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Edgar Froese: A Eulogy of Sorts

So back in the summer of 2014 I got on this Tangerine Dream kick. I mean, I’d owned a couplePhoto of TANGERINE DREAM and Edgar FROESE records of theirs since back in 2009, but I wasn’t really a fan until this past summer. My local record shop had pulled in this huge haul of used vinyl and amongst the giant catch were a few Tangerine Dream records. Two really caught my eye: Phaedra and Rubycon. I knew they were both very pivotol albums in their discography so I immediately snagged them up and took them home.

To my ears, Phaedra was the culmination of years of experimental space noise and desolate aural landscapes for Edgar Froese and Tangerine Dream. It was dark, ominous, and just four tracks. Zeit seemed to be the ultimate space freakout record, and Phaedra upped the ante by honing their musical visions. After Phaedra, Rubycon wasn’t as ominous but more ambitious. Just two songs. Two musical suites. Each side felt like a dream explained in wisps and whooshes. Froese really seemed to be painting a picture with synthesizers and it was rather magnificent.

If there was a sound that would proceed what we know as classical music in some lunar colony future it was definitely what Tangerine Dream created from 1974 through 1980. This was music created for space exploration; whether the explorations took place on a spacecraft circling the fifth moon of Zandar, or during some hazy, weed-fueled Midwestern afternoon in a ranch-style home’s basement managed with some Koss headphones and a beanbag chair. Edgar Froese and Tangerine Dream made some heady, dreamscape music that I found myself digging on heavily this past summer.

An interesting thing happened with Tangerine Dream. Not very often this happens, but after such an incredible musical output they not only continued to make music in the 80s they flourished. And you see, here’s where, unbeknownst to me at the time, Tangerine Dream made an indelible mark on a young J. Hubner. Risky Business, The Keep, Firestarter, Legend, Three O’Clock High, and Near Dark; these were all movies that colored my formative years heavily. Not only for what was there visually, but what was there playing through the speakers because Tangerine Dream scored every single one of those movies. As a kid I didn’t pay attention to the credits, but I knew there was something unique about the music in those films. They really carried the action and the story for me. Thirty years later I know why, but back then the music just made the film that much better for me. Over the last couple months I’ve since gone back and discovered the amazing soundtracks Tangerine Dream wrote for the films Sorcerer and Thief as well, going so far as to track down Thief on vinyl(as well as Firestarter.) That’s the great thing about a Tangerine Dream score: it’s great in the film or as a standalone LP.

How Edgar Froese informed me as a music lover didn’t really come to fruition till the last couple of years. I found myself completely drawn to very synth-heavy artists in 2013 and 2014 and I believe I have Edgar Froese to thank for that. Bands like Sinoia Caves, Jakob Skott, Boards of Canada, Bernard Szjaner, Rudiger Lorenz; as well as film composers like Clint Mansell, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, and Cliff Martinez have filled up a good portion of my record collection in the last two years. Every one of those artists owe a huge debt to Mr. Edgar Froese and Tangerine Dream. None of their excellent music would exist the way it does without what Froese created over the last 45 years. I mean, just listen to Cliff Martinez’ excellent Drive score. The film and the score are a homage to what Michael Mann and Tangerine Dream did in both Thief and The Keep. It’s heavy, pulsating, and ominous. It’s both slick and aloof at times. For my ears the Drive S/T is one of the best standalone film soundtracks released in the last thirty years and we have Edgar Froese to thank for that.

It seems Edgar Froese, even after Tangerine Dream died down, kept busy and kept creative. He put out albums under his own name as well as continuing the Tangerine Dream “dream”, as it were. The latest conception of the band had his own son in it up until the mid-2000s. One of my favorite synth composers, Ulrich Schnauss, was in the latest incarnation of the band.

I’d just heard yesterday that Edgar Froese passed away on January 20th, 2015 of a pulmonary embolism. He was 70 years old. It’s very sad news, indeed. We have 45 years worth of music to remember him by. I find that rather comforting.

 

 

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“Something Unimagined” : Jakob Skott Talks Taurus Rising and Future Horizons

Way back in July of 2014 I was lucky enough to sit down and pick the brain of Causa Sui drummerjs_band and sound wizard Jakob Skott about his excellent albums Doppler and Amor Fati, as well as his work with Causa Sui. We also discussed running his own record label, El Paraiso Records, along with Causa Sui guitarist Jonas Munk. It was a great chat and I learned a lot of cool things about the guy. He seems to be a fella with lots of ideas and soundscapes running through his head. Fortunately for him(and the rest of us) he’s talented enough to be able to put those ideas into physical form so folks like myself can experience these massive and intense worlds via vinyl, CD, or MP3(no cassette releases out of El Paraiso headquarters just yet.)

One of the items we discussed was his work on yet another album. Amor Fati had been released in March of 2014, and by July Skott had already begun work on yet another project of synth and drums-fueled instrumental explorations. Well in December of 2014 Taurus Rising was released into the universe and it’s a hell of a trip. A bit looser and heavier on the grooves, it was another instrumental masterpiece that made for a great companion piece to Amor Fati(so much so, that the folks at El Paraiso sold it in a combo pack with Amor Fati.) Being the nosy guy I am I reached out to Jakob to see if he’d answer a few more questions from Jhubner73 headquarters and he was happy to do so.

J.Hubner: When we talked in July you’d released Amor Fati in March of 2014 and were already working on another album. That album, Taurus Rising, was released in December and it’s yet another stellar set of songs. Had you already planned another release in 2014, or was it that your song cycle hadn’t stopped yet? It sounds as if the muse hadn’t left your side just yet.

Jakob Skott: Thanks for having me back! Amor Fati was recorded 90% during a crazed sprint in the spring/summer of 2013. I was on paternal leave, and the only thing I did was work on music and stroll the baby around – it was an amazing break from everything, and I was totally emerged in those two things only, but I did very little work on it after that, and it took a while to finish. So in the summer of 2014 after several months not working on music I felt the need to restart the process over, because I missed that feeling of freedom and overall excitement the previous summer, so I did the drums in exactly the same manner as before – one sloppy afternoon in our rehearsal room and just worked from there. It was a lot easier to finish, so it ended up coming out just a few months after I had layed down the initial ideas. Any musician will know that’s a really awesome thing: To be able to go from creative spark to finished product in such a short time. It’s one of the reasons we got our own label started, and this time it finally panned out. I didn’t even order a test print of the vinyl because I wanted it to materialize so quickly.

J.Hubner: Comparing Amor Fati to Taurus Rising they do feel like related projects, sonically speaking. But to my ears Taurus seems, at least on the front end, more concerned with rhythm and feel where Amor was more about atmosphere and creating a world through music. “Sangue Verde” has an amazing groove to it. It has this tropic, exotic beach vibe to it. Did you approach these two albums differently?

Jakob Skott: In some ways – obviously I had learned a lot of things from Amor Fati, like how to mix drums properly. It was easier getting the sound right and layering the synths, so it was more of a joy the 2nd time around, rather than noodling with topics like over-compressing and overdriving too much. There is a more dense, deep sound on Taurus, but also there’s a better balance between the sounds overall. I got just the vibe I wanted. I’ve been wanting that sound; the idea of raw drums and deeps synths buzzing and scrambling in that way for over ten years! I just couldn’t get myself to progress with it, mostly because I didn’t know where to start. Other than that, I just played what I felt like – not really editing my ideas too much or over-thinking it.

J. Hubner: Taurus is the second astrological sign in the Zodiac. Does that play into the album at all? Is there a loose narrative or concept you were trying to create with these songs?

Jakob Skott: I’m a Taurus, and the drums seem to tap into that sign: mellowness and aggression side by side. Other than that I’m not into astrology, but I think all symbols like that are interesting. Also, it’s a reference to the deep ended growling Moog-sounds (the Taurus-pedals). Kenneth Angers Lucifer Rising is a film and soundtrack I’ve always felt very connected to, and that’s some pretty cosmic shit. Bobby BeauSoleil did a soundtrack that’s just mindbending – be sure to buy his LP boxset from that if you can still get it.

J. Hubner: I love the video you guys put together for “Escape From The Keep”. Using clips from Michael Mann’s excellent film ‘The Keep’ was the perfect visuals to go along with that song. Is the song or title inspired by Mann’s film? Are you a fan of his films? If so, you should definitely make “Thief” your next project.

Jakob Skott: I saw the film for the first time the night I finished the first track – and it fitted my mood perfectly, so I scribbled it down and it stuck. So it didn’t really inspire anything other than the title, but the track is connected to that whole vibe. The film is like a deeply flawed masterpiece – there’s so much ambition there, but you can also sense a struggling in keeping it all together, that it’s almost about to explode or fall out of the screen, and I can deeply relate to that struggle. The difference between grand thoughts and ideas on one hand and the actual thing you end up capturing on the other.

J.Hubner: One thing we didn’t talk about last time was how you put these songs together in the studio. When you’re recording do you record your drums first? I would imagine that would be the easiest way to do what you do. To my ears it sounds like your laying a groove down and then going back and riffing over that with the synths. Is that the case?

Jakob Skott: 100% true. I run a repeating sequence and start playing. And since the drums are live and usually a first take jam, I do a bit of editing and rearranging in some places – mostly to fit the bars and build-ups. It’s very simple and a very effective way to work: Never re-record the same idea twice!

J.Hubner: Besides Taurus Rising, you’ve also been working with Causa Sui. You guys are on your way to a new record as well. Can you tell me a little about the new Causa Sui material? Any plans to release this in 2015?

Jakob Skott: We’re slowly working on it so I don’t want to jinx it, but it’s progressing and we’ve moved into a studio, so that’s next: finishing the songs and getting the studio-set-up working. In the past, we always recorded live in our institutionalized and poorly isolated reheasal room with the instruments bleeding into each other (as well as thru the walls when other bands played), so it will be ideal to try a place that offers more sonic possibilities. We’re moving there permanently, so we’ll have a permanent studio set-up available. Small and cozy, but very cool indeed.

J.Hubner: What else does El Paraiso have planned for 2015? Can you give me an idea of what I’ll be spending my money on this year?

Jakob Skott: Only Papir live at Roadburn is announced at the moment, and that will feature a limited 10” with some brand new tracks from our shop. Jonas has a solo-album coming out as well around that same time and we’re doing a bunch of reprints. We’ve also been getting some great stuff from your side of the pond, but it’s too soon to disclose exactly what it’s gonna end up with.

J.Hubner: Has your song cycle slowed down, or are you still working the Moog for even more musical gold?

Jakob Skott: I’ve just been getting a new Ensemble-effect and a new recording setup, so got some new approaches running, but currently I’m just noodling around making sounds. But I wanna do another pure cosmic synth album at some point to compliment Doppler, however don’t know if now is the time. I also want to collaborate more with different folks, but that could also be in a less synthy and solo-like way. So I don’t really have any plans, but I’ll see what comes along.

J.Hubner: So when you’re not working with Causa Sui or working on your own music, what does Jakob Skott enjoy doing during down time? What do you like to listen to? Do you like the cinema? Books? What fuels the creative fire in you? Your music is so descriptive without a single word being spoken. It’s expressive and colorful. It just feels very passionate. I’m just curious about your creative process.

Jakob Skott: Thanks. The solo-stuff is my downtime, so doing a lot of playing around with knobs – the instruments I have now are just fun to play with, and it puts a smile on my face every time I turn it all on. I still get excited easily and think it’s a huge privilege just to be able to record and release music. I’ve also been watching Foo Fighters Sonic Highways, which has a great part about Kyuss recording in the desert. Obviously I listen to a lot of music, which is my main inspiration. Other than that I’ve been reading Keith Richards and Pete Townsend’s autobiographies mostly because I found them lying in the hall at the publisher where I work, but I was captured by how failed an artist a person like Townsend sees himself – he’s just beating himself up over not completing all these weird projects with gigantic synthesizers, art films and installations, etc. And I sort of thought that no matter how well you do from other peoples point of view, it’ll never satisfy the creative urge – there’s always the craving or dream of something else, just beyond our visible scope – something un-imagined. I think musicians on any level can relate to something like that – just waiting to turn the next corner.

Like I said, Jakob Skott is an interesting guy that makes really interesting music, both with Causa Sui and on his own. He’s one of the rare dudes out there that is extremely gifted at his craft, yet is very much down to earth. He’s buzzing in the cosmic spray of outer space, yet still very firmly planted on the old Terra firma. Keep your eyes and ears open for what Skott and El Paraiso have in store for us this year. And if you haven’t already, get a hold of Taurus Rising. And Amor Fati. And Doppler. Just go to El Paraiso Records website and take the plunge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Viet Cong : Viet Cong

“Newspaper Spoons” opens like a distant canon firing into the abyss. An overblown kick drumviet cong beats like a death knell before Matt Flegel sings “Writhing violence essentially without distortion, Wired silent, vanishing into the boredom”. It’s a hell of a way to open a debut album, but that’s just the kind of album Viet Cong is. With every turn your put through an aural wringer. Your mind is blown and your head feels like it’s going to explode. Welcome to 2015, the year of Viet Cong.

The band is one half of the former Calgary band Women. When that band broke up, bassist Matthew Flegel wanted to start a band with guitarist Scott Munro. They enlisted Women drummer Michael Wallace and guitarist Daniel Christiansen and Viet Cong was born. They released a cassette-only EP that was sold at gigs in 2012. That album showed a spry, post-punk informed band with darker tendencies. On Viet Cong they fully embrace the darkness and get down to some serious gothic tendencies. “Pointless Experience” stabs with siren-like guitars and Flegel’s heavily-reverbed vocals. It’s as if Interpol put the suits away and embraced the gutter. Lyrics sound like the prose of a post-apocalyptic survivor. Flegel sings “Failed to keep the necessary papers for evacuation, Hideously synchronized with cold and cruel arithmetic”. Viet Cong don’t do paint-by-numbers lyrics. It’s poetic and dystopian. “March Of Progress” starts out with white noise, as if looking for signs of life on an old tube television. Pretty soon distorted drums come through the fuzz like war drums as wavering synths move back and forth as if stuck in a vacuum. Vocals come in beautifully, harmonies singing “Lately there’s a wound that needs some healing soon, Before the infection can set in.” Soon enough the song kicks into an almost new wave drum beat and the guitars become chime-y and have more of a post-punk jangle.

You get the feeling through the darkness and shadowy entities that haunt this record that there’s an element of healing going on here. It’s like the aural version of prolonged exposure therapy. You keep going over the pain through each song until it loses the hurt. A song like “Bunker Buster” is all splintered guitar jabs and post-punk strut. It’s like Mission of Burma in swagger mode. Munro and Christiansen are making some of the most interesting and intriguing guitar noise that I’ve heard in a very long time. “Continental Shelf” has elements of A Place To Bury Stranger’s wall-of-guitar noise in the songs verses before becoming quite eerie and beautiful in the chorus. Lyrically it’s doomed, tragic, and oddly moving. Flegel has a knack for doomed and romantic lyrics. Dream-like, dystopian, and darkly vague. He paints dark landscapes that you can occasionally catch something dimly lit hiding amongst the shadows. “Continental Shelf” is a massive song that gives you a world to get lost in, at your own risk of course. “Silhouettes” has the dark, bass-y pulse of Luis Vasquez’ The Soft Moon with new wave synths hanging over the proceedings. It’s a hell of a track. The album closes on the epic and mammoth dirge “Death”. It’s over 11 minutes of new wave, post-punk, and dark wave haze. It feels like this cycle of mourning and healing. The vocals fade and the song turns into this churning, swirling sea of noise and madness.

Viet Cong feels vital and intense. It’s blood spurting on the canvas. It’s embracing the scars that come with the wounds of the past. Embracing the fact you survived and lived to tell about it. This album feels revolutionary. Viet Cong is pure, raw, bloody rock and roll at it’s best.

9.5 out of 10

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January Sabbatical

Today was the first official day of my week off. Well, yesterday I was off as well but that was a company-wide holiday. I’m on my time now. Why am I off? My wife is gone all week for work-related stuff so I decided I’d stay home, get the kids off to school, enjoy some great coffee, and do some music-related work. I’ve been working on and off on some songs for a new record and this seemed like a great week to stay home and start laying the groundwork for the album. I’ve got songs up in my head that I’ve been playing for months now that are ready to be recorded and refined. Having the house to myself all day lets me bring the recording equipment upstairs and set up in the dining room to get some nice room sound with the hardwood floors. It also gives me access to the piano in the living room. Day one was a success. I recorded acoustic guitar and piano for a new song and they turned out great. I’m hoping to have the framework of three songs done by the week’s end. I have a good friend of mine doing some drum programming for me. I’m looking to make this album something more atmospheric and dreamy than the usual pop rock bombastic stuff I’ve done in the past. I’ll still record some acoustic drums, but I want to mesh some Boards of Canada vibes in with my pop-centric melodies. A nice mix of organic instrumentation and electronic beats.

So how did I start the day? Well I got up around 6am and made breakfast for the kids. My oldest got on the bus around 6:40am and I took the younger ones to school. I got a good workout in before heading back home to get started on the music. After getting cleaned up I made a pot of Just Coffee Coop’s ‘The Reanimator’, a great dark roast brew, and got busy on the music. If the rest of the week goes like today I should have some serious tunes well on their way to completion.

What else have I been doing? Well pretty much all weekend I’ve been listening to the Gone Girl soundtrack by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. It finally was released on vinyl and I grabbed my copy a couple days early. It’s absolutely amazing. I think Reznor has found his retirement plan right here. I loved the last NIN album he put out, but his film scoring is where its at for me. If The Social Network and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo scores weren’t like $200 on vinyl I’d have those as well. I’m hoping for some reissues at some point. Hoping. Regardless, his scores are jarring, beautiful, haunting, and just puts you in a completely different frame of mind. I haven’t seen Gone Girl yet, but I know I’ll enjoy it that much more because of the music.

I also picked up Flying Lotus’ Until The Quiet Comes, another great electronic record. I picked up his You’re Dead! right before Christmas and have been loving it. Flying Lotus’ music is so frenetic and out there. To my ears, it’s this great space where jazz, hip hop, and EDM all come together and make some pretty amazing sounds.

What else? I plan on finishing up the second season of Maron and starting up Louie. I just received my Criterion Collection Blu Ray copy of Michael Mann’s Thief in the mail, so I’ll watch that as well. My dad’s coming over tomorrow for some pour-over coffee. He’s never had it and I think he’ll quite enjoy it. My mom is having the kids and I over tomorrow for beef and noodles. Thursday my buddy Shane Darin Page is coming over in the evening and we are starting a new Cambodia Highball album. Looking forward to that. The weekend will be taking my oldest to pep band on Friday and Saturday nights for the Varsity Basketball games.

I’m just gonna chill. That’s what I’m gonna do. No other plans. Oh, and of course some writing. I’ve got some record reviews coming real soon, so stay tuned.

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The coffee nook.

The coffee nook.

Photo By John Hartman

Getting In Deep With Lost Lakes

 

By E.A. Poorman

Welcome to 2015. How’s it going so far? Ehh? Yeah, well there’s still time for things to get better. What better way to spend the time waiting for things to turn around than to wax ecstatic about a great new band? And not some new, well coiffed band out of Portland, Chicago, or Brooklyn. From right here in Fort Wayne. I’m talking about Lost Lakes. If you’re not, you will be soon.

It started a couple months ago when I heard this mournful and lilting track called “Shallow Talk”. Lost Lakes played a gig at the Brass Rail and posted a clip of them knocking it out of the ball park. I was impressed. They recently posted another clip of a new song they call  “Sympathy Mistake”. This one was a little more banging and had some fangs to it. Okay, Lost Lakes officially had my attention. The band consists of Andrea Atwood on vocals, Christine Taylor on keys, Olivia Tatum on guitar, Karah Ellington on bass, and Paul Bates on drums. I tracked the band down in-between finishing up recording for their debut EP and preparing for an upcoming show at the Brass Rail on January 24th and asked them a few questions.

EA Poorman: So give me the scoop on the band. How did Lost Lakes become to be?

Andrea Atwood: Christine, Karah, Oliva and I have been playing in one way or another in my basement for about a year and a half before Lost Lakes, as we are now, came together. Paul came on to play drums in September of 2014. Before that I’d performed regularly with Wooden Satellites and Lee Miles and the Illegitimate sons for quite a few years. I’ve also had the pleasure of working with Dwane Ferren and Jason Davis at Off the Cuff Studio as well as on a live project with Chris Dodds and Matt Kelley.

Christine Taylor: I had been playing and writing for years in my apartment by myself, but had

never shared it with the public before except for a couple of videos I posted online.  I decided to share the beginnings of a song I wrote with the band.  We took it, ran with it, and transformed it into something else. To me, that was really the starting point.  It gave us the confidence to go beyond just playing covers in a basement to realizing that we had the potential to write our own songs and play them live.  We went through a few hiatuses, but at the end of last summer when Paul joined the band that gave us the momentum to go forward with the songs we had written and to play them out in public.

Paul Bates: I was brought on last. Olivia asked me come try out and I was dying to play drums again with a group. It had been a few years. I am currently the singer/guitar player for another Fort Wayne band, Ordinary Van. I was the drummer for a few bands in my hometown of Sacramento, CA.

EAP: Synths play a heavy roll in the atmosphere of the band’s music. What artists inform the sound and feel of Lost Lakes?

Andrea Atwood: I would describe Lost Lakes as dark indie pop. When I envisioned the sound of Lost Lakes I definitely listened to Interpol, Metric and the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs for inspiration.

Paul Bates: Batman Forever soundtrack guides everything I do musically.

EAP: Lost Lakes are or were in the process of recording an EP. How is that going? Can you tell me about the recording process? Where was the EP recorded? Does the band like being in the studio?

Christine Taylor: We’re recording where we practice, which is also where I work, at Punch Films. The process has been really interesting to me, since I’ve never recorded before, but as a video editor, I can’t help but think of parallels and contrasts between putting a video project together and putting an EP together. There’s pre-production, production, and post, it’s definitely a different process, but everyone is looking forward to and anticipating the final product.

Paul Bates: It is going very well! There is no harder skeptic than the band itself and we really want to give something to our friends and fans. Pretty sure we only have one fan. Bless his/her heart wherever he/she is. Recording never goes fast enough to keep up with how enthusiastic we are for people to have it, but we hope to have it ready soon. I have done a lot of recording over the years so I suggested we do the EP ourselves using the vast talent and resources we have access to. We are lucky to have an amazing rehearsal space with great acoustics so it made sense to record there. My good friend Tyler Berggren is acting as engineer/co-producer for the EP. He will also be in charge of mixing and mastering. I find recording to be such an exciting process, I love how you can sit down and really pick something apart and look at it from the perspective of “what does it feel like to hear these for the first time?” It makes it a lot fun and keeps the songs fresh.

EAP: How does the songwriting process work in the band? 

Andrea Atwood: Usually (though there are exceptions) Christine and I will get together and she’ll share some chord progressions she’s been working on, or we’ll come up with something together. Then I’ll take what she’s played and write the melody and lyrics for it. From there we take it to the band and Karah, Olivia and Paul add their own parts and the song evolves.

Christine Taylor: It always ends up being more organic and collaborative in the end.  When writing a song Andrea might suggest a different chord, or I might give a few lyrics, or Paul will come up with a drum beat first that determines the feel and mood of the song, or Olivia comes up with a great guitar part and I mimic that in the bridge. It just really depends on the song.

Paul Bates: I just hit things, I have no idea.

EAP: I’ve seen the band in action live thanks to the wonders of Youtube. The songs are great. How would you all describe a Lost Lakes show?

Andrea Atwood: We’ve only had the opportunity to play two shows so far but both have been spectacularly fun.

Christine Taylor: I hope the audience just has a shit ton of fun.

Paul Bates: Like that one time in 4th grade when you tried showing off during a parent teacher conference and it didn’t work out so well, but you still got ice cream afterwards.

EAP: Are there any plans for some extensive touring in 2015?

Andrea Atwood:  We haven’t discussed touring yet, though I think we’re all looking forward to playing out of town shows for sure. Right now we’re focused on getting our EP finished.

Paul Bates: Only if Kanye asks nicely.

EAP: A bit premature, but are there plans for a full-length LP? How many songs have been written up to this point?

Andrea Atwood: Definitely. We’ve already written a few more songs since we started recording and we’re looking forward to writing even more in the coming months.

Paul Bates: I sure hope so, the recording process is such a fun challenge!

EAP: So what does 2015 hold for Lost Lakes?

Christine Taylor: Keep recording, keep playing, and keep writing.

Paul Bates: More songs! More shows!

Lost Lakes are yet another amazing band emerging from an already excellent music scene in the Fort. Check ‘em out at the Brass Rail on January 24th with Benny & The 25th & The College Ave Band and Digital Dots. Show starts at 10pm. And be on the lookout for that EP. Keep up with all things Lost Lakes at https://www.facebook.com/lostlakesmusic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Out Of The Silent Midwest : King’s X Reissues, Summer Recollections, and the Fine Art of Friendship

I was a timid 15 year old kid. I didn’t seek out the spotlight, even though I’d been playing guitar for three years by the summer of 1989. I was the introverted guitar player. I was inclined to stay in my practice room my dad had built for me in the basement for the majority of a summer afternoon practicing scales, learning Tesla and Extreme songs from transcriptions, and playing along to Dio’s Holy Diver….at least until Degrassi Junior High was on. 1989 was the summer I was introduced to the Texas band King’s X.

I’d been taking guitar lessons from a guy named Tim Bushong for about 6 or 7 months at that point. I was introduced to Tim by my uncle John. My uncle was in a local band in the 70s called Magi. They were pretty popular around Northeast Indiana and Southwest Michigan. They were a five-piece that looked a lot like Aerosmith but sounded like the Midwest. And by that I mean working dude’s rock ‘n roll. Duel guitars, boogie woogie rock. Anyways, my uncle met Tim at a Magi reunion in the 80s. Tim was in some regional bands as well in the early 80s that were more along the lines of British heavy metal. Rox Sedan, Victrola,… Judas Priest and early heavy blues stuff from the late 60s and early 70s kinda defined their sound. Google ‘em if you’re interested. Well Tim and my uncle both dropped the rock,cleaned up their acts and found God. Between the reunion and possibly church they met. One cold winter evening my uncle drove my older brother and I over to Tim’s house to meet him and possibly start taking guitar lessons from him. He’d been giving lessons out of his house for awhile at that point. Tim was smart, funny, was a huge fan of Woody Allen movies, and was an immense guitarist. He plugged in and played some lightning fast licks and I was smitten.

Pretty soon both my brother and I were heading over to Tim’s every Thursday evening and taking lessons. I’d taken lessons for two years prior to Tim, but this was my brother’s first foray into guitar lessons. I lasted while my brother showed up and watched Tim play. He learned some but eventually quit going. Not only did I learn about the Mixolydian, Phrygian, and proper hammer-on techniques, but I also learned about Fellini, Woody Allen, and a band called King’s X.

King’s X were a band out of Texas that were signed to Atlantic Records. They were also considered a “Christian” rock band. I think when one is newly reborn they give up all those old, sinful bands that were enjoyed before Christ moved into your heart. You don’t just immediately forget about rock ‘n roll. So you look in the Christian music community for something you can enjoy and not feel guilty about enjoying, much like committing to a diet and looking for sugarless, tasteless substitutes for those foods that you once loved but were bad for you(yes, I just compared Christian rock to tasteless food.) Well King’s X were one of the very few Christian rock bands that were making truly cool music. And sure, while they were three guys that were Christians and they played in a band, their music wasn’t overtly religious or preachy. Singing about faith in God, love, humanity, and fellow humans is something even those horrible secular artists do occasionally. Besides, these cats even wrote about C.S. Lewis books. They were readers.

Their music was tight, progressive in nature, and filled with killer grooves. Doug Pinnick, their bassist and lead singer, had a soulful howl and played an 8-string bass which added a whole other sonic layer to their music. Guitarist Ty Tabor had the most sought-after guitar tone in all the land and could sing like half the Beatles. The songs he sang were always rich in Fab Four harmonies and 60s Paisley vibes. He was also a hell of a guitarist. He could shred with the best of ‘em. I could actually hear a lot of his influence in Tim’s sound. His playing was also an influence on me and my playing, pushing me to explore the world of the “drop-D tuning”, even before I’d ever heard a note of Soundgarden’s Louder Than Love. Drummer Jerry Gaskill was just a hell of  drummer. Very intricate time signatures and could change things up on a dime. He gave the band a very mechanical, metallic sound. He was good.

The albums. Their first four major albums, Out Of The Silent Planet, Gretchen Goes To Nebraska, Faith, Hope, Love, and King’s X were all pretty much classic metal records. Each one was bullet proof to my ears. And each one was a progression. Not until Dogman(and the absence of longtime producer Sam Taylor) did it ever feel that things might be slipping. In all fairness, Dogman is a hell of a record as well. Just a different animal with a more “modern” production sound thanks to Brendan O’Brien. Tabor’s guitar sound went from intricate and razor sharp to grungy and overdriven. Sign of the times, I suppose. But those first four albums? Man, they were on point.

I recently read that the band is remastering those classic albums and re-releasing them in 2015 on vinyl and CD. That geeky 15-year old kid came out in me and I got all excited. Palms sweating and heart racing I immediately began revisiting those King’s X records. They all still hold that magic for me. They all still take me back to being 15 and hearing them for the first time. I think having time away from the band for so long has helped me to appreciate them all over again. Faith, Hope, Love is still my favorite. For a pop/prog/metal album to be released in the fall of 1990 that clocks in over an hour and has Christian overones is a feat in of itself. But for it to be so damn good is another thing all together. From the funk of “We Are Finding Who We Are”, to the Beatles-esque pop of “It’s Love”, to the near speed metal wallup of “Moanjam” and “Talk To Me”, there was something for everyone. That psychedelia reappeared in the beautiful and strange “Six Broken Soldiers”. “I Can’t Help It” even brings to mind Presto-era Rush, or what would’ve happened if George Harrison had gone prog. They even close the album on a pro-life note with “Legal Kill”.

King’s X weren’t writing songs to be cool or to fit into some pre fab mold that popularity offers up. They wrote from their hearts and made music that at times punched me right in the gut. Regardless of whether my moral meter or belief system lined up with theirs, that was never the point. I dug King’s X music and still do. I wasn’t listening to Slayer because I was a fan of their lyrical content. I was a fan of breakneck speed metal and the aggression that came with it.

Pure and simple.

I will be getting all of these albums on vinyl this year, and I will be geeking out in my basement. Maybe I’ll even finds some old Guitar World magazines and learn some songs. Who knows?

 

 

 

 

 

ronson two

Mark Ronson : Uptown Special

specialI’ll be honest, the only reason I listened to this album was because of Kevin Parker. I think Kevin Parker is a musical genius and can do no wrong, so if he’s cool with Mark Ronson I suppose I am as well. As far as albums go where there’s tons of different artists playing puppet to Mr. Ronson’s puppet master Uptown Special isn’t too bad. But if you’re here for something deep, meaningful, and precious go look elsewhere.

So how does this work, anyways? Does Mark Ronson write these songs and bring in people he likes to sing on them? Does he arrange and let the singers write lyrics? I have no idea. Up until this album I thought Ronson was just some wunderkind producer. Amy Whinehouse’s Back To Black was where my ears perked up to what Ronson was doing. I loved the retro sound he made. But looking back he’s put out at least two other albums under his own name. Don’t ask me what’s on those, as I have no idea. Anyways, Uptown Special is 37 minutes of funkified pop and dance music with a couple excursions into territory that lifts the overall project into something other than radio hits.

The songs? Well apparently “Uptown Funk” with Bruno Mars is a hit. It sounds like a hit. Mars is a hell of a singer with the whole package; dance moves, style, and the vocal chops to back it all up. It’s a catchy tune that will surely steal the retro funk crown from Pharrell’s “Happy”. In a year grandmas and great aunts will be singing “Uptown funk you up” at wedding receptions across these great lands. You heard it here first.

Elsewhere Stevie Wonder even makes an appearance. He plays his world famous harmonica and sings on “Uptown’s First Finale” and his harp reappears for closer “Crack in the Pearl, Pt. II”. “Feel Right” has rapper Mystical doing his best hip hop version of Joe Tex’ “I Gotcha”. It’s a fun song that you’ll have to turn down when listening to it on your work computer(I learned the hard way.) “Crack In The Pearl” is kinda atmospheric with some great vocals. “In Case of Fire” has some rock guitar going on with an almost Steely Dan smoothness to it.

But to my ears the highlights on this album are the tracks that have Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker on vocal duties. “Summer Breaking” has a 60s vibe to it with the fuzzy guitar, then when Parker’s vocals come in it becomes this 70s soft rock slow burner that shouldn’t work but does. “Daffodils” sounds as much like a Tame Impala song as it does a Ronson joint. Wiggy synths and an almost “Billie Jean” rhythm, it ebbs and flows with some serious stoned indifference. It has the vibe of Lonerism B-side “Beverly Laurel”. This song alone is worth the price of admission. “Leaving Los Feliz” is a fun song with a great beat and another great vocal melody courtesy of Mr. Kevin Parker. A full-on collaboration LP between Ronson and Parker would be a cool thing to see and hear.

Okay, so Uptown Special isn’t going to change your world or blow your mind. It is, however, a fun and funky dance album filled with top notch production and a couple great rump shakin’ tunes. Plus, Kevin Parker. Can’t go wrong with that.

6.5 out of 10