All of Them Witches : Hunters Moon

All of Them Witches bring dark and eerie things to mind with its wistful and mournful sounds, and that’s a very good thing. Listening to their 2016 debut The Coven brought to mind the slight hint of campfire smoke hovering in the air, distant light flickering in a dense forest, a dead moon hanging in the night sky, and a boarded up cabin off the beat and narrow that holds secrets our feeble minds cannot bear to comprehend. These are the things I thought of when I first heard The Coven. All of Them Witches, a one-man operation, runs on the imagination and nightmares of Gary Dimes. He steps into the musical world of 70s and 80s horror cinema and stitches together musical motifs and Gothic melodies that wouldn’t be out of place in stories told by Argento, Romero, Coscarelli, and Carpenter. There’s even hints of NES’ Castlevania(check out “Devil’s Pepper” for proof) lingering on The Coven.

In just a couple weeks Gary Dimes is releasing the newest All of Them Witches album on an unsuspecting 2018 and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Hunters Moon builds upon the foundation of The Coven and pushes the scope and vibe to new, glorious highs.

The first track to hit you is the eloquent “Copper Bones”. It has a decidedly 80s feel. Something like John Harrison’s excellent Day of the Dead soundtrack, but with an OMD vibe. It’s a lush track covered in layers of synth with an electro rhythm that carries the track along. “It’s Not Cranberry Sauce” is all electro queasiness. Dimes lays it on pretty thick here, and to stunning effect. It really does sound like something from some obscure early 80s slasher. “Hele Bay” is a rock solid techno nightmare. It’s like a mixture of Carpenter stabs with a psychedelic take on Vangelis’ Blade Runner score. With headphones on this one is quite the disorienting number. “Westward Foams” wavers in the air like some ominous omen. It starts out with elements of Charles Bernstein’s A Nightmare On Elm Street score but quickly morphs into its own beast.

All of Them Witches doesn’t leave a single moss-covered rock unturned musically. You stay engaged having a feeling of familiarity, while still knowing this is all new to you. Like wondering if you dreamt what you are hearing years before. Something like “The Arrival” opens with an existential drone that builds into something I’d describe as triumphant. “Triple Stones” has a galactic terror vibe with it’s electro funk rhythm guiding the claustrophobic synths through the dark. “The Otherworld” is beautiful in its vastness and spatial musical landscape. There’s a definite sci fi vibe. It’s very reminiscent of Wojciech Golczewski’s work on his trilogy of space albums(The Signal, Reality Check, and End of Transmission.) These contemplative moments are when All of Them Witches shines. They add a vulnerability to Dimes work, amidst all the psychic terror happening throughout the album. “Silently Stalking” goes nearly full horror disco, bringing to mind something you might’ve heard in an early Abel Ferrara film.

Gary Dimes, aka All of The Witches, pays homage to the scores that musically framed our nightmares in the 70s and 80s, but doesn’t ever merely ape a Carpenter or Argento score. Musically he’s created new nightmares to follow us into sleep. Hunters Moon is an exquisite musical journey into pain and pleasure. It has such sights to show you.

Hunters Moon will be released in March. Follow Burning Witches Records at their website and their Bandcamp page for more information. Check out tracks “Copper Bones” and “The Otherworldhere.  Check a teaser video out here.

8.1 out of 10

worriedaboutsatan : Shift EP

U.K.-based worriedaboutsatan are all about digging into the unknown and making something out of that darkness. There are elements of techno, dance, ambient, and heavy atmosphere in their work, with all of their musical voodoo coming to ahead on 2016s Blank Tape, their 3rd full-length. From that breakthrough record, the Yorkshire duo headed into the studio and recorded two improvisational sessions where they wanted to just hit play and see where their imagination would take them. No overthinking it, just in-the-moment creativity. The result is a two-track EP titled Shift. The album consists of “Shift(Part 1)” and “Shift(Part 2)” and it’s a dreamy, dystopian affair that has elements of Tangerine Dream, Vangelis, and even American composer Ben Lovett(check out his Synchronicity score for reference here.) It’s a stunning piece of work.

I spoke with Gavin Miller and Thomas Ragsdale last year about their band and the sound they create. Of their sound, Ragsdale stated “We used to be quite focused on making ‘dance music’, but since we’ve mellowed out in our 30s we’re more interested in writing music you can light a blunt to.” The guys said a lot more than that, and their music is more than just blunt-lighting fare, but I can see the advantage of an altered state of mind when listening to worriedaboutsatan, in-particular Shift.

Side A is “Shift(Part 1)”, a hazy, set-adrift-in-the-abyss kind of track. Think Lucifer Rising-meets-The Fog and you’ll have an idea of the musical trip you bought a ticket for. I think this is probably some of the most engaing music these guys have created. There’s something to be said for music that makes you groove as you zone out, but when you can get connected to the universe on a deeper level without 808 beats and Orbital-like grooves then that’s something(and kids, no blunts needed here.) “Shift(Part 1)” is very ominous to begin. You can imagine the Dark Lord himself rising from the fog searching for souls to take back to the Netherworld as this song opens. Dark ambient vibes mixed with Gothic chills take you into this world, but soon enough the vibe switches up a bit. Subtle percussive touches come in and there’s a melancholy that rushes over. It’s like Godley/Creme morphed with 80s Tangerine Dream. Guitars sound like they’re in an endless well as synths hang in the darkness.

“Shift(Part 2)” switches gears a bit and brings up the dancier tendencies of the band. A steady techno groove glides along atmospheric sonics and distant melody. Where Side A was the dark, Side  B feels like the light. This is a zone-out kind of track, letting the rhythm take over and pull you into the world worriedaboutsatan has made for us. There’s elements of Cluster, Kraftwerk, even Oneohtrix Point Never to some degree.

These two track were recorded in two semi-improvisational recording sessions at the duo’s home studio in Yorkshire. There’s a looseness here that evokes the feeling of those wild and woolly days in 70s Germany when the Komische, Berlin School cats were blowing minds whilst recording in their living rooms with stacks of synths and ancient drum machines. worriedaboutsatan have captured that feeling of exploration beautifully on these two improvised recordings.

Shift is a continuation of the eerie and intricate aesthetics worriedaboutsatan have been perfecting for the past 10+ years. Melancholy and atmospheric electronica mixed with post-rock vastness continue to permeate this Yorkshire duo’s sound, but this time around it all feels looser and more expansive. Shift is a welcome reprieve from the the imploding outside world.

You can download Shift here, and you can preorder the limited translucent green vinyl at Wolves And Vibrancy Records, which will be released on March 23rd.

7. 7 out of 10

 

Safety Off

I grew up in the Midwest in the late 70s and early 80s. I played in the mud and I climbed trees and I pretended I was the Hulk, Spiderman, and a soldier, sometimes even in the same day. I had a collection of toy guns that was impressive by the standards of the Husky jeans-wearing conglomerate. Pistols, rifles, machine guns; I had a collection that would’ve armed the local National Guard.

The woods behind my house was where many battles took place. We’d hide in the trees, build shelters out of tree limbs and cover them in pine needles, and wait for our enemy to walk by. That’s when we’d take them down with various plastic and metal toy firearms. Sometimes you were the U.S. marines, and sometimes you were the enemy. Back in the early 80s the enemy was usually the Russians, as we had entered the second Cold War with them. Though, we also grew up watching plenty of WWII epics starring John Wayne, so the Germans were also enemies in these fake backyard battles.

Once the battle was done, the enemy was defeated, and the Pines Addition Accord was signed, we usually convened in someone’s kitchen for an ice cold Capri-Sun and a Fruit Roll-Up. We’d lay down our arms and watch a healthy dose of The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and The Amazing Spiderman. We’d part friends and then reconvene the next day for the great treehouse battle or do some scouting missions around the neighborhood on our BMX bikes(military grade, natch.)

I grew up with guns. There were firearms in my house. My dad had a .22 rifle, a .22 pistol, and a small .25 caliber pistol he bought for my mom for protection(I’m not sure she ever carried it with her, but whatever.) There was never some sort of infatuation with guns. There was never any fetishizing of these blunt tools. Guns were no different in our house, than say a hammer or a saw. They were instruments for one thing, and that was to kill. None of my friends had parents that lauded their shotguns or revolvers. Those weapons were just that, weapons. Most had them in their house for the same reason my dad did, as protection(or, in my dad’s case to occasionally shoot a crow or two.) Some were hunters. Guns were used for sport. You hunted deer or rabbit or duck. I was never interested in that aspect of firearms, but I understood it(in fact, I lost interest in firearms around the time I grew out of those Husky jeans.) I respected those that cared for their weapons like they were antiques. The care that went into building a double-barreled Remington. Oiling the cherry wood stock and cleaning the barrel with oil. These were still seen as a weapon, but respected for what they could do if not used properly. These weren’t toys, like the ones I used in the pines warfare.

Unarming an entire nation doesn’t seem like a good option to me in regards to stopping mad men(women, children) from gunning down the innocent; whether they be in a classroom, an outdoor concert, a mall, or a church. But I think taking things like military-grade weapons off the market is a pretty good start. I’ve never heard a politician from either side of the aisle say “We need to ban all guns.” I’ve heard taking things like AR-15s, bump stocks, hollow point bullets, armor-piercing bullets, and other military-grade weapons out of the circulation of everyday weaponry. I think that’s a good idea. Sure, someone wanting to kill will find a way regardless, but I’m pretty certain far fewer students, concertgoers, shoppers, and parishioners would’ve died had their not been AR-15s, bump stocks, and hollow point bullets being used, legally, in these situations.

Gun Advocate : Yes, but even if you ban these weapons these people will still get them because they’re criminals.

Me: You’re right, but why make it easier for them? And why let gun makers profit off of mass shootings? By that logic, why not legalize all narcotics? Let’s de-criminalize all drugs. People are going to get them regardless so lets just legalize them, regulate them, and the government can make a fortune off taxing them. Seems like a win-win.

Gun Advocate : Yes, but drugs are dangerous and addictive. Drugs are killing people.

Me : Well, by your logic drugs aren’t killing people. People are killing themselves with drugs. You know, like that old argument I’ve heard after every other school shooting over the last nearly 20 years, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” 

Gun Advocate : Guns aren’t the problem. Violent video games are.

Me : Still going with that one, huh? 

Gun Advocate : It’s these kids that aren’t being disciplined. They need more discipline.

Me : ???? 

Gun Advocate : Thoughts and pra…..

Me : So let me know when we’ve legalized black tar heroin, cocaine, meth, and marijuana and then we can talk.

I’m not here to change anyone’s mind about guns, gun safety, gun regulations, or gun laws. I’m not here to expound on our second amendment right to bear arms. I believe every sane, competent, common sense-possessing American citizen that is of age and of sound mind should continue to be allowed to own firearms if they see fit. I don’t see a problem with someone owning a gun for protection, for sport, or for the pure enjoyment of shooting at a firing range(with proper training.) I’m here saying that as a parent and as a citizen of this country I think there’s a serious problem with what sort of weapons are legal to own in the country. With every school shooting that happens and we’re offered “thoughts and prayers” by government officials the more I feel completely abandoned by the government. I realize more and more that congress and the senate(and the White House for that matter) are not run by elected officials, but the lobbyists paying them to pass beneficial laws in their favor. The NRA is one of the biggest.

Don’t tell me we should arm teachers. It’s a teacher’s job to teach not to be a soldier of fortune. I know teachers that would lay their lives on the line for the kids in their classes(tragically that was proven once again this past week.) But turning the English Lit teacher into a pistol-packing Judge Dredd isn’t the answer. Pulling machine guns out of the hands of anyone that wants one is. Infrastructure investments in schools(metal detectors at every door, bulletproof glass, locked doors, dedicated officers at schools) would also help greatly.

If you feel that strongly about being in possession of things like AR-15s and armor-piercing bullets then there’s an organization just for you. It’s called the military. Visit your nearest army recruiting center immediately. Uncle Sam wants you! If you want to carry a pistol on your hip into Walmart and McDonalds, then there’s a job for you and it’s called being a police officer. We’re in dire need of some good ones, so I urge you to check into it.

 

Windhand & Satan’s Satyrs Split

I’ve always thought of Windhand as doom metal for those of us that don’t live in a fog of bong smoke; or worship Satan or chase woodland creatures with homemade battle axes in our underwear at midnight. The Virginia 5-pc doom metal band carry with them all the eerie, Gothic vibes that would scare off the meek and mild if they heard something like Soma or Grief’s Infernal Flower blasting through the windows of your home as they walked up to sell you their religion or Girl Scout cookies. But there’s also something slightly pure about their music. Maybe it’s the vocals of Dorthia Cottrell that ground the music. There’s something organic, even tasteful in their brand of Gothic doom. The guitars buzz and reverberate like a war cry and the songs trudge along like they’re being pulled through bloody muck and mire. The organs hum like black angels over the proceedings, offering up eternal sleep with the sweet, sweet kiss of death.

But all of this in the nicest way possible.

Satan’s Satyrs on the other hand sound like Blue Cheer going through a meat grinder with the necronomicon. A buzzing mix of 60s garage rock with a shot of 80s doom metal and pinch of Anton LaVey for good measure. If The Black Lips had been more influenced by Saint Vitus and the Satanic Bible they might’ve turned out more like Satan’s Satyrs.

What do Windhand and Satan’s Satyrs have in common? Both are from Virginia, both dabble in occult-drenched metal, and they’ve released a split together. Two tracks from Windhand and three from Satan’s Satyrs on a 12″, courtesy of Relapse Records. It’s a dense, riff-tastic dose of doom/punk metal that will satiate your appetite for something heavy, sleazy, and dark.

Windhand take Side A and fill it up with two sludgy, Gothic monsoons of doom. “Old Evil” rolls into your ears like some lost Sleep track, but with a little more dexterity. Dorthia Cottrell gives the song a sense of urgency while the band lays down some serious doom-y grooves. There’s some Sabbath vibes in the guitar solo that floats over the proceedings. You can almost see the distant glow of a campfire in some secluded woods somewhere in rural Virginia as this track plays. “Three Sisters” is the epic barn burner of the split. It’s 13 minutes of gauzy, slow motion guitar riffing, epic and Gothic organ, and Cottrell’s voice hanging over the whole thing like some specter from another time. This may very well be the best thing Windhand have done so far. Eerie, melancholy doom at its finest.

Side B is a whole other thing. Satan’s Satyrs blast into the record with “Alucard AD 2018”, a punk-inflected rocker that sounds part early Corrosion of Conformity, classic Saint Vitus, and a touch of Blue Cheer on steroids. Not sure if the guys are really into Castlevania, but I’m going to pretend they are cause I want this song to be on the new season of Netflix’ Castlevania. “Succubus” reminds me of old school 80s thrash mixed with a dose of weedy doom. Imagine Kill Em All and Trouble’s The Skull sort of morphing into a double album and “Succubus” would fit perfectly right in the middle. Satyrs end their side with a cover of “Ain’t That Lovin’ You, Baby”, a raucous blues number that shows these cats can have a hell of a lot of fun, as well as get their Satan metal on. These guys are students of classic metal, but also are quite respectful of the roots of rock and roll.

I can’t think of a better pairing for a split. Windhand and Satan’s Satyrs deliver the goods here. Drop the needle and get in on this.

7.9 out of 10

 

 

 

“Another Los Angeles” : Graham Reznick Talks Influences, Film, and New Album ‘Glass Angles’

You may not be familiar with the name Graham Reznick, but I don’t think it will be long until you are. Reznick has been working in the independent film world for years now, wearing multiple hats. What hats, you ask? Well he’s done sound design, engineering, mixing, and scoring. He’s also acted, written, composed, and edited on films going back to 2001. Some of the films he’s worked on include The House Of The Devil, In A Valley Of Violence, The Mind’s Eye, V/H/S, Stake Land, The Innkeepers, The Sacrament, and he wrote and directed the 2008 film I Can See You. He’s been a lifelong friend to writer/director Ti West and he worked under the tutelage of writer, producer, director, and actor Larry Fessenden(don’t know that name either? Believe me, you’d know him if you saw him.) Reznick also wrote the hit PS4 game Until Dawn with Larry Fessenden.

So Graham Reznick is a guy that’s been behind the scenes for years doing the work and making some great indie films. He’s very adept at sound design, which brings us to his debut album on Mondo/Death Waltz Originals titled Glass Angles. It’s a hallucinatory musical trip. There’s elements of Berlin School, EDM, synthwave, and independent electronic like Boards of Canada, Four Tet, and even Flying Lotus at times. But really, Glass Angles is unlike anything you’ve heard. It’s quite brilliant. It’s also a kind of a concept album, really. Reznick wrote the album while adjusting to life in Los Angeles after being a New Yorker for years. The album is an ode to an alternate world version of Los Angeles. Odd angles in mirrors that turn the familiar into something new, unknown, and maybe slightly sinister.

I got the chance to talk to Graham about his childhood, how he got into film, and the making of Glass Angles. We also discussed musical influences, David Lynch, his stoner path in Austin, Texas not taken, and album number two that’s coming out later this year on Burning Witches Records.


J. Hubner: So where did you grow up?

Graham Reznick: Born in New Jersey, raised in Delaware, died in New York, live in LA.

J. Hubner: What was your childhood like? Were you making Hi8 films with your pals in the backyard?

Graham Reznick: I spent a lot of time taking things apart and trying to put them back together again.  Radios, science kits, clocks, whatever.  Anything I liked as a kid I tried to replicate – so yeah, making movies with old cameras and two VCR’s, usually blowing up GI Joe’s in the backyard with Ti West, or drawing comics, or making patches for DOOM.

J. Hubner: So were you always interested in film and music? 

Graham Reznick: I was always very interested in art and drawing, and movies, though I didn’t really know that you could express the things I wanted to express in film until I discovered Twin Peaks and David Lynch.

J. Hubner: So Lynch was the gateway for you?

Graham Reznick: He was the first director that I understood was an artist, able to synthesize all the elements of the medium into something greater than the sum of its parts.

J. Hubner: Lynch is a true auteur, mixing sound and music so incredibly flawlessly. 

Graham Reznick: Music and sound went hand in hand with the other elements of film for me – they’re equal pieces of the puzzle and need to be treated with the same amount of attention as the script, the camera work, the acting, the editing.  For some directors, the balance is different – music and sound are means to an end – but I’ve never been able to approach it that way.  Cinematic gestalt is axiomatic.

J. Hubner: All the elements come together equally, at least they should. I think if you’re not giving equally to each then you’re doing a disservice to the art. 

Graham Reznick: I’ve always felt that if a screenplay expressed an idea perfectly, it should remain a screenplay.  If a photo expresses an idea perfectly, it should remain a photo.  If a song… etc.   Cinema should use all the tools at its disposal to express an idea impossible to express in any other single medium.

J. Hubner: So where did this commitment to cinematic artistic integrity come from? How did you get started in independent film?

Graham Reznick: I grew up with Ti West (director of THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, THE INNKEEPERS, IN A VALLEY OF VIOLENCE); he went to SVA for film, I went NYU, both in NYC.   We shared resources and experience – best of both worlds.  Through Kelly Reichardt, Ti met Larry Fessenden, who was already a legend to us because of his incredible 90’s NYC vampire indie film HABIT (and Larry and I went on to co-write UNTIL DAWN and related games together).   Larry financed Ti’s first film, THE ROOST, in 2003.  I was just out of college and considering moving to Austin and becoming a stoner, but Ti convinced me to move back to Delaware for a year and live in our parents houses and put the film together.  It was a remarkable opportunity to learn the entire professional filmmaking process.  I did almost all of the post sound work, and some additional music (Jeff Grace did the great score), in my parents basement.  I had a Pro Tools LE license and a Digi001, an SM57, a DOD Buzz Box pedal, a Line 6 Delay Modeler, two broken guitars and a Roland HS-60 – which I got dirt cheap because in 2000 when I bought it, people didn’t realize it was virtually the same keyboard as the Juno 106!  That was basically my entire music setup for the next 10 years.  After THE ROOST, my filmmaker friends asked me to sound design or contribute music to their films.  It was a good way to collaborate with directors and friends I admired, as well as pay the rent while I tried to get my own projects off the ground.

Still from Graham Reznick’s 2008 film ‘I Can See You’

J. Hubner: Speaking of your own projects, could you tell me a bit about your 2008 feature film debut, I Can See You? Where did the idea for the film come from?

Graham Reznick: In the mid 2000’s I worked with a group of friends from NYU who had started a company called Waverly Films (filmmakers who have gone on to direct some interesting things, including CREATIVE CONTROL and SPIDERMAN: HOMECOMING) and they made a lot of music videos.  I crashed on their couch in Bushwick for months and edited music videos for them (including The Juan Maclean’s “Give Me Every Little Thing” and LCD Soundsystem’s “North American Scum.”)  One video, which will go unnamed, didn’t turn out the way the label expected, and things went pretty sideways.  The experience of being part of a group of young, creative professionals being completely taken advantage of by a big company looking to scrape talent for peanuts had a big effect on me.  I CAN SEE YOU is about a lot of things, but that experience was a major influence.

J. Hubner: And you worked with Larry Fessenden once again on that film. Besides being in the film, did he have any other role in the production?

Graham Reznick: Larry Fessenden financed the film (which was ultra low budget) and allowed me complete creative freedom.  I knew I had the opportunity to try things and say things I would never be able to achieve in a larger budget, more traditional situation – so I went for it.

J. Hubner: Let’s talk about your Death Waltz Originals debut record ‘Glass Angles’. I’ve been filling my head with it for the past couple weeks and it’s amazing. How did you get involved with Death Waltz? 

Graham Reznick: I met Spencer Hickman, founder of Death Waltz, after he released Jeff Grace’s THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL score on vinyl, but I’d been familiar with the label already because of his incredible run of soundtrack reissues on vinyl.  Around the time I’d put the album demos together, I heard through a few friends that he was considering putting out original material as well as soundtracks, so I took a chance and sent it over.

J. Hubner: Regarding the record, what was the writing process like? You’d said that you were learning to work with Ableton and soft synths while writing the album. Was the software inspiring you to create? The album also feels like it has the specter of Los Angeles haunting it.

Graham Reznick: After living (on and off) in NYC for almost 15 years, I relocated to Los Angeles in 2013.  I had just finished sound designing three films in New York – CLOWN, BENEATH, and THE SACRAMENT – and had some time off to get acclimated to the new city.  I’d also just had a track included on Joseph Stannard and Justin Watson’s incredible compilation THE OUTER CHURCH, and it was receiving some nice attention.  I wanted to make more electronic music, but I’m really not a very good keyboardist (not as good as I’d like to be).  Most of the music I made for myself or for the films I worked on involved a ton of sloppy live playing and then heavy, time consuming editing (of both synth and guitar feedback).   So I invested in Ableton, swapped out my Roland HS-60 for a midi controller, and started learning soft synths – which had come a long way from when I first tried midi compositions in the early 2000s, and when I had tried the early versions of Ableton.

J. Hubner: So learning Ableton helped the process along?

Graham Reznick: Ableton 9 was a huge revelation and I started writing a ton of material immediately.  The HS-60 only makes one appearance – as a lead line halfway through the final track, “Palm Freeze.”  There’s a unique, buzzy, disorienting, thick sound you can get when using the 106 / HS-60’s dual oscillator monophonic mode – I’ve never heard anything like it in any soft synth.  But that’s the only true analog synth on the album – the rest is entirely software.

J. Hubner: And the subtle nods to Los Angeles in the song titles?

Graham Reznick: The culture shock of jumping from NYC to LA informed my mood and I’d write songs during the day, and drive around the city late into the evening, listening to the mixes.  I realized that depending on where you positioned your car, on particular streets, around the city, at particular times, you could look into your mirror or out your window, and if you were listening to the right music, you would see another Los Angeles.

J. Hubner: There’s a real hallucinatory feel to the album. Listening with headphones on, songs like “Beverly’s Crop” and “Highland Steel” have a really psychedelic, sensory overload feel to them. They make you feel off-kilter, but in the best way possible. Even with something like your film ‘I Can See You’ there’s a real hallucinogenic feel, as if you’re not sure what your seeing is real or not. What was the influence on the sound of ‘Glass Angles’?

Graham Reznick: There’s an interesting theory about brain plasticity (which I’m sure I’m misrepresenting here) that says we create new neural pathways when we think about familiar things in a new way, and we rely on preconceptions and existing pathways when we are presented with the familiar – which means we may discount important new info that is hidden by the familiar.  For a piece of art – story, music, film, whatever – to be effective, I think it should find a good balance between the familiar and the unfamiliar.  Sometimes the complete unknown can be exhilarating, and sometimes the familiar can be comforting – but a good balance of the two can allow the audience a way in and then hold their attention while their brain has to literally rebuild itself to keep up.  That’s all just a way to say that there’s always a new angle on things, and those new angles should be explored.

J. Hubner: So from a mixing and engineering standpoint, did you intentionally want to create a dizzying, almost psychedelic feel with the songs?

Graham Reznick: In regards to the album specifically – I did a lot of the initial work and mixing in headphones.  It wasn’t ultimately mixed for headphones specifically, but a lot of the creative choices were geared towards a dizzying, psychedelic, headphone experience.

J. Hubner: Speaking of hallucinatory, your video for “Highland Steel” is insane. It’s dark, nightmarish, and you can’t stop looking at it. What was the influence for what you created? And should there be a seizure warning on this thing? 

Graham Reznick: I wanted to capture the experience of the way the mind works, or doesn’t, during a panic attack.  I didn’t want to recreate the unpleasant experience of a panic attack in the viewer (who wants that?) – but I wanted to find a way to express the terrible awe of how our racing, spinning minds malfunction in fear.

J. Hubner: It’s really hard to pinpoint influences on your sound. The record has bits of 80s electronic in it, but your sound is very much your own. What are some albums that have made an impact on you that may have made their way into your sound?

Graham Reznick: It’s very likely that I’m directly ripping off the artists and music that influenced me.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I will list at least some of the artists and pieces of music that I was consciously aware of directly ripping off while making Glass Angles.  I cannot claim that the music I made comes anywhere near the excellence of any one of the pieces in this list.

In no particular order:

Laurie Spiegel – The Expanding Universe, and Appalachian Grove
Terry Riley – Happy Ending
La Monte Young – The Black Record
Steve Moore – Light Echoes
Aphex Twin – all
Tangerine Dream – White Eagle
MGMT – Congratulations
Tangerine Dream – Force Majeure 
Harold Faltermeyer – Beverly Hills Cop
Tangerine Dream – Phaedras 
John Carpenter – Assault on Precinct 13
Tangerine Dream – Encore
Leonard Cohen – I’m Your Man
Tangerine Dream – Ricochet
The Amps – Pacer
Emeralds – Just to Feel Anything
Valium Aggelein – Hier Kommt Der Schwartze Mond
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Architecture & Morality
Steve Hauschildt – Tragedy & Geometry
This Mortal Coil – It’ll End in Tears
Isabelle Adjiani screaming in the subway in POSSESSION
Angelo Badalamenti – Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
Oneohtrix Point Never – Rifts
Lou Reed – Coney Island Baby
Pye Corner Audio – Prowler
Outer Space – Outer Space
Heart – Dreamboat Annie
Pierre Bachelet – Gwendoline
High Rise – High Rise II
Add N To X – On The Wires of Our Nerves
Donovan – Open Road
Heron – Twice as Nice & Half the Price
Tangerine Dream – Encore 
Future Sound of  London – We Have Explosive 
Butthole Surfers – Psychic, Powerless, Another Man’s Sac
Olivia Tremor Control – Dusk at Cubist Castle
Olivia Tremor Control – Black Foliage
Shellac – 1000 Hurts
Disasterpeace – Fez
Wendy Carlos – Sonic Seasonings
Grandaddy – The Sophtware Slump
Tyrannosaurus Rex – A Beard of Stars
Maurice Jarre – Witness
Geinoh Yamashirogumi – Akira
Little Wings – Light Green Leaves
New Age Steppers / Creation Rebel – Threat to Creation
Daniel Johnston – 1990
Monolake – Cinemascope 
Don Caballero –American Don
Mercury Rev – Deserter’s Songs
Gary Numan / Tubeway Army – Replicas
Mazzy Star – So Tonight that I Might See
The Flaming Lips – In A Priest Driven Ambulance
Proem – You Shall Have Ever Been (disc 2)
Popul Vuh – Cobra Verde
John Stewart – Bombs Away Dream Babies
Boards of Canada – Music Has the Right to Children
Richard Lloyd – Alchemy
Can – Monster Movie
Mike Oldfield –Ommadawn 
The Holy Modal Rounders – Indian War Whoop
Simon and Garfunkel – Bookends
Kraftwerk – Autobahn
Electric Light Orchestra – El Dorado
Roky Erickson – All That May Do My Rhyme 
Brian Eno – Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy
The Microphones – Mt. Eerie
Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral
Sonic Youth – Washing Machine
Godspeed You Black Emperor – F#A#Infinity
Chris Bell – I Am The Cosmos
The Feud – The Feud Vs. Yr Universe
Klaus Schulz – Audentity
Mikal Cronin –Mikal Cronin 
Manuel Göttsching – E2-E4
Yume Bitsu – Giant Surface Music Falling to Earth Like Jewels From the Sky
John Cale – Fear
William Basinski – Silent Night 
Os Mutantes – “Virginia” 
Mark McGuire – A Young Person’s Guide
Gangpol und Mit – The Hopelessly Sad Story of the Hideous End of the World
Paul McCartney – RAM
Thee Oh Sees – Warm Slime
Black Moth Super Rainbow – Start a People 
Neil Young with Crazy Horse – Everybody Knows This is Nowhere
Harold Budd – The Serpent In Quicksilver
Zombi – Digitalis
Chromatics – Kill For Love
Cliff Martinez – Only God Forgives

Also, I’m between 15 and 90 percent certain that if you play every one of these albums simultaneously it will be no different than listening to Glass Angles.

J. Hubner: Glass Angles isn’t the only album you have coming out this year. You have ‘Robophasia’ coming out with Burning Witches Records. How did this record come about? How does it compare stylistically with Glass Angles? 

Graham Reznick: Glass Angles is very specific mood, tone, moment in time.  Robophasia is a much darker record, in a much brighter package.  Less textural; more acid electro-funk with vocoders and sharp edges.  Faltermeyer factored heavily in some of it.

J. Hubner:  It seems like 2018 could be Graham Reznick’s year? With two albums and a great video, what else do you have planned? Are you working on any films? Maybe a feature you’re writing and directing? 

Graham Reznick:  There’s a ton more music in the pipeline.  Some more videos, too, hopefully…  And on the film side, I directed a first episode of a live-action interactive show last year called RAPID EYE, about a sleep study gone very wrong.   It’s full of surprises – it’s going to be a heck of a mindfuck.  Stay tuned on the release info.   I’m also a few weeks out from shooting a new series for SHUDDER, called DEADWAX… but that’s all I can say about that for now!


Head over the Mondotees and grab a copy of Glass Angles before they’re all gone(only a limited run available.) And follow Burning Witches Records on Facebook for a future announcement on Robophasia.

Superchunk : What a Time to Be Alive

Superchunk have been a constant in the indie rock music scene since the early 90s. They helped to define a sound, regionally in the Chapel Hill music scene, and nationally that defined what it meant to be “college rock”. There’s also the whole DIY ethos surrounding the band, with members Laura Ballance and Mac McCaughan forming indie music record label Merge Records. First they started a label as a way to release their own music as well as music from friends, but Merge has grown into one of the most well-respected independent labels in the world.

So what does all of this say about Superchunk? It says they’re indie rock royalty and over 25 years into their career they’re still a vital American rock band that continue to make great albums. Their latest, the great What a Time to Be Alive, is another excellent record to add to the discography. It’s also a big middle finger to the current administration, wrapped in a pop-inflected punk rock bow. Since their 2010 return with Majesty Shredding from a nine-year hiatus, Superchunk have released three albums, with What a Time to Be Alive being number three and it’s yet another solid record. Another reason to hold these indie rock stalwarts in high regard.

In the spirit of full disclosure I wasn’t much of an indie rock kid, young adult, or even twenty-something. In the early and mid-90s I was hanging with the Beatles, Kinks, and some of those Seattle bands. I was also getting down with Billy Corgan and a bunch of other “alternative” artists that would eventually get too big for their britches. That was the problem with  the alternative 90s, man. So many of them started out so bright in the massive musical night sky only to fizzle out after two or three albums. No staying power. Superchunk have staying power. Just listen to opening/title track “What a Time to Be Alive”. It blows out of the speakers like a rallying cry for all the disenfranchised, horn-rimmed glasses-wearing youth of today and yesteryear. There’s some punk push and pull, but there’s also massive hooks that jump out and grab you. “Lost My Brain” is in and out in just over 1:30 and that’s all is needed. Singer/guitarist Mac McCaughan still sounds like a kid out of Chapel Hill grabbing the world by the cojones and saying “It’s my time, now.” Superchunk exudes a forever youth quality, even well into their near 30 year career. “Break The Glass” sounds like the essential DNA strand that helped define bands like Harvey Danger, Motion City Soundtrack, and a good portion of the emo movement.

Listening to Superchunk’s earlier albums you can hear the echo of other like-minded indie bands of the early and mid-90s. Dino Jr, Sleater-Kinney, Pavement, and Blake Babies all share that air of punk rock abandon and pop hooks that Superchunk have been dabbling in since those pre-Clinton years. With McCaughan and Ballance starting Merge Records, it was as if they were trying to create their own East Coast version of K Records. Except less folk and more buzzing tube amps.

Elsewhere, “Dead Photgraphers” captures some J Mascis guitar noise bliss and “Erasure” does Bob Mould proud with some very Sugar feels. “Our empathy weaponized” McCaughan sings over an almost 50s beat. “Reagan Youth” gets all 80s angst-y. Not sure if this song is an ode to the anarcho-punk band of the same name from Queens, but either way it’s a great track. One of the true highlights here is closing track “Black Thread”. It’s a great and catchy tune with a heaping helping of melancholy. There’s bits of Feelies, REM, and of course plenty of that Chapel Hill magic.

There aren’t too many bands from those early days of 90s indie/alternative/college rock that are still doing the work, writing the songs, and pushing themselves to keep the songs interesting. Of those few that still are, you can include Superchunk. They still have something to say and this protest album of sorts proves it. Mac McCaughan, Laura Ballance, Jim Wilbur, and Jon Wurster may not have rewritten the mission statement or rebuilt anything, but there’s no need when things sound as good as What a Time to Be Alive does.

7.7 out of 10

 

Franz Ferdinand : Always Ascending

The early 2000s. It was a magical time for music, wasn’t it? We were overwhelmed with a wave of new and exciting bands mining post-punk and new wave artists past that maybe never got the love and respect they deserved in their moment of awakening. Bands like The Strokes, Interpol, Art Brut, The Killers, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Franz Ferdinand appeared on the music skyline and gave us a reason to erase nu metal, Kid Rock, and boy bands out of our collective minds. Fast forward to 2018 and of all those acts I mentioned Franz Ferdinand are the only ones left that have remained relative in the current music zeitgeist. And really, their 2004 debut still sounds pretty damn good 14 years on. It was fun, jagged, dance-y, and didn’t take itself so damn seriously. They followed up their self-titled with the more rock and roll You Could Have It So Much Better in 2005. They took four years to release album number three, the synth-heavy Tonight : Franz Ferdinand in 2009. Their last album, 2013s Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Actions which tried to capture some of that debut album magic, but to mixed results.

Much like the rest of those self-assured young punks of the early 2000s that gave us all hope that music was once again heading in the right direction, by album number 3 things just started to wain a bit for Franz Ferdinand. Still, these Scots aren’t ready to call it quits. Alex Capranos and company have returned with the mildly triumphant Always Ascending. Nothing has been rewritten. The recipe hasn’t been thrown out and created from scratch. No, this record is a revisiting to all those things that worked for Franz Ferdinand; from the angular riffs to the new wave dance numbers and all around goofy abandon, it’s all here. Hit play and just have some fun, why don’t you.

“Always Ascending” starts things out on a fantastically Franz Ferdinand-ian note. We’re given a big, wistful, dreamy opening that sounds very James Murphy-like as the song descends into a sweaty, hedonistic disco groove. Alex Capranos has been one of my favorite front men to emerge in the last 15 years. He just comes across as a guy I’d love to drink a pint with and maybe talk Orange Juice and Wire a bit with. This song is comfort food for my ears. “Lazy Boy” keeps those late night 70s disco vibes going just fine with another self-deprecating song that Capranos seems so well at making. It’s very Gang of Four, minus the militant scowls and punk vitriol. You can almost always count on a poetic bit of balladeering on nearly every Ferdinand release, and “The Academy Award” takes that mantle proudly. It’s a beautifully melancholy piece of music that brings to mind both Leonard Cohen and Scott Walker. So yeah, it’s a tear-dampened handkerchief used to clean up a bloody nose as you drive home to an empty existence with an empty fridge kind of song. “Lois Lane” is a lanky synth pop track that you can’t help but bob your head to. It’s like The Human League and Madness playing ping pong in the studio as Talk Talk discussed song arrangements.

Elsewhere, “Huck and Jim” gets a little noisy with big guitars and prevalent bass with some hip hop vibes thrown in for good measure. “Glimpse Of Love” is shimmering guitar and 80s alternative swagger, while “Feel The Love Go” lays down some serious club vibes with Capranos asking the usual questions in the way Alex Capranos does. “Slow Don’t Kill Me Slow” tries to make its mark as the last track, but while it has lots of melodrama and production schmaltz it sort of gets forgotten in the wake of the Franz Ferdinand dance party we just experienced.

Franz Ferdinand are a guilty pleasure I’m not about to give up. Always Ascending is a welcome reprieve from the typhoon of junk I see and hear daily every time I open a newspaper or watch the news. Alex Capranos and Franz Ferdinand are the comfort food for my ears that makes me feel like things are gonna be okay. Maybe even if its just for 40 minutes, I can just get lost in weirdly sentimental dance music that reminds me of simpler times. You know, when there was a Bush in office and New York was healing itself, one Strokes album at a time. And four Scots called Franz Ferdinand wanted to “Take Me Out”.

7.9 out of 10