BODY ON THE TRACKS This song is a masterpiece. There is no other way of addressing it. It is excruciatingly beautiful, intense; it feels like a set of razorblades tattooing your skin until it severely hurts, until you bleed out the demons that keep you astray. There is an odd eastern feel in the song structure that pushes it to epic longingness and nostalgia reinforced by a stunningly string orchestral soundscape. The frenzied hypnotic guitar playing by Jessica Dobson makes you feel the substantive anxiousness that underlies this whole album. Sublime drumming and keyboard parts and brilliant bass pattern once more. The song finale is of absolute sonic eloquence and opens the way to sheer perfection for the closing album's song.

NEW DAY The closing track of the album is like the coming out from the depths and leaving the emotional ocean of contemporary heartbreaking behind aiming for redemptive experiences. A truly beautiful piano, chamber pop ballad filled from beginning to end with that apparent fragility that the nostalgic tortured voice of Jessica Dobson that sings us so wonderfully about the therapeutics of starting again alone. A magnificent way of closing an unconditionally breathtaking album.

June 10, 2016

The Static Dial: Detroit Indie Fusion

Earlier this year, while checking my email inbox I did spot a message someone has sent to me back in late May 2015, yet to read. I am not the excuses and apologies, kind of person, but due to a quite considerable number of submission requests and to the literally huge load of music alerts from a variety of sources that keep coming, on a daily basis to my email, this particular message was not opened back then. It should not have happened so I finally did read it at last almost eight months after its electronic arrival.

This article is a much-delayed answer to that message. I feel thankful for the hazard that in a specific wintery January 2016, afternoon made me go through my inbox and thoroughly check out if any, of all received messages escaped my radar because otherwise I did not have come to know this band as easily as I use to with most of them. So, let us get to business.

Since 2011, The Static Dial had four fourth different lineups. Initially, it was Bill, Evan Starr and Faris Ansor. Travis Coakley and Josh Burd replaced both Evan and Faris. Afterwards, both Travis and Josh left the band with Mike Frizzell and John Shideler joining in. The Static Dial is actually an electrifying trio formed by Bill Gerazounis, the only founding member, on guitar/vocals and with songwriting responsibilities, plus drummer Mike Frizzell and bass player Mike Fredericks.

Just like many musicians, The Static Dial members are not full-time musicians, but quite the opposite since like many others, they face the insurmountable challenge of that fragile, but pragmatic/realistic equilibrium of daily life concreteness and art ethereal reality, which mean they have to work hard for the money in order to survive and make the music going afloat. The Static Dial hail originally from good old Detroit in the Michigan State, also worldly known by the epitome of Motor City and the heart of automobile production in the USA.



The city was also recently word of mouth in mid-2013 due to a formal file for bankruptcy after decades of mismanagement, which have left Detroit, plunged into a severe social crisis but the city is not just cars and economic disruption. Detroit has always been a hub for art, music, artists and creativity of all sorts with a prominent relationship towards the musical world, from Motown to Detroit Techno, from blues-rock tradition to the memorable relation Detroit maintains with the Jazz history.

The “D” as the city is sweetly called transpires music at every corner and I must say that The Static Dial stand as giants in the heart of the Midwest. In the beginning the band formed as a mere instrument if this is appropriate to say for displaying the solo material of the founder member guitarist/singer/composer and music educator, Bill Gerazounis.

This was mostly due to the desire of interaction with other musicians, in order to develop a sustainable and eclectic musical dialogue that would help shape an indie alternative sound, rather exquisite not to say unique, that we can relate to as being some sort of indie-fusion. In fact, one of the first things to grab my attention was precisely their concept of indie sound, which has to do much with the attitude and the open mind as well as with the blend of different roots.

Their indie-fusion concept it does not correspond to any indie sonority crystallization usually more grounded to some evolutionary post-punk trends or to alt-rock or even to garage rock from the 90’s. The Static Dial is too far away from a confined sonic orthodoxy. The Static Dial is just the opposite since one can easily acknowledge that they enjoy to explore and to experiment a wide range of styles without endangering their core of sound and the band’s identity.



When you listen to The Static Dial the best option is to keep an open mind because the label “Indie” can actually be luring. They are not easy to target in a musical genre for the simple reason that they stretch their musical horizon. They may sound indie-rock, classic rock, indie-pop rock or even some art-pop the problem is that they aren’t entirely anything of this but have a bit of them all plus more. The superb musicianship of the band allows them to masterfully blend and combine the different genres and styles without risking a tasteless musical “pot-pourri” some sort of “all genres in one” but just the very opposite.

The Static Dial has, so to say a musical backbone highly centered on Jazz and Classical aesthetics and techniques which make the combination of styles to which they call “indie-fusion” work really well whether they combine it with rock, reggae, Caribbean or even Afro sonorities. It sounds refreshingly good and makes The Static Dial a very consistent and coherent band quite different from the rest of the bunch. Their sound is not a bubble gum pastiche, quite the contrary, it reveals passion, articulation, effortless work to perfection because eventually that will pay.

The Static Dial is one of those bands that seem to constantly challenge some musical dialogues and in doing that they come with a pretty well known background sort of influence which is only natural, but are not as reflected on their sound as they probably think of and that’s quite obvious because when you read their interviews and press releases you tend to believe that the Static Dial are a kind of reincarnation of the famous 80’s British band The Police.

They are not and they could not be it no matter how much they believe they are influenced by them. Yes, I am not a particular fan of The Police as I am of The Static Dial anyway and apart from some rhythmic details and some jazz guitar riffs very much in the line of the notable guitar player/musician and composer that Andy Summers is but not much more than that.



After hearing again the whole The Police studio discography to clear, some doubts I have difficulty to acknowledge an effective and marked influence of them on The Static Dial. In fact, when one listens to their self-titled debut EP the feeling that arises is that it sets the path for the musical ground in which they want to move in and that is clearly a domain of dialogue between Caribbean and Afro rhythms, Rock, Latin Jazz and Fusion Jazz tempered with Flamenco.

Going back to their so-called Police-esque influence one can say that the British-American band was keen about mixing Jazz, new wave and Afro beat (Stewart Copeland) along with some inevitable punk. Robert Fripp (Andy Summers) influenced their work and to some extent, they tried a sort of reinvention of late 70’s Prog Rock with the introduction of jazz elements and Afro rhythmic structures. That is when they give their music a reggae accentuation.

Curved Air, Soft Machine and Van Der Graaf Generator are highly present in their music to be considered irrelevant. The adventurous mix that characterized the British-American trio is in no way comparable to The Static Dial. In fact, only the excellence of musicianship can be comparable not the aesthetic roots.

When one listens to The Static Dial what we sense from the very beginning is a strong jazz fusion vibe blended with Afro-American rhythms along with some guitar techniques that seem to pertain to Paco de Lucia, Al Di Meola and John McLaughlin more than to Randy Rhodes, Prince, Jimmy Page or Andy Summers.



Audio Nomad their debut album is an awesome sample of what The Static Dial are aiming at doing. They have a solid music expertise which helps them to make the right options, but without making the music sound like an ontological exercise of mere music theory.

They are in fact very good musicians always focusing on the creative possibilities music, dialogues can open and on how to make them a rewarding aural experience. There is both a structural and textural richness in The Static Dial aesthetics as a direct result of the mix of influences and the way they are stitched in their music.

Song after song the listener is offered a feast of rhythms and harmonies that seduce the ear and call for attention to the details. Even though most of the listeners or The Static Dial fans are not properly musicians or have a musical education, the path the band has persisted in since the release of their debut EP up to their debut full-length not only demands that one is quite at ease with the evolution and the intersection of music styles but also aware of the top quality performance of Gerazounis, Frizzell and Frederiks.

What one has here with The Static Dial is a guitar that sounds clean and at the same time with a warm tone that captivates and it does not take one much time to understand that all makes sense: riffs, hooks, phrases and solos nothing seems to be in excess but precisely the opposite. Everything seems to be in the right proportion not that it makes the song structures predictable, not at all but makes them understandable.



The same goes for drumming with a fusion of jazz, rock and Latin rhythms that helps each song to have a proper identity and independence. All of it highlighted by the flirting with the bass guitar work which is of very good taste always looking for bass lines that sustain and enable the rhythmic dialogues that flow eloquently from the Static Dial’s music and namely on their debut full-length.

AUDIO NOMAD: SORT OF A SONG-BY-SONG GUIDE

Audio Nomad was written and arranged by Bill Gerazounis and released in the last day of March 2015. To say it briefly this album has an undeniable Jazz skeleton underneath, fleshed out with a range of different sonic modulations, and stylistic sensibilities that work out extremely well. Audio Nomad is a wide catalogue melodic guitar, textured chords, big tone eclectic drumming and inventive bass playing.

PAPER SHELLS is a good alt-rock song nurtured by some groovy psychedelia guitar solo that remind to some extent to Led Zeppelin and Frank Zappa. ICARUS FALLING is a true beautiful pop rock tune with additional jazz fusion dynamics, but also an Al Di Meola touch and a cool guitar solo.



SHAMELESS blends an Alt-rock vibe with an undeniable jazz groove tempered with some eastern feel. SUFFERER'S PRAYER sounds to a laid-back reggae rhythm blended with some eastern perfume. One of the most interesting aspects of this song lies in the superimposed guitar textures classical feel and technique with the background rock guitar with the rhythmic section. SCREAM OUT OF MY SKIN it is a delicious light indie pop rock song that deeply reminds the Bossa Nova (also known as Brazilian jazz) groovy feel and nostalgia stitched with a pleasing jazzy guitar solo and some good indie rock sonic blast that literally massages the ear. SILK ROADS is a tribute to Al Di Meola “Race with the Devil in a Spanish Highway” but also to the exquisite Flamenco guitar playing technique of Paco de Lucia. A brilliant song. An excellent example of musicianship from these folks from Detroit, which are always thriving to combine classical, jazz, ethnic with a modern inventive indie-rock language.


FRAYING ENDS remind a Tango rhythmic structure from beginning to end, something not strange for the band crossed with a reggae swing and a subtle pop rock touch mixed with flamenco guitar elements and technique identified in the song chorus. It reminds Al Di Meola’s “Midnight Tango” and some Sting. WOUND NURSING sounds to an Alt-rock track blended with eastern elements and enriched with a psychedelic guitar solo halfway Al Di Meola and Carlos Santana again with some Flamenco embellishments. THE LION AND THE LAMB this is a very good example of the fusional nature of The Static Dial’s music with clear influences of Afro and Afro Caribbean rhythms. A mix of Funana groove, Cape Verde national rhythm, with Calypso in indie pop disguises. Danceable and full of rhythm. Works unbelievably well. DUSTING OFF THE LEECHES has with a very interesting sonic structure easily jumping from some Pixie-esque blast intro to a gradual Ska swing with a strumming rhythm guitar pattern.

ALBUM RATING: 8/10


The Static Dial is actually in the studio recording their sophomore EP due release this year and we are really looking forward to check out their new six tracks. In the meantime, they are heading for a Summer USA Tour so if possible go give them some live support because they maybe playing at a venue near your neighborhood.

May 02, 2016

Indie Talking With Danielle Whalebone (Animal Hands)

Indievotion publishes today the fourth interview from a series of in-depth talks with musicians/bands that we deeply cherish, acknowledge their talent, creativity, resilience and envision them as groundbreaking acts away from the inane mainstream numbness. 

The present interview is courtesy of Danielle Whalebone, the bright, brilliant and beautiful redhead front woman of Melbournian 4-piece indie rockers, Animal Hands. Formed back in 2011, Animal Hands have already received much international acclaim following the release of their self-titled EP with lots of highly praising reviews, earning them airplay from Australia to USA, UK, Germany and all around Europe.

Their indie, garage, grunge sonicscape filled the airwaves of college and community radio stations from Melbourne to Seattle KGRG. Animal Hands are recording their debut album at Birdland studios and directly working with prestigious Australian producer/musician Lindsay Gravina and aim to release their first single off the debut album by the end of 2016. One final and grateful word to Danielle Whalebone for her prompt, generosity and cooperation without which this amazing interview would not have been possible. Enjoy!

Animal Hands formed back in 2011. How did it happen and in which way did your cultural and musical background contribute to forming a band?

When I was very young my mother used to buy me blank tapes and I would spend hours recording songs and stories making my own sound effects. When I got older I became a part of the tape sharing culture. We would compete to be the first to discover and share new indie bands music, most of the people I hung around with were like myself from broken homes. We would hang out at skate parks, smoke weed, trawl op shops looking for cheap vintage clothes and go to underage gigs. I always admired female rock artists, they were not ‘princess’ types but were still very stylish, they had a strength that I wished to possess. They didn't care about what people thought of them and I wished, as a teenage girl to be like them. Starting my band seemed a natural conclusion, it is the culture I grew up in.

Is there any particular meaning for the name of the band or is it merely a name with no further “metaphysical” explanation?

It was my intention to give my band a name that has no singular way that it can be interpreted. In essence it is a blend of the Australian films Animal Kingdom and Two Hands both of these films possess a female character that was very underestimated, it is my homage to Janine and Helen. It also refers to human nature, art is an important domain of inquiry into human nature and into the question of what it is to be human.



You are not a full time musician. How do you see the artist’s challenge of balancing life and art and to what extent does it interfere with your creative process, rehearsal logistics and recording process?

It is a constant source of frustration for me, I feel that I have so much more that I could achieve artistically if I just had the time. I have not stopped for a break in five years even after an operation last year and feel that I have achieved little of my actual potential as an artist and performer. I have a Dip in Child Psychology and I’m currently studying for a Dip in Case Management. Recently I’ve been offered a position caring for children who have suffered from trauma and abuse, for the past few years I have been caring for people with disabilities that have extremely high physical needs. My work is very stressful but extremely rewarding, as is raising my family and being the head of a band. I have spent the past year saving to record at Birdland, to me it is like skydiving it is exhilarating knowing that I can't afford to make mistakes, it is a break from reality for me. I have one night a week to rehearse with the band and spend every spare minute I have studying, working on music, writing, editing etc. The balance is nearly impossible and I feel that due to prioritising, music comes last, it really is a privilege to pursue.

Animal Hands are frequently defined as a post - grunge band. Do you feel comfortable with this labelling of the band or do you consider that this labelling is somehow short sighted?

I do feel comfortable with the label because I am influenced by the music of the late eighties and nineties that was labeled ‘grunge’ the word itself to me has a certain stigma but it is one I can certainly live with. The only time I have travelled out of Australia was to go to Seattle to pay my respects. Seattle is like a sister city to Melbourne I loved it there, I even had the good fortune of catching Sonic Youth at the Moore Theatre, it was amazing. A few years later I meet Courtney Love, Eric Erlandson and Melissa Auf der Maur when Hole was on tour, that era in music defined who I am today. I hope not to be an artist that is perceived as simply trying to mimic or rehash this era in music. I believe I have other influences that also play a part in my songwriting.



Taking into account your previous answer how would you then define Animal Hands sound and what is your musical comfort zone if you think there is one?

It’s doomy, fuzz laden, dirty guitar with nearly new wave influences coming through at times, especially with my style of songwriting. There are moments where it gets really psychedelic with the drone of my SG played with the cello bow, it is a sound that I have been playing around with during the recording of the album. As I have gone through the recording process I have learned allot about how I have been ‘thinking’ about music, I tend to fill in the space more than I need to. It is all about the space and the artists who are manipulating the sound waves. I am very rarely comfortable; I am constantly trying to overcome my feelings of insecurity as a musician. Having no formal education I lack the ability to converse in musical terms and feel that I am often on a back foot when working with other musicians. Although due to my lack of formal education I find that I am free to explore music without the formulas that can stifle creativity.

You’re often compared to Adalita Srsen from Magic Dirt. How does it feel and how do you cope with such honorable comparison?

It is overwhelming, obviously Adalita has had an extreme influence on me as an artist, she is an enduring source of inspiration, as are all the members of Magic Dirt. They personify the strength that is required to endure as artists having suffered such as they have. It is such an honorable comparison and I hope it is because I am perceived as having the same kind of integrity as an artist, but I would never consider it to be anything more than that.

Australia is some gold mine of talented musicians and bands. As a Melbourne based musician how would you describe the Australian indie/alternative music scene and in particular the Melbourne one?

Cut throat and cliquey, but the cream definitely rises to the top. Unfortunately with the closing of venues and people's inclination to socialise on the web it is a shame that new independent bands don't get the same opportunities as they would have in the past. I feel the climate is similar to that of the nineties with a reemergence of the ‘cock rockers’ and the more understated ‘grunge’ crowd. It’s an Axl Rose Vs Kurt thing going on with the up and coming bands. I can appreciate the musicianship but that misogynist scene really irks me. My band recently played a festival with a bunch of those bands and it wasn't a good vibe for a woman backstage.

Which bands and/or musicians did influence you most and why and to which extent they still contribute to your creative imagination?

There are too many to name, I feel uncomfortable putting them in any order but there are particular artists whose music has a transcendent quality and who's lyrics speak of the human condition, they are my constant inspiration for creativity. Rowland S Howard and Patti Smith always come to mind.



Animal Hands did as far as we know a cover version The The’s “This is The Day”. Why a Matt Johnson song and is doing covers something you really like to do and considering future ones?

I first picked up a guitar with the sole intention of writing my own songs; I learned chords and started to write. I thought that learning other people's songs would pollute my own writing, to quote Iggy Pop ‘its like having dirty water come down the pipes’. Having said this I really dig clever covers, I listen to New Wave music allot and I thought “This is the day” has an irony that would add a bit of humor to Animal Hands quite melancholy debut EP. We are also recording a cover for the upcoming album another New Wave track by the Split Enz, when I was very young I thought this song was about having nightmares which was really cool to me.

Can it be objectively said that Animal Hands creative process is somewhat influenced by their urban environment or are there any other variables?

Yes, my songwriting is definitely influenced by my environment the neighbors tolerate my loud music, so when I'm inspired to play I can go for it with very few noise complaints lol. Also we have some great local venues that have touring bands coming through all the time it creates a buzz that can be felt in the street, the music culture in the hills is really prevalent.

Animal Hands had some lineup changes since 2011 particularly with the rhythmic section. You were looking for a bass player very recently after the last endured less than a year with the band. What are the main reasons related with this non lineup stability and how does it influences/delays dynamics, sound redefinition and working process of the band?

The delays due to the constant changes in the lineup make me miserable, it has been extraordinarily difficult to keep going with so many setbacks both financially and emotionally. The primary reason I believe is that I push myself really hard and set a standard that is intense, majority of the musicians I have worked with believe that they are up to coping with the level of stress with performing and recording and find that they are unable to, they begin to be destructive towards each other or self-sabotage. Also there is not a lot of incentive to keep going when the pay is so low and the commitment is so high, you have to really enjoy the culture of being in a band. Another reason is gender based; I have had a few members become physically and emotionally abusive towards me. I believe they saw me as a gimmick that can be used to make them money or someone that they can push around and bend to their will. It is my creative vision, I found it and I do a great deal of work keeping it going. I won't tolerate people trying to push me aside and take over, I treat everyone in the band with respect and I expect the same in return. I have had opportunities pass by and that is really disappointing, it is like having a broken go kart and watching all the racers go past. It really is about the principal, I want to know I achieved this goal because of my hard work and commitment not because someone did it for me. It’s very difficult finding people with the same influences musically therefore the sound is constantly being redefined, but it is important to surround myself with people who get satisfaction out of the experience of being in a working band.

How would you describe Animal Hands songwriting and composing process as well as the main trends of your lyrics? Do they come to mind naturally or do you revise them over a period of time before getting ready to studio?

To date I have written the songs and taken them to the band where they contribute their parts. I very rarely write lyrics for a song from beginning to end, I am always writing phrases or lines in my journal that are usually quite introspective. I also have melodies playing in my head and I write the chord structures down, often they will come with a phrase that may be a verse or a chorus and I will begin to construct the song from there. Often flipping through my journals for the right lines that work to express the emotion of the song. Very rarely will a story come out in its entirety or I have an outpouring of sequential thoughts. When it does happen I find it difficult to put a melody to the words, I am hoping with the improvising that the band has been doing lately that this form of writing will be useful. Generally in the interest of time saving in the studio we try to have the songs pretty set in stone, time is money in there and I don't like to waste it.



Animal Hands are about to finish their debut LP recording process. Your fan base is rather looking forward to it. What can you tell them about how things are going up to now and for when are you scheduling the album’s release?

Recording is my favorite aspect of being in a band, it is good stress and Birdland is a wonderful space to hang out in. Lindsay has taught me so much, I am so pleased that I initially worked with him on our EP. He gave me a crash course on how to manage studio time, add layers and work on arrangements. If I had never worked with him I wouldn’t have had the confidence to take on the task of recording our first album. As always it is a matter of finance and I have to wait until I have the money to re-record the bass lines and lead lines. I aim to release the first single off the album later this year.

When in comparison with previous material and particularly with Animal Hands EP and later with Roaring Girlie and Edge of The World singles released in 2014, what can we sonically expect from this album?

I think it is a really well balanced album, it has texture and energy. Some of the songs are more in your face with heavy distortion and others verge on ballads, yet I feel that they all interlink with each other well. They are more in the vain of ‘Roaring Girle’ I was wanting to maintain that edge, my intention was to bring the raw elements of performing them live into the studio, I think so far we have achieved that goal.

Considering that Animal Hands have always adopted a fully DIY approach to music industry how do you see the actual state of corporate music business in Australia right now?

From what I understand the best way for an independent band without artist representation or a distribution deal to attain exposure and financial gain is through the multimedia primarily through having music film clips on YouTube and social networks. Due to piracy and those damn people sharing tapes, I mean mp3’s there is not allot of revenue collected through digital sales of music for bands starting out. The best way to sell music is if you have a great recording press it to vinyl, sales of records are rising. Invest the money made at gigs into the band, advertise and have merchandise to sell. Design your own posters and shirts, make your own film clips and if you want to be completely DIY recording yourself is the best way to keep overheads down. Network and support independent radio stations, play with bands that aren’t trying to ladder climb, work with ones who are trying to create a scene that supports each other. As for the corporate music business in Australia, I would have no idea. All I know is allot of talented artists are waiting for the guy in the suit carrying a bag full of money but chances are he is not coming. So the best plan is to get to work do your own PR, even create your own indie label.

Are there any plans concerning touring Australia and if not Europe in a near future to promote the debut album? What would be the costs and logistics associated to touring the main Australian coastal cities from Perth to Brisbane?

No definite plans as yet, we have discussed Adelaide, Sydney and perhaps Brisbane. We have bands approaching us offering to support us if we travel up the coast but it is all a matter of finance.

If you had to describe the past five years in the band’s life in no less than 50 words how would they be like?

Trial by fire, it has tested our ability to perform under pressure, it has challenged our strength, endurance and commitment. We have had to sacrifice our ego’s and attempt to maintain our dignity, it is a constant challenge.


April 22, 2016

Greys - Blown Out (Official Video)

 From their formative work in “If Anything” (2014) to Repulsion EP (2015) right back to the sweet bitterness brought by “Blown Out” taken from their sophomore album “Outer Heaven” (2016), the Toronto four piece builds in a stunning chaotic melodic dissonance.
 

April 11, 2016

The Shrike: Turn It Off (Official Video)

The musical influences of The Shrike are variegated and ranging from the classic Led Zeppelin to Heart, from Kansas to Queens of the Stone Age. Their creativeness is based upon pretty eclectic sources, allowing the band to actually build a sound of their own. 

Their thrilling use of electric violin adds a “je ne sais quoi” of extra feel to their sound very close to some Eastern-Gipsy, Celtic-Irish vibe in great combination with top notch guitar riffing plus a killer rhythm section all this properly seasoned with Jamie Lynn’s soulful Americana vocals.



In between the release of their self-titled debut album and playing live several shows during 2015, and the upcoming recording of their new EP next summer The Shrike threw a party on April 9th to officially release their video directed by John Tucker for the song “Turn It Off” taken from the album. The video is simple and effective capturing the band in a live gig “mise-en-scène” with some rather appropriate effects that work really great with this particular song showing the nature of the band’s sonic palette with all the ingredients that make The Shrike a band so unique.

March 17, 2016

The Anchoress: Confessions of a Romance Novelist (Album Review)...

The artist subject of this review is in the true sense of the term a multi-instrumentist able to play a different range of instruments from piano to mandolin, from guitar to glockenspiel. Above all she is a rare case of mind-blowing talent, strength and resilience. A roaring thunder hailing from Wales. Apart from music she also has a PhD in Literature and Queer Theory from the University of London. She has written and published about epic poetry too. Exciting, right?

From 2006 until 2012 she has released a handful of beautiful limited edition, hand-stamped EP’s under Catherine AD moniker. From that period, we highlight "Long Day” (2006), “The Piano” (2007), “Songs for the Boy Who Wouldn't Read Rilke” (2008), “In The Bleak Midwinter” (2009), “Carry Your Heart” (2010), “Communion: Live at Church Studios” (2011 - recorded live in a single afternoon and – considered one of 20 Best Cult/Experimental Albums of 2011 by the NME) and “Reprise: The Covers Collection” (2012). All of them had a particular wave of acclaim among people craving for exciting emerging music acts.

She also collaborated with the London Philharmonic Orchestra in a show at the Royal Festival Hall, but also with the Scottish super-band Dark Flowers and Emmy The Great. In 2014 after many musical adventures she decided to work under a new moniker: The Anchoress (and no, she doesn’t live in seclusion), later that year she released her first EP under the new persona titled “One For Sorrow” (2014), while during the following year she engaged in the Simple Minds, Big Music World Tour 2015, as keyboard player and additional vocalist.

Catherine Anne Davies aka The Anchoress has some musical influences of a more objective nature, she recognizes for instance to have been influenced by Karen Carpenter and The Carpenters, though Prince and Kate Bush are her major idols, but while plunging into her whole work and not only the debut album one easily deconstructs the huge ineffable presence and theatricality of Amanda Palmer and her Dresden Dolls extension, Bjork (from Vespertine phase), as well as Marina & The Diamonds (Family Jewels era), PJ Harvey singing style also often present and the recurrent ghost of Tori Amos.

This fact leads us to the assumption that an album is not properly what a musician considers objectively as her or his narrative of influences, but the way the work speaks volume to the non-mainstream listener devoting time to depict and translate such aural flux of multiple genres and artists.


Confessions of a Romance Novelist released in the early babblings of this year (a week after the release of another top 2016 full length, the unavoidable Blackstar by David Bowie), is that kind of record that on first impact leaves you unexpectedly speechless like when something hits you hard enough, but you don’t quite get from where it came and just acknowledge that you got hit.

Confessions of a Romance Novelist risk being the best indie pop debut LP of 2016, and beyond doubt one of the most accomplished albums of the year. The album displays a very consistent bouquet of songs in some different musical styles, though it is perfectly evident that Catherine Anne Davies oscillates between a posh dark folk and some intense noir chamber pop full of delicious details that catch your attention each time you put the album to a new spin.

No, Confessions of a Romance Novelist isn’t a mainstream pop bubble gum type of album neither pleasant pop pretending to be profound. It is much more than just a pop and it wouldn’t be fair to ignore that there is also a gentle scent of Manic Street Preachers in the way guitars roar in this coherent, almost concept album that will assuredly stand out as one of the most highly rated released throughout 2016.

For this refined masterpiece needless to say that Catherine Anne Davies has played almost an “army” of instruments. It couldn’t be any different considering that the inherent organic character of this album, which in a way announces the closing of a life chapter with some stylized eccentricity and which counted with the contribution of the helping hand of ex-Mansun Paul Draper on production console and took Catherine Anne Davies approximately three and a half long years, fulfilled with many incidents in between, before it was finally concluded.



TRACK BY TRACK

The album opens with Long Year deals about a chain of circumstances and events that at some point do wonder if things are going to improve any better. The song appropriately seasoned with a sinister music box opening paves the way for a dark, dense mood filled with great vocals and exquisite musical details.The fantastic What Goes Around is the «I am going to get even when you’re least expecting it» sort of song that earned Catherine Anne Davies the label of the «revenge pop» artist. Pretty much radio friendly pop rock track highly above the bubble gum mainstream nausea.



Doesn't Kill You being the «nietzschean» contribution to the album. Enchanting song! Catherine Anne Davies literally hypnotizes the listener with her sweet languid vocals. Beautiful to hear and with a strong vibe that inevitably reminds some Manic Street Preachers soundscape. The kind of song and lyrics that you easily hear on loop mode. You and Only You is a «leave me the fuck alone» kind of tune and quite an anthem that you feel that should be sung on your way to work and back home. It has some sort of uplifting formula. A delicious duet between Catherine Anne Davies and Paul Draper.One For Sorrow is the «don’t bullshit me with that crap talk of having to settle down» type of song and once again we have The Manic Street Preachers so very present in this track with languid vocals at her best as well as some Prince-esque vibe resounding throughout this track.



P.S. Fuck You the «go fuck yourself, I don’t want to see you ever again» is a fabulous song that combines the a piano ballad with a layer of fuzzy psychedelic guitar building the sonic metaphor for the broken heart rage.Popular is almost inevitably one of the several highlights of the album and a very Cures-esque type of song with brilliant details all throughout it from which I underline the chorus of voices at the very end. Bury Me is dark emotional, almost elegiac, not confrontational like most of the previous songs. This track, which slightly reminds of Evanescence “Hello” in particular, is exceptionally haunting, showing off what a piano and the wonderful gothic vocals from Catherine Anne Davies can do with this song.



Intermission (Notes To The Editor) is an intermezzo in the album a mantra of dark, nightmarish voices along with a piano and obscure ethereal chorus. It clearly works as the open gate for the album’s epilogue. Waiting to Breathe is another stunning ballad, beautiful and immaculate. Chip On Your Shoulder a highly funk-pop up-tempo frenzied song. Confessions of a Romance Novelist being the melancholic statement which highlights the circularity of this “conceptual” work is a «no, you don’t really know me by the looks» immense heartfelt album closing.

Catherine Anne Davies is already working on her follow up album with ex-Suede guitarist Bernard Butler. Well, in fact and to be more precise this wonderfully talented young lady that i would love to interview was working on the two album simultaneously, but the need to finish confessions and close the cycle made her certainly give priority to that beautiful contribution with which she presented her loyal and growing fan base. The second album is expected for late this year and though different they may sound and be one thing remains for sure: the stakes are too high for Catherine Anne Davies and we are expecting the very best from her.


RATING: 9/10