Malcolm

AC/DC was the first band I ever got truly obsessed with. I was 11 years old and at the cusp of maybe, possibly wanting to learn to play guitar. Anything with crunchy, choppy, standout guitar would catch my ear. I put my mom and dad’s Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits cassette through the ringer, listening to “Last Child”, “Kings and Queens”, and “Sweet Emotion” over and and over. But the band that stoked that guitar playing fire more than anyone was AC/DC. My parents had Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap and Highway To Hell on 8-track and I remember specifically wanting to hear “Beating Around The Bush” constantly. That song in-particular was like cat nip for me. It was rough, tough, badass, and that riff was as heavy as anything that was coming out of the Bay area in the early 80s or the Lower East Side in the mid-70s. There was just something very visceral and physical about the rhythm guitar work on those AC/DC albums.

The summer before my 6th grade year I had some chore money saved up(probably some raking for my dad) and my mom took me to Big Wheel, which was a retail store in town where you could pretty much buy anything(precursor to Walmart.) They had a pretty decent collection of cassettes so I snagged up High Voltage by AC/DC and by the time we were 20 seconds into the drive home and “It’s A Long Way To The Top(If You Wanna Rock ‘n Roll)” I thought I’d heard everything I’d ever need to hear in terms of guitar music(in some ways, that statement is still very true.) That staccato rhythm Malcolm Young built that song on was like the Pyramids of rock and roll, where hard rock built its civilization upon. Of course everything else about that song was amazing, but for a fledgling, wannabe guitar player it was as if the curtain had been lifted and I was shown that a simple flick of the wrist and just the right amount of volume from a Marshall plexi head could blow minds.

In that summer of 1986 I quickly amassed a collection of cassettes from AC/DC that covered ’74 Jailbreak up to Who Made Who. By the time I’d gotten my first guitar at the end of that summer I was already learning “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”, “Ride On”, and “Hells Bells” thanks to the AC/DC songbook that came home with me. Malcolm Young made playing rhythm guitar seem deceptively simple, yet he had a very deft touch that would take a few more years to somewhat crack(though I never really cracked it.) Everyone talked about Angus and his schoolboy uniform, his stage antics, and yes his raw, bluesy lead playing. His sound was perfect after all. It was electric, buzzing, and always on point. But when you get older and you can look back on those old AC/DC records you see and hear the true secret ingredient to those albums was Malcolm Young’s rhythm playing. He laid a solid foundation, along with Cliff Williams and Phil Rudd, on which Angus could bewitch us with his SG wizardry.

I can’t imagine anyone else playing “Kicked In The Teeth”, “Dog Eat Dog”, “You Shook Me All Night Long”, “Beating Around The Bush”, “TNT”, “Who Made Who”, “Highway To Hell”, “Back In Black”, “Gone Shootin”, “Shake Your Foundations”, “Bedlam In Belgium”, or ANY other AC/DC tracks with the same amount of restrained, simple dexterity and spot-on timing than Malcolm Young. He, along with legends like Eddie Cochran, Chuck Berry, Chet Atkins, James Burton, and Jerry Reed elevated the rhythm guitarist into as vital a role in rock and roll as the front man. Malcolm turned being a rock and roll rhythm player into an art form.

Malcolm Young died today. He was 64 years old. It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll, but Malcolm Young made it. He even added a few floors above it.

Trophy Club : Sports Cars

Fort Wayne has its fair share of “hardest working folks in showbiz” types. The music scene is less individual bands keeping to themselves than a bunch of bands that are made up of people in other bands. Some last, some are here and gone before your beer buzz fades from seeing them the night before. How long they last doesn’t really matter, though. What matters is the quality of the work. What matters is the songs and the spirit and just the general chutzpah put into all these different projects, short-lived or in for the long haul need not matter. I’d attempt to name all these side projects, but there’s not enough ink. I’ll just say this, Fort Wayne is a hotbed of interlocking songwriters, musicians, artists, and bigger than life personalities that make sure the music fan will never be bored. There’s something in the Allen County air that seems to cultivate creativity. In fact, before I’m done typing this sentence there will probably be 4 more bands formed in the 07.

One of those prolific, band and genre-hopping folks dispersing verses and riffs like a pied piper of tunes in the Fort is Jared Andrews. Andrews has been playing around town for years now, with bands like Elephants In Mud, The Meat Flowers, and Microwave Miracles to name a few. He seems like a guy that loves music, period. There’s no certain name brand or genre hat this guy likes to wear all the time(though he does like hats.) A couple months ago Andrews put out his most recent solo album called I Wanna Be Your Cartoon. It’s a fun album mixed with the right amount of silliness, sincerity, and just a touch of creepiness.  But even before the codes could be cracked on that we’re looking down the barrel of a brand new band and album featuring Jared Andrews. Trophy Club is the name of the Fort Wayne supergroup that consists of Andrews, Void Reunion’s George Gardner, The Snarks’ Zach Kerschner, and drummer Cale Gerst. Sports Cars, Trophy Club’s debut album, does resemble Andrews’ past work, but this is very much a band in the truest sense.

Sports Cars opens with “The Trophy Club” which seems like a pretty cool place to hang out, as George Gardner sings “Where everything’s gonna be alright/ Where everything shines like gold/Where you can be a winner in our eyes/ In the Trophy Club”. It’s pop melancholia that is a nice way to enter the world of Trophy Club. This opening track sees Gardner, Andrews, and Kerschner all taking a verse, which is something you don’t hear all that often anymore. “The Man From Parts Unknown” has a Specials vibe, while “A Ghost Eating Life Cereal” sounds like the start of a Steven Wright joke, but its surprisingly more earnest than the title would seem. “You cannot escape the ghost” turns to “You cannot escape your ghost”. There’s something ominous about that.

Trophy Club took these tunes to Jason Davis’ Off The Cuff Sound for Davis to add his sonic expertise and studio prowess to these songs, which he does very well. There’s a heaviness to these songs that may have been missing had the guys gone a more DIY route. “Sports Cars” is one of the best tracks here and the low end definition and keys here give the song a whole other dimension. There’s an early Weezer vibe that makes the song quite the ear candy. “Ice Cream Dance” is another standout. There’s a familiarity to the background guitar, but I can’t quite place it. Lyrically it’s a bit haunting. “Oh, Lord – I’m sorry for my sinful ways/Stay up all night and sleep for 3 days/ Sorry that I see the beauty in life/And try to open it up with a rusty knife” Andrews sings as the song moves along in a deceptively simple manner. “Electric Blanket” is a is a sweet song that lyrically seems to be a “come to Jesus” moment for someone who can’t stop being a screw up long enough to see the forest for the trees. The song ends on an instrumental note.

Trophy Club’s Sports Cars is a short and sweet album that is filled with fractured pop songs about the disenfranchised, broken-hearted, and those that just can’t seem to catch a break. So they’re songs for you and me.

Favorite Albums Of The Year(So Far) : Oneohtrix Point Never’s ‘Good Time’ S/T

I came to Oneohtrix Point Never around 3 years ago. I think I’d avoided them because Pitchfork was telling me that I should love them. Of course I’m going to go against that urge to listen and absolutely NOT take advice from a bunch of pretentious music critics catering to the “what’s happening now” crowd. This mindset is dangerous, ignorant, and just plain wrong, especially when I suppose I’m somewhat of an amateur music critic myself. I mean, I could never write for a ‘zine of any kind. I write in a much more personal way than any respectable magazine could tolerate.

Anyways, I’m getting off point here(yes, there’s a point.)

So back to OPN…I finally jumped into Daniel Lopatin’s world in the fall of 2014. Since Boards of Canada were now on Warp Records and Lopatin was on Warp Records I thought I should at least give him a shot. I bought R Plus Seven and immediately felt my mind warp in a significantly unnatural way. Oneohtrix Point Never’s music, to my ears, felt like stepping inside someone’s skull and walking thru their thoughts and secrets. Songs were more like impressionistic paintings relating hopes, fears, daydreams, and nightmares in these aural tapestries. I hadn’t been that excited about a band since Boards of Canada’s Music Has The Right To Children cracked open my head and rewired my brain. This electronic music wasn’t purposed for the dancefloor. It was made to help you connect with the universe and engage with the world around you. R Plus Seven was catnip for this Midwestern curmudgeon introvert.

Of course I fell right into a OPN wormhole. I began grabbing as many records as I could. Betrayed In The Octagon, Drawn and Quartered, Russian Mind, Returnal, and Replica were all immediately snagged up. All were these same but different musical worlds. Earlier records were more fractured new age and psychedelic ambient than the later stuff, which delved into more modern and percussive sounds.

This same year was the year I discovered the wonderful world of panic attacks and anxiety. Discovering Oneohtrix Point Never this year seemed to be sort of a blessing in disguise as I found real solace in these albums. Amidst the noise, chaos, and manic sonic explosions I found a center where I could calm down. My wife had started a new job earlier in 2014 and she’d begun traveling, which left me at home making sure all three kids were getting up for school, getting homework done, my oldest was getting to band camp and work on time and all the while working 8 hours and hoping the children were doing what they were supposed to be doing at home when they were off for summer vacation.

Oneohtrix Point Never provided a sonic place I could escape to and realign my head.

Suffice it to say, I will always have a soft spot for Daniel Lopatin and OPN. 2015s Garden Of Delete was one of my favorite records that year and felt like a total reimagining of Lopatin as a composer and electronic musician. It was hard to imagine where he could even go from there. Turns out film scoring was where he was going, and it was a brilliant step.

I still have yet to see The Safdie Brothers’ Good Time, but if Lopatin’s score is any indication it’s an absolute adrenaline-fueled psychedelic trip through New York City. I haven’t seen any of The Safdie Brothers’ previous films, and if I’m being honest I had no idea who they were before I’d read Oneohtrix Point Never was scoring their movie. I figure if Daniel Lopatin is good with them then so am I.

The soundtrack. If I didn’t know it was a soundtrack to a film I would’ve easily believed this to be just a new OPN album. It comes together beautifully as a sonic journey. There’s a few moments of dialogue, but that doesn’t feel that out of place for OPN. It has moments of tension and noisy chaos that comes with the territory, but there’s also moments of musical beauty. Something like “The Acid Hits” proposes to the listener pyramid-like sounds stacked upon each other, while “Leaving The Park” harkens back to earlier OPN musical adventures. It flutters and bounces like music to some ancient video game.

Even with all the impressive sounds and musical moods on this album, my standout track is the final one. “The Pure And The Damned” stands completely on its own as this fractured and beautiful pop song. It’s a piano-driven song sung by Iggy Pop. “The pure always act for love/The damned always act from love” Pop sings as he talks about going to a place where “we can pet the crocodiles”. It’s a bizarre and tender track. I can only imagine after seeing the film that it will mean that much more. I honestly love this song.

I don’t know if this would be a great place for the uninitiated to start or not, but once you have been initiated you must find your way to this record. It’s essential OPN.

 

I bet your 7″ lathe cut can’t do this….

I thought I’d seen everything. From UFOs landing in Midwest cornfields and their extraterrestrial pilots revealing to me the meaning of existence thru an old Lite Brite, to talking coyotes that revealed to me the meaning of existence thru an old Milton Bradley Simon game, to a monkey that could make Toaster Strudels for a man born without arms, legs, and a mouth to eat the Toaster Strudels with. It seemed that nothing in this universe could surprise me at this point in the game. How could it, with me already realizing that we’re all here as merely a collective sigh baking on this rock and waiting for the Planctorian Death Lords from Sigma Nigh-8 to come and turn us all into slave monkeys, our only purpose of existence to toast their damn Toaster Strudels because they have no arms or legs???

Turns out life just surprised me(a little, anyways.)

A very small record label called Polytechnic Youth came into my world. Polytechnic Youth is located somewhere in the far reaches of the universe where they make these magical 7″ lathe cuts. Super small batches of different artists each time. Side A and Side B, boom, they are gifted to the world and then they’re off to the next. Super limited, super rare, but super incredible art. Here’s the simple description on their website:

library sounds | electronic experiments in kosmische | primitive electronics as a soundtrack to physical education | a micro label for vinyl heads

The reason I came across this label is Timothy Fife. Timothy Fife of synth duo Victims and of his own solo work, in-particular this year’s excellent Black Carbon. Fife is the real deal when it comes to electronic composition. He’s deep into Giallo scores, Italian directors, and horror cinema in general. His work that I’m familiar with is of the heady and heavy synth variety. Fife is heavy into the Berlin-School Movement, Komische, Krautrock, and sites Klaus Schulze as a big influence. You can hear it in his work, for sure. But he adds elements of ambient music, darker incidental work, and this East Coast sensibility that can only come from staring out into the endless Atlantic and hearing those icy waves crash against the shore. It’s quite beautiful.

A few weeks ago Timothy Fife released a 7″ lathe cut with Polytechnic Youth. Side A is “Simulacra” with the B side being “All Tomorrow’s Remembered”. These are exquisite synth compositions. Bubbly, dream-like, and take you to another place when you’re in the middle of them.

“Simulacra” pulls you in with arpeggiated notes and whispers of new age ambient in the background. It’s Komische of the highest order. “All Tomorrows Remembered” puts me in mind of Edgar Froese, Rudiger Lorenz, and touches of JD Emmanuel, but all rebuilt and redefined by Fife’s style.

The unique thing about this release is that it plays from the inside out. You drop the needle right at the runout point of the 7″ and it rides those grooves backwards. I was skeptical at first. “How will this work?” I said. “Do I need to light candles and repeat dark incantations?” I said. “I think your grilled cheese is burning” my wife said. It was. Anyways, I followed the instructions included with the 45 and sure enough the needle grabbed the groove. And also, as stated in the instructions, I turned the volume UP!

Beautiful.

As I said, these releases are super limited and are gone before you know it. Timothy Fife’s sold out in record time. I think you can locate one or two on Discogs for like $1,000,000 or something. If you’ve got the cash I’d go for it. It’s worth it, man. Brilliant tracks, artwork, and it plays from the inside out.

Who needs the meaning of life when you’ve got records like this? If you listen hard enough, you can find that meaning you’re looking for in the grooves.

 

 

 

Psychotronic Love : The Neon Sounds of Laserblast

The 80s were a perplexing time, man. The 70s really screwed us up with its indifference, key parties, and Hal Ashby films that by the time we hit 1980 we wanted to somehow get to the future as quickly as we could. We plastered fake smiles on our faces, wore neon colors, sweetened our sitcoms with mountains of saccharine, and we began the process of taming electronic music. Those heady synths that were being used to melt minds and transcend how we view the world in albums by Tangerine Dream and Popol Vuh were being used to create more mainstream sounds.

Electronic music became a little more light-hearted and welcoming. It could be grating when laid on too thick, but when there was just the right amount of romantic sway and minor key melancholy the music was quite amazing. The synthwave scene is a musical planet where the synth is using its powers for good, not evil. These aren’t horror soundtrack nods, but a tip of the shiny hat to Mad Max b-movie rip offs and exploitation space flicks. Bright and colorful Saturday morning cartoons and video games.

Danish band Laserblast are giving props to the decade of Reagan and Thatcher by honing their own sequenced 80s soundtrack with lots of hardware and space age vibes. Their music puts me in mind of Le Matos and Com Truise, but with more of a softer edge. Not so heavy on the deep bass and more concentrating on the whimsical aspect of 80s synth. There’s a sci-fi vibe that is more along the lines of adventure and thrill seeking than those darker tones a lot of synth music as of late wants to capture.

I spoke to band members Kristoffer Ovesen and Mie Jakobsen about how the Danish band got started, their influences, and what direction they want to take the band.


J. Hubner: So who is in the band?

Kristoffer Ovesen: We started out as Mie Jakobsen, EmileLouise Nielsen and myself, but after finishing the tape Emilie unfortunately had to leave us, due to lack of time. Emilie and I have been playing together in various projects for more than ten years, and she has taught me almost anything I know about sound synthesis. I first saw Mie play at an art gallery where she and Jannik Juhl, (who produces under the name Giedo Primo, as well as runs the record-label Hamarplazt) were doing a couple of impro live shows.

J. Hubner: What other band s and projects are you two involved in? How did you get started in music?

Mie Jakobsen: For me everything started when I joined musician Ras Bolding on stage. Through him I met great friends including Kristoffer and Emilie. Emilie wrote me and asked if I wanted to be a part of an Italo Disco/synthwave/80’s music project, and since I’m a big fan of these genres, I couldn’t resist.

Kristoffer Ovesen: Besides Videodrones and Laserblast I’ve done two tapes of quite repetitive techno under the moniker Metis, as well as worked with Danish performance artist Tine Louise Kortermand on several projects and done chaotic industrial-acid-techno as a part of the duo Selvmordsskolen (The name being another movie reference, it’s the title of a weird Danish comedy from the 60’s and translates School of Suicide.)

J. Hubner:  Being quite familiar with Videodrones, Laserblast seems on a completely different music spectrum. Very 80s vibe. Has a synthwave feel, as opposed to the darker tones of your other work. Who are some of the influences on the new cassette release? At times I’m reminded a bit of contemporary artists like Com Truise, Nightsatan, and even Le Matos.

Kristoffer Ovesen: Yes, we definitely strived for a more romantic and uplifting feel, than what I’ve done earlier. For us to find some sort of common ground, I had to move into a (to me) new territory, a handful of early sketches I did for the project was actually turned down by Mie, as “sounding to much like a horror soundtrack” Ha! For me Tangerine Dreams 80’s soundtracks was a big influence while working on the tracks. Risky Business, Near Dark, Miracle Mile etc.

I really like a lot of new synthwave, the combination of modern software and production techniques together with the 80’s synth sound is very inspiring. When we got together for this project 6 months ago my initial plan was to tap into the more clubby sound of Kavinsky and Lifelike, inspired also by the italo-disco of Claudio Simonetti and likes (especially a lot of the soundtracks for Italian post-apocalypse and Mad max rip-offs. Great stuff!) Quite early the projected drifted into a dreamier territory, though. Probably due to the way I produce, more hardware, less software, a lot of the techniques to achieve the more modern aspect of the harder, pumping sound of Kavinsky for example acquires a lot of software use. Listening to the completed tape, French act College might be our closest reference on the contemporary synthwave scene.

Most importantly I think the artist mentioned helped pave the way for both Videodrones and Laserblast, in the sense, that had it not been for them (and Stranger Things and Refns Drive, of course), I’m not sure many would care about what we do. Right now, it seems like people have been “conditioned” to this sound, but I’ve got a chilling feeling, that 5-10 years from now, people will want some sort of glitched out digitally shit or uk-garagy chip-munk hell again. I’m just gonna jump the wagon while it lasts and exploit the fact that 20+ years of collecting and watching 70′ and 80’s exploitation/sci-fi/horror movies, finally has some sort of relevance outside of geeky collector circles and xeroxed fanzines (even though I love both!)

Mie Jakobsen: I’m probably the one who’s been dragging Kristoffer in a more funky direction. Besides the earlier mentioned bands an important influence for me is music I would enjoy listening to in an airplane, looking down at the clouds, or the great tunes that makes my bike ride just that more awesome.

J. Hubner: What’s the songwriting process like in Laserblast?

Kristoffer Ovesen: Most tracks started out as a very minimal sketch bye me. A beat, bass-line and maybe and arp or some chords. Mie and Emile would either make alterations or just play on top of that.

J. Hubner: Let’s talk gear. What hardware are you using in Laserblast?

Kristoffer Ovesen: We sequenced the synths from my PC in Reaper and recorded back and mixed in Reaper. All beats are sequenced and played from a Korg Electribe sampler. It’s kind of outdated, but it has been with me for a long time, and I sequence beats relatively fast using it. Most drum sounds were samples from the Akai XR10. Everything else is either the Roland HS-60 or my modular. I’m not into soft-synths, really. I dig the concept and the sounds, but the work process bores me. I like knobs, cables and sliders. Both Mie and Emilie used soft-synths while composing some of their parts, but those tracks were all re-recorded later using the before mentioned gear. I mixed the EP using a minimal of plugins. Just EQ, reverb and some delay. We were running a tight deadline, as Mie left for Australia in October, there was only 6 months between our first meeting and the finished tape, so things has been moving quite smoothly.

The guitar part on the last track of the tape, Videovold, was played and recorded by Jens Hollesen, guitarist of Danish heavy metal band Death Rides a Horse (yet another film reference) and was also the final track added to the mix. Jens knows his film history and is well into Jan Hammer and 80’s Tangerine Dream as well.

J. Hubner: I really dig the artwork on your new album. Was there a concept behind it? Who created it?

Mie Jakobsen: While Emilie and Kristoffer are the masterminds behind most of the sweet bass-lines and spacey leads, I’m the one who made the cover art. Using 80’s sci-fi cartoons, Blade Runner and of course the music vibe as inspiration, Kristoffer thought a robot/laser girl would do well on the cover. The original idea was to match the color of the tape and the cover, but since we couldn’t find a pink paper good enough, we tried out a few different other colors – which is also the reason why the tape comes with two covers (the lucky owner gets to choose for himself whatever is preferred.)

Kristoffer Ovesen: I’ve been into comics since I was a kid, especially what you would call “graphic novels”. Will Eisner, Richard Corben, Moebius, Milo Manara etc. Especially the more psychedelic, weird ones caught my attention from a very young age. We were well into recording the first tracks, when I first saw Mies drawings, but from that moment it was pretty clear to me, that she had to work out some sort of visual concept for the band. The girl on the cover, I imagine as some sort of intergalactic agent. She started out as a sketch, and since the completion of the tape Mie has been sending me more drawings of her, so we might end up developing some sort of concept/story around the character. It’s a great inspiration and I like to work with some sort of concept when producing, whether it be aesthetically, thematic or technical to give you some sort of direction or framework.

J. Hubner: Can you tell me about Interzone Tapes, the label you released the cassette on?

Kristoffer Ovesen: Interzone tapes is my own label. I started it in 2013, mainly as a vehicle for my techno stuff, but since then I’ve released a handful of other artists as well. It’s very DIY, I enjoy making everything myself, including xeroxing covers late at night at my girlfriend’s workplace or recording all the tapes myself on a Tascam double-deck. I do very limited runs (20-50 tapes) and have no professional distribution, as this was never intended to grow into a bigger label. I’d rather keep it small, and release whatever I want, whenever I want. I’m definitely not “label-boss material”, but running Interzone Tapes gives me a perpetual motivation for moving forward creatively.

J. Hubner: So do you record your albums to tape? Or do you record digitally then transfer to tape?

Kristoffer Ovesen: We record digitally. Working with a hardware only set-up for the sounds, the further addition of an analog stage didn’t seem necessary. I do drive the tape recorder into the red to add a bit of tape saturation/compression during the recording of the tapes on some releases. Mainly techno and harder material. The Laserblast tapes was recorded quite conservatively to preserve the dreamy qualities. I’m no tape expert, so all of this is also a bit of a trial and error process and might not all be according to the books….

J. Hubner:  I think the cassette is great. Much like listening to the darker synth stuff puts me back to watching late night horror as a kid, the Laserblast cassette is another nostalgic trip, albeit a much different one. More like Saturday morning cartoons and getting lost in the local arcade for hours. What is it about the neon 80s and synthwave that attracts you? Were either of you an 80s kids?

Mie Jakobsen: Actually, I wasn’t even born in the 80’s. To be honest I don’t know where my fascination of everything made before 2000 came from. Sometimes I believe I was born in the wrong time.

Kristoffer Ovesen: I was born in 78′, so I grew up on Robocop, Burton’s Batman, Terminator, Ghostbusters, Gremlins, Beverly Hills Cop etc. To me the music of Laserblast is very much about the future I was promised through eighties pop-culture. A very escapist trip, to be honest. My childhood in the 80’s were filled with fear of environmental disaster and nuclear war on one side, while there was also a very optimistic, futuristic vibe in pop-culture on the other side. I remember the eighties as a time were looking like an android were something to strive for, a time were Grace Jones, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Brigitte Nielsen were perceived as aesthetic role models for looking like machines. Things were cool in the eighties. It was cool to be cool. I was not a cool kid, though, I just liked cool stuff….

J. Hubner: How do you think the age difference helps the working relationship between you two?

Kristoffer Ovesen: I think the big age difference between Mie and I has been very important for the outcome of the project. Not having experienced 80’s pop-culture in the same way as I, gives her a different, fresh perspective. Emilie is a bit younger than me and is very much inspired by videogame music and the fact that she was a part of the Danish demo-scene, when she was younger, but we also share a love for 80’s synth-pop and EBM.

J. Hubner: Do you two want to take Laserblast on the road?

Kristoffer Ovesen: No, live shows yet, but when Mie returns from down under we’ll get right on it. Playing live was on our minds from the beginning.

J. Hubner: You’ve put out a great debut cassette which is also available digitally. Any plans for a full-length LP?

Kristoffer Ovesen: Most definitely. We aimed for an album length, but at some point, we realized, that if we were to release anything before Mie left for Australia, it had to be EP length. That also means, that we had to leave a handful of tracks unfinished, tracks that should hopefully be the foundation of a full-length vinyl, but probably not on Interzone Tapes, I want to keep that as a tape-only label, as vinyl would require bigger runs and thereby the need for professional distribution, and I’m afraid the extra amount of work going into running a vinyl-label would have a negative impact on the amount of time I spend producing music. I admire people like Jonas Munk (of El Paraiso/Causa Sui) who can keep it all together, while remaining chill as fuck…..

Mie Jakobsen: The plan is to get some lyrics and vocals recorded as well. I will be more musically active on our future releases. Our badass little front-cover character has just made her debut. Great adventure is awaiting her..

J. Hubner: What’s lined up for the rest of 2017?

Kristoffer Ovesen: Videodrones are getting ready for our first live show in December and I’ve got a release with Danish synth/space/kraut collective Mentat coming out on Interzone tapes. Otherwise I’ll be working on some of our leftovers and unfinished tracks from the tape, and see what might fit a coming full-length Laserblast release.


Head over to Laserblast’s Bandcamp page and pick this one up right away. I’ve been filling my head with it all week and it gets better each time. You should also check out Kristoffer’s Interzone Tapes. He’s putting out some really great music, and in a very DIY way. Go see what he’s got for you over at their Discogs page and take a listen at the heady tones right here.

For Whom The Blue Bell Knolls

It wasn’t always easy being able to admit my love for Cocteau Twins. Now that I’m in my 40s, middle-aged with an odd-shaped balding head it doesn’t really matter what I admit freely. No one is listening, nor do they care even if they’re in earshot of my incessant Midwest groaning. But being a metal head in Yuckety Yuk, Indiana in the late 80s/early 90s was a balancing act of testosterone ragin’ while keeping your sensitive side neatly tucked away. Maybe you’d keep that soft side of you in some old shoe box under your bed with a pair of your baby shoes, or buried in the backyard with a signed head shot of Soleil Moon Frye and a Popeye t-shirt your mom bought you when you were 8. You couldn’t show weakness in front of other sweaty, over-nourished metalheads or you were likely to be shunned from the group. You’d be sent to the woods to be eaten by wolves. Or worse, Pentecostals.

Point is, a band like Cocteau Twins was about as alien in my adolescent stomping grounds as ,well, aliens. You know, like Hanger 18 aliens. But there was something about Elizabeth Fraser’s voice that dug right into my freakish, greasy teen soul. It was haunting, ghostly, and ethereal like some divine whisper from the universe itself. Of course at 16-years old I would’ve said something more like “What the fuck? This is weird…but good weird like Brazil or potato chips on my bologna sandwich.” I can distinctly remember sitting over at my best friend Jason’s house on a Saturday night re-watching the previous week’s episode of 120 Minutes. We’d dig into Concrete Blonde, My Bloody Valentine, and whatever other 4AD band was the “it” alternative flavor of the week. Then Cocteau Twins’ “Heaven Or Las Vegas” came on and I sort of felt stunned. Like, what was happening? Is this what it feels like to be touched by an angel? Or groped by a ghost? As Jason started to fast forward the video I say to him “Hey man. Let’s just let this one play, you know for shits and giggles? We could just sit here silently and make fun of it in our minds without words. Or something.” Fortunately, Jason was thinking those same thoughts I was thinking about these Scottish dream poppers. We couldn’t put it into words, but we both knew there was something special going on. Of course we immediately threw on some Suicidal Tendencies or Faith No More and pretended we didn’t just have a moment.

I moved on, 120 Minutes was cancelled, Matt Pinfield got a new job, and I sort of forgot about Cocteau Twins for a couple years until The Crow came out and that soundtrack ruled my brain for most of 1994. One song in-particular got my attention. Medicine’s “Time Baby III”. It was a really cool song, but what really stuck out was the guest vocals of Elizabeth Fraser. It was a voice I hadn’t heard in a long time and it reminded me that I needed to go back to Cocteau Twins and investigate further.

Then about 20 years went by.

Back in 2014 I started up on Cocteau Twins. Having gone “full vinyl”, I knew I had to find some of their albums on the big, black circle. The first album I bought was Heaven Or Las Vegas. It had to be that. That was the album that broke through my big dumb brain in the first place. “Cherry-Coloured Funk” and “Heaven Or Las Vegas” were in my DNA. But the the second one I bought was Blue Bell Knoll. On a streaming binge I happened across the album and was pretty much floored by the whole thing. “Carolyn’s Fingers” felt like a chill going down my spine. Once I heard that I was done.

There are better albums by Cocteau Twins than Blue Bell Knoll. I’m a big fan of Garlands. I love the post-punk vibe and that I can hear where The Cure got their sound from on a song like “Wax and Wane”. Treasure was the first album that saw that truly mesmerizingly beautiful tone they would go on to perfect on Heaven Or Las Vegas. So where does that leave an album like Blue Bell Knoll? Well, to my ears, it’s the last Cocteau Twins album where they still sounded like a small band with very big ideas.

“Blue Bell Knoll” starts out with some of those dark, ominous tones of the early records but quickly adds some synth flourishes and stacks Fraser’s beautiful vocals on top to give the song a much welcomed dreaminess. “Athol-brose” is just absolute brilliance. It’s the moment Dorothy steps from her black and white farmhouse to soak in the technicolor beauty of Oz. It’s dizzying and an overload of the senses. No band sounds like this. Just Cocteau Twins. That’s it. “For Phoebe Still A Baby” feels like some alien lullaby. The bass puts me in mind of mid-80s Cure. I think there’s a thru-line between the two bands. It’s like they both drank from the same Gothic well and somehow worked through whatever demons they were struggling with. This track sounds like contentment with an overcast day.

I have to admit that for years I thought Cocteau Twins were Swedish or French or Finnish. There was something in Fraser’s vocals that made me think what she was singing was not English. I thought it was a very foreign language that was being sung. I was wrong. Cocteau Twins are a Scottish band, but I still think there’s a very alien lean to the words sung by Elizabeth Fraser. She sings beautifully, but it sounds like a language made up by Fraser. The magic in Cocteau Twins, besides the dream-like clouds of flangered bass, guitar, and walls of synth created by Robin Guthrie and Simon Raymonde, was that voice. It got me every time I heard it. Elizabeth Fraser had a voice like no other. For my money no one has yet to top it.

Every song on Blue Bell Knoll carried some sort of strange magic. “Cico Buff”, “Spooning Good Singing Gum”, “A Kissed Out Red Floatboat”, and “Ella Megalast Burls Forever” all contain some bit of melancholy genius. There’s absolute pop perfection contained on every track here. If it was a fair and just world, Cocteau Twins would’ve been played on pop radio stations worldwide instead of Debbie Gibson, Taylor Dayne, and NKOTB. Of course the population at large couldn’t take this kind of beauty on their commute to work or bus ride to school. There would’ve been massive existential crisis, love-ins in every county courthouse, and the world as we know it would’ve changed exponentially for the better. We couldn’t have that.

Come to think of it, this actually might be their best album.

I guess it’s better this way. A band like Cocteau Twins will live on forever, allowing future generations to discover their timeless dream pop. Their ghostly songs can fill earbuds in the future and maybe shine a little ethereal light on whatever shit show we may be enduring in 10, 20, or 30 years. And hopefully by then, no matter a metal head in the Midwest or a goat herder in Afghanistan, the Cocteau Twins can be enjoyed openly, freely, and without shame.

I love you Soleil Moon Frye. I always have.

 

 

Under The Sea

It’s not always about the music, guys. Sometimes I write about other things. Things like beer, movies, childhood, beer, and comics. I thought I’d share with you all this amazing series I’ve started to read called Low. If you don’t like that, then afterwards I’ll talk about beer. Or the album I was listening to drinking my first underage beer.

So Low is a comic by Rick Remender and drawn by Greg Tocchini. Coloring duties were also done by Tocchini until issue 8 when Dave McCaig took over. It’s a post-apocalyptic tale of an earth millions of years into the future where the sun has expanded into a “Red Giant” and has made the surface uninhabitable. Humans are forced into the oceans where underwater cities are created. The story is about Stel Caine, her husband Johl, and their three children. Stel follows the teachings of a prophet who espouses positivity, hope, and always looking for the good. Of course this way of thinking backfires and ends up tearing their family apart(of course.)

The story to this point spans over several years from the beginning to where I’m currently at, so I’m not going to drop storylines and action. I’m just going to say that this is one of the most riveting and captivating stories I’ve read in a long time. Like the best graphic novels, the story is something you can lay over your own life and can relate to. If you’re in a family dynamic in your own life then you can relate. Remender has written a dense world with characters you can relate to. Characters flawed(and in some cases quite terrible), yet even the worst of the worst seem to find redemption from the actions they’ve taken. Of course, I can’t really relate to the earth crisping from the sun to the point where I have to live in an underwater city, but the human elements are all there.

One of the most important things about this series(besides the writing of course) is the artwork. Rick Remender has written great characters, and Greg Tocchini has illustrated them beautifully. Both his drawings and the stunning use of color has given the whole series this eye-popping quality. I’m not good with describing art styles, but the look of Low puts me in mind of guys like Paul Lehr, Bob Pepper, and Frank Frazetta to name a few. The artwork is classic but it pulls you in viscerally, too. This new life under the sea is haunting, desolate, and can be quite terrifying. Living literally on canned air for years and years, always longing for fresh air that we can’t have, and wondering if we’ll ever find a new home all go into making an eye-popping, viscerally illustrated experience.

For me, the attraction to a great comic is always how well the creators can take a fantastical situation and turn it into something very human and relatable. Brian K. Vaughan is one of my favorite comic book writers. He’s done that sort of thing time and time again. Rick Remender is quickly becoming one of my favorites as well. I can’t wait for the next trade.

Give this one a shot. Now, about that beer….