Review – Rec Centre – Times A Billion


Rec Centre is a Vancouver experimental musician Alex Hudson whose collaboration with bassist Jay Arner has resulted into a full blown partnership and a new collection of pop/indie pop/power rock pop songs with a little shoegaze in there just for good measures.

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of reviewing Rec Centre’s Long Weekend EP on January 2, 2011 and you can find the article here.  This collection of music was recorded at The Hive and Tonehenge in Vancouver by Alex Hudson and Jay Arner.  They also called upon Robbie Nall (bass) and Rose Melberg (backing vocals).  The songs were mixed by Jay Arner and mastered by Timothy Stollenwerk.

reccentre1The track listing is as follows:

1.   Missin’ Out

2.   Look Alive

3.   Wait A Second

4.   It Won’t Mean Anything

5.   Cold Call

6.  Let’s Get Divorced!

7.   Spray Tan

8.  Rafters

9.   Indisposed

10.  Times A Billion

Starting out with the song “Missin’ Out” is an upbeat happy song musically that has some good vocal work by Alex.  A busy lifestyle is understood by all in this day and age.  A couple experience one or the other missing out on certain events in each others’ lives which can cause friction and fights.  A likeable song with a good melody!

“It Won’t Mean Anything” is an 80’s inspired song musically.  Synths and low guitars with vocals and a slow kick drum.  Perfect!  Lyrically, this could be about anything that you obsess over and then the next day, it really didn’t mean anything and it’s gone.  One night stands, a perfect show, meeting a certain person; all these could be what the lyrics mean in some sense.  I also sense a bit of reggae in the music.  This is a good song to listen to and to chill out to.

“Let’s Get Divorced!” is a song that reminds me of surf music but at a slower pace.  I like the sound, it makes me want to get up and do some dancing.  The chorus is slightly out of key to the rest of the song but it works well within the structure of the entire song.

“Spray Tan” is a 1:43 song that is an instrumental that reminds me of Duran Duran back in the day.  Having just seen a recent video of a 1985 concert it’s apparent that the 80’s sound is still kicking around in some songs.  Love it!

All of the songs on this full CD are good, solid and likeable.  A few are dance-able, some are happy and some are sad.  A good collection of songs for fans of 80’s new wave bands and dance pop music.

You can find the band on their BANDCAMP site for all your musical browsing.

Advertisements

CD Review – Sex With Strangers – Behaviours


SWS 1Photo credit to Lindsay Elliott.

Vancouver’s Sex With Strangers released their 4th independent album late last year called Behaviours.  Unique to this album is the addition of keyboard/vocalist Alexis Young who totally changes the dynamic of the band in the creative process of songwriting.  With a trilogy of concept albums behind them, SWS are writing songs about “dystopian themes – but this time we focused on matters of a human nature – namely tension and relationships” says frontman Hatch Benedict.  He continues by saying “our hope is that people will question whether they’re actually listening to the same band from song to song while still enjoying the album as a whole”.

The track listing is as follows:

1.  Behaviours

2.  I See The Gun (And You’re The Bad Guy)

3.  Times Electric

4.  Conspirators

5.  The Brave One

6.  Machineland

7.  Blindness

8.  Terrible Things

9.  Pentagram Blues

10.  Waving My Heart

11.  Call In The Night

BehaveSWS

Let me just start out by saying that this is a CD that I’ve been listening to for 6 months.  Due to a vacation that involved numerous health issues that seem to be subsiding just now, I was inspired by this particular CD while ill due to the fact that this is a progressive, funky, crazy band which isn’t all that much different than my own personality.  That and the fact that I really like this bands’ music and their live shows are a highlight of any club gigs I go to – and they are just so damn COOL.

“Behaviours” is a song that has minor tones of music which gives it a sombre and dystopian feel.  Lyrically, this is a song about being afraid of how someone makes you feel internally and how they make you want to change – your life, your job, your feelings about life…..finding your way alone is hard but choosing to find your way with someone else is mind-blowing to an individual who never saw it that way ever.

“I See The Gun…” is a funky and fun song musically but in some ways totally opposite lyrically.  The beginning of the song reminds me of a TV theme show song but it quickly turns into something like someone you’ve known well may want to cause you harm emotionally.  Lyrics like “I don’t see the sun honey/I don’t see you smiling through the window/I just see the gun and you’re the bad guy” and “I see you slithering on the ground” gives me a good impression of what that person is really like.  It could also hint at someone playing games with you that you go along with for a while until you want serious time with that person who may not be able to give that to you.

“The Brave One” is a song that I can really relate to because in my past there was a person who wanted my “hard reaction” but being young and stupid (and possibly drunk) and having many other personal issues that could have affected the other person, I never showed any reaction.  Musically, however, Rob Zombie couldn’t do it better.  This is my favourite song on the album.

“Pentagram Blues” is musically a harder edged song that I’ve ever heard from SWS.  “Ain’t that the truth” is well said in this song lyric.  Chaos is also felt in this song as well as negative feelings like sadness and jealousy.

All in all, I really like this album as it’s a 50% departure of theme or concept albums and enters the realm of human nature and emotions involving reason, fear, torment, sex and love (lyrically).  Musically, some things have changed but in a good way as this is a band that is always moving forward – they don’t get stuck in a rut or move backwards – and that’s a good thing.

You can download the song “Behaviours” for free on the bands’ Bandcamp site where you can buy the album directly from that site as well as from iTunes Canada.  Photos of the band are courtesy of Lindsay Elliott.

The band can be found at the following links:

The official band website

Facebook

Twitter

Youtube

Video for BEHAVIOURS and other videos by the band:

General Overview of Older Reviews


Since the beginning of this year, I’ve had an overloaded plate and at some point due to many issues, I just couldn’t keep up.

But slow change is happening, and since the reviews I had been working on are 6 months or older now, I’m just going to give out the artists’ name/band name with a link to read about the music and that kind of thing.  I’ll just make a comment about the music, but it’ll be more or less “general”.  I want to leave it to fate and what consumers want (that means you!).  Whether it’s a name of a person/band that sucks you in or just being curious as to what kind of person/band with that name has what kind of music?  Either way, it’s your free will to choose what you do.

One final note:  I do have 2 new reviews that will be posted separately over this long holiday weekend – both are Vancouver BC based artists Sex With Strangers and Rec Centre.

Mother Mother

Hill and the Sky Heroes** (see below for contest)

Jesse Sparks

The Gromble

The Red Button

Seth Swirsky

Taz Taylor Band

Cubic Feet

Infared Sunday

**Hill and the Sky Heroes are on Audio Blood Media, and thanks to the AB Team, I just happen to have 2 extra copies of the CD and if you’d like one sent to you, just answer me this:  1)  who is the force behind this CD and 2) name 3 other artists who this force has worked with and on what kind of project (music, film, art, etc.)

Send an email with your answers to:

jadedphotograhy@me.com

Deadline is September 20th, 2013.  The first correct entries win the CD.  Please remember to include an address to send the CD to in your email.

Mother Mother “The Sticks” is my favorite CD this year hands down.  I love the progressive nature of this band so much it hurts.  The lyrics are always stark and stripped down but remain mysterious to individual listeners.  The opening track OMENS is downright ominous and creepy , but there is a lingering question mark at the end of that song that leads directly into the title track THE STICKS.  I can’t explain how a song can make you think of a question mark.  It just is.  I’ll be playing those 2 songs at the infamous Halloween party this year out in Surrey!  The music does lighten up and take on more happy but melancholy tones  (musically) but lyrically it could go either way.  I would describe the vibe/undercurrent of this CD in 3 words:  On the edge.

Hill and the Sky Heroes is another example of a progressive artist and band member with other impressive credentials to the name Hill.  I had never heard of this band but the talent that is bursting out of this CD is like a water deluge of biblical proportions.  It’s overwhelming at first.  If you like whimsical, edgy and a life being lived fully kind of music, this is a must have for your Indie music collection.

Jessie Sparks is originally from Melbourne Australia where she is based out of today.  She did live in her early teenage years in Illinois, Iowa and New York State in the US where early on she had a huge talent for singing and pianos.  This 5 song EP is worth a listen and download from iTunes.  Great blues vocals reminiscent of Janis Joplin, Odetta and Billie Holiday.  Good timing, upbeat melodies for the most part and a fantastic voice highlight this Blues artist – and if you like Blues, you’ll want to add this to your collection.

The Gromble have that throwback music from the 1990’s.  Not a bad sound if you’re in a longing for the 1990’s.

The Red Button is a Seth Swirsky collaboration.

Taz Taylor Band is pretty much good rocking music.  Check out the link above to find out more.

Cubic Feet and Infared Sunday have good solid music you should check out by following the links above.

———————————————————–

I want to thank Audio Blood Media and Luck Media for their patience while I’ve been AWOL with medical issues.  You guys rock!  And its good to be back!

Show Review – Rickshaw Theatre – The Electric Demons/Kicked off the Farm


The Electric Demons played host to a fantastic lineup at the Rickshaw Theater in Vancouver on a cold night in February.   Although I’m not familiar with the bands’ current music, it’s very fast, abrasive and hits you upside the head.  And in the midst of all this music was a moshpit that churned itself into a frenzied dance of the early 1990’s grunge music of Nirvana, Alice In Chains and Soundgarden with a little dash of Ozzy Osbourne and the Crazy Train riders of the new incarnation of The Electric Demons.

As I ride on the road to destination vacation, I think of this show with the moshpit that was insane.  I think that was the best thing about the show itself, giving off an idea that the fans of these bands love the music is quite an understatement.  Although not familiar with Kicked Off The Farm’s music, I was very familiar to a band coming across as giving it all they had for this show – excellent vocal work, good songs and great instruments gets the point across to the reviewer.  When I have some extra money after this holiday to buy the music, I will do so.

And the same goes to The Electric Demons.  Three years ago, I had the privilege to review the bands’ CD Rip Your Heart Out.  Shortly after that review was posted on this blog, the lead singer of the band died as a result of injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident.  What should have a celebration of this bands’ music and stunning vocal work by Tarja, the female voice of the band, it was to attend a funeral of a remarkable woman who was just on the cusp of something bigger that herself.  I was unaware that at the funeral, Tarja’s parents had framed my review and it was there for all to read.  I was stunned when I found this out shortly after the funeral.  Tarja Ridgewell (Thundermonkey), RIP.  I posted this review the same day there was a tribute show to the late singer, where many were reminded how special she was to the Vancouver Music Scene.

On the bands’ Soundcloud page, there is a current 3 song live bootleg to enjoy.  The 3 songs are I’m Weak, Drugs and Kings Game.  Although these are not well recorded and are rough, I like the feel the band gives off to the crowd.  It’s like the band is giving energy to the crowd who in turn give it back to the band.  I personally am looking forward to more shows to come from this current line up of The Electric Demons!

Kicked off the Farm-Electric Demons Feb 22-2013 018 Kicked off the Farm-Electric Demons Feb 22-2013 020 Kicked off the Farm-Electric Demons Feb 22-2013 023 The Electric Demons The Electric Demons The Electric Demons

Current members:

Guitar – Murray Howes

Drums – Melanie Fox

Bass – Brian Sword

Vocals – Dave Barroqueiro

CD Review – Mystery Machine – Western Magnetics


Mystery Machine – Western Magnetics (Sonic Unyon Records)

Released: 11 September 2012

By Jade Sperry

Formed in Chilliwack BC back in 1990, Mystery Machine are still kicking out their jams. With their new CD Western Magnetics released a few months back, they did a short tour to follow up their CD and celebrated their CD release show at the Astoria in Vancouver back on October 13.

The band have released 3 prior albums called Glazed (1992), Ten Speed (1995) and Headfirst Into Everything (1998). They’ve been on a hiatus of informal means and have recently signed on with Sonic Unyon Records (in my hometown of Hamilton ON). This new beginning has also given birth to a new album.

The current members are: Shane Ward, “Bean” Chris Switzer, Luke Rgalsky and Mario Nieva. Original band member Jordan Pratt appears on 5 of the 10 tracks. This was recorded between 1999-2011 at 3 studios in Vancouver: Mushroom, Slack and Big Midet with Vince Jones, Blair Calibaba and Tim Oberthier handling all production duties, and Noah Mintz mastered it at the Lacquer Channel.

CD Cover art

Track listings are as follows:

  1. Pronto
  2. Japanese-Dads
  3. Runaways
  4. Octagon Skylight
  5. Floatist
  6. We Won’t Return
  7. House On Fire
  8. Snow
  9. Bullshit Patrol
  10. Northern Analog

The first track “Pronto” is a fast edgy song that has a lot of fuzzed out guitars and a wall of music – much like the early 1990’s movement in bands like Sonic Youth, Nirvana and My Bloody Valentine to name a few.  Speaking of “Have you seen the world?” is the question through the song that a listener has the chance to answer for themselves.  “Japanese-Dads” is a similar song in musical style but there are no lyrics – just a good song with a happy uptempo and decent melody. “Octagon Skylight” is a ballad type song that proclaims “you’re alright/i’m your maker/you can’t deny/things are changing now”.  I like the melody of this song as it’s very smooth and re-assuring in a calm way.  This song is mixed well.  For the most part, this CD takes you back to the 1990’s in a friendly way.  The other standout songs are “Snow” and “Bullshit Patrol”.

All in all a good CD and a welcome return by Mystery Machine.  If you’re into the ’90’s alt music, this would be a CD you’d like.

Cd Review – The Zolas – Ancient Mars


The Zolas – Ancient Mars

Released:  October 2, 2012

by Jade Sperry

After debuting with Tic Toc Tic in 2009, The Zolas climbed the precipice of cult status across Canada, thanks to a very loyal fan-base carried over from Zach Gray (vocals, guitar) and Tom Dobrzanski’s (piano) earlier years as Lotus Child.  With Ancient Mars, The Zolas are set to continue their legacy of postmodern pop. Armed with poetic lyrics, Ancient Mars trades in the cabaret glitz of Tic Toc Tic for reverbed pianos and hard, minimalist beats.  In each song, Zack Gray builds a skeleton of a setting for a song – from outer space to a college library to a Victorian jail cell – and tells stories fleshed out with the listener’s own history.

If John Lennon and Kanye West met later tonight at a hotel bar, “Escape Artist” is the song they would write. It’s these kinds of pairings that Ancient Mars is full of:  The Zolas write classic pop songs and then fuck them up until the hooks have to fight to get out.  In October, The Zolas teamed up with Winnipeg’s The Liptonians to release a 7” split single “Cultured Man”, a quixotic snack in between the two full-length albums.

Tom Dobrzanski is the band’s on-board producer, having worked with names in indie-rock royalty like Said the Whale and We Are The City.  But for Ancient Mars, the production duties were handed over to Chuck Brody (Tegan and Sara, Ra Ra Riot, Yoko Ono, Phantogram, Wu-Tang).

The track listing for the CD is as follows:

1.    In Heaven

2.    Knot In My Heart

3.    Ancient Mars

4.    Strange Girl

5.    Escape Artist

6.    Observatory

7.    Local Swan

8.    Euphrates and Tigris

9.    Cold Moon

10.   Cultured Man (Bonus Track features The Liptonians)

The Zolas at Squamish Live Festival - picture courtesy of Yolande Cole and the Georgia Straight.

I’ve been a fan of The Zolas since their debut in 2009.  In the past years, Zack has played in a number of other bands in the Vancouver area (Henry and the Nightcrawlers) and has done solo sets opening for his friends’ shows (David Vertesi of Hey Ocean!).  Tom Dobrzanski is a brilliant artist in his own right – from producing to recording to piano man – he gets the job done.  Tom also has his own studio called VERTICAL STUDIOS here in the Vancouver area and does well for himself.  These are 2 artists that have a lifetime of talent between them; and possibly more.

This is a solid 10 song CD.  “In Heaven” is an odd but interesting song.  The music is slightly out of key and is in the minors but it has an excellent melody which gives it a moody feel.  The guitars, pianos and drums all blend together quite well, and the song itself gives off a life of its own.  It’s a well written song that has character.  “Knot In My Heart” has a really cool melody and groove.  This song changes from mid-tempo to uptempo in the bridges and the chorus.  It’s a well written song that’s mixed well.  “Ancient Mars” has a mellow vibe and is in 3/4 time.  I particularly like this song as it’s got a personality in the melody.   “Escape Artist” has a nice flow throughout its 2:42 of life.  The song starts with pianos and then it begins to build with the other instruments in a short period time.  Awesome!  The other standout songs are “Local Swan” (Montreal setting with a girl who may or may not remember a meeting), and “Cold Moon” (a ballad type song that flows well stripped down).

Photo of The Zolas at Sqaumish Festival – courtesy of Yolande Cole and the Georgia Straight.

Interview with … Vancouver band The Niche’s Gabriel Savage


In early September, I had just sent out interview questions to a few people when I had to stop all work and ended up in the hospital due to a major drug reaction that took me down literally.  I’m at home and recovering now, but, I’m kind of in a weakened state due to the burns on my legs and feet.

I have just received these back from Gabriel Savage of the Vancouver band THE NICHE who were the Band of the Month with CFOX this past October 2011.  There is a lot of buzz about this band because they are a performance based band with terrific music.  They don’t have a lot of music online yet, but that’s only a matter of time before that happens.

I’m reviewing a song that was sent to me called “A LA RUE” which sounds like a carnival trip on the psychedelic side of life.  I’m reminded of 1960’s band The Doors, but, Gabriel takes the song and makes it his own vocally.  I’ve seen this band in action onstage and they are dynamite! Kaylar definitely rounds out the band with her odd sounds from the keys or her sax, Ryley does a great rhythm and lead guitar in this song, new member Chris is funked out with his root bass chords through the song and Mario’s drums carry the song on into infinity.  I really dig this band and its not hard to figure out why.

The current lineup is as follows:

Gabriel Savage – Vox

Ryley Kirkpatrick – Guitars

Chris Seversen – Bass

Kaylar Chan – Keyboards/Sax

Mario Beer – Drums and percussion

The Niche

The Niche live @ the Railway Club, Vancouver BC – photo courtesy of the band

What goals in relation to the band are you setting now to work towards over the next year?

We’re working towards releasing our EP within the next six months. We’ve just trained a new bass player so we had to take a break from recording for a while. We’re hoping to be able to get everything done by Spring. The songs are all there and ready, now it’s just about having the funds and resources to back us in the process.

What personal goals has the band as a whole achieved in the last year?

For the most part, we’re happy with where we’re at. Everyone’s enjoying the stages as they come and are looking forward to the next steps. Being Fox’s Band of the Month for October had its benefits, and so does playing shows regularly. We’re always happy to hear the good things people have to say after we play for them, so that’s always a bonus. As far as goals though, we’re just happy to have come this far in only a year, and are looking forward to the next stages of our career together.

As a band, what has been the best thing that has happened, and the worst thing?

The best thing is that we’re all still playing with each other and are enjoying our time together. Like I said, it’s always great to hear such positive feedback; it keeps us enjoying what we do knowing that others are enjoying it also. I can’t think of the “worst thing” yet. I think everything has happened in good time and for a good reason.
At first it was a bit of a drag losing Cory and having to go about finding a suitable replacement –which always takes a long time— but now that we’ve got Chris on the team it’s been really great. He’s been a great addition for the band and we all really enjoy working with him.

How do you see the current state of the Corporate Music Industry? Do you think it has changed since the “old” days before the internet? And, how do you feel about the DIY bands that are becoming mainstream? (arcade fire for example)

There’s no doubt that it’s changed, but that’s the way things have to happen. We have to evolve with the world around us. That goes for all aspects of the media. These days, if you want something, you’ve just got to work all that much harder for it, which makes it all the more worth it when it finally happens.
Arcade Fire are doing really well for themselves and that’s great to see.

Do you feel that the band has control over how your music reaches the fans? And if yes why do you feel this way and what factors into that?

Yes, being Indie has its benefits. There isn’t a lot of censorship, and we can pretty much say, do, write, and perform anything we want without any legal binds. There’s no doubt that it would be easier to reach people if we had all of our ducks in order (a finished album/EP/quality videos, etc) but right now, we’re doing everything on a real tight Indie budget so it does make it hard to do the right things all at once.

How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard your music before?

The mood I get from it is a sense of being aware but not quite at home with your surroundings. Kind of like a sailor who goes out to sea, prepared for the storm, but not necessarily ready for it to happen, you know what I mean? It’s got sort of a heavy, dark, gloomy feeling, but there’s more to it than that. There’s a sense of depth that people probably won’t hear if they’re just dancing or drinking at the bar, but that’s not to say they won’t enjoy it. They just wont walk away as satisfied as the people who were paying attention. I’d really like to try something a little different than what we’ve been doing. Maybe a couple hip-hop tunes, or something considered more “Pop”, just to give it a try and show people that we’re not stuck sounding the way we do, we just choose this sound over others because we feel it gets our message across in a way that isn’t really being done these days.

The Niche on tour – photo courtesy of the band

Who are the primary songwriters in the band?

So far I’ve written all the lyrics, but as a band we all of an equal say in the songwriting process. Sometimes I’ll come up with most of the idea on a guitar or bass, but after the initial blossom I usually pass the idea on to Ryley or Chris to give it some extra flare. I use instruments as more of a songwriting tool. That’s why you’ll only ever see me with a microphone and maybe a maraca on stage. (laughs). Although I do have a harmonica mic, but I just use it to achieve a sort of Tom Waits vocal effect, kind of like a megaphone.

Collectively, how does the songwriting process within the band go? Do you jam it out in rehearsal space?

We all work together to write the songs. Most of the time it starts with lyrics and a melody, but there are a handful of songs that have emerged from just a guitar or bass lick, or some sort of sound from the keyboards. Usually I’ll come into a session with an idea, and then the band will work some sort of arrangement around my lyrics. It all comes together pretty naturally though, it’s really quite a special process to be able to be involved in.

How did you come up with the band name?

I got the idea from “The Birth of Tragedy” where Nietzsche talks about the artistic elements of the ancient Greeks. ‘The Niche’ is meant to refer to the joining of the two different opposing art forms, that of Apollo, god of structure and stability, and that of the more dreamlike & ecstatic creations of Dionysus.
We’ve got an interesting balance of artists in the band, we’re all very different from each other, yet are perfectly suited for each other creatively. I think the name just really sums us up to a point that no other name would be able to achieve. Anyone who reads the Birth of Tragedy will probably get a pretty good idea as to what it is I’m trying to do.

What is your opinion on the music scene in Vancouver? Do you feel that there are enough venues for bands to book shows? And is there a lot of competition as well?

There are lots of venues and lots of bands to play them. There are a handful of swell promotion companies out there, however not many of them have touched us because we’re considered “too different” from most of the other bands in the circuit. I don’t blame them though, we haven’t got enough quality tunes online to really give the promoters an idea of what we’re about. So it’s been a struggle, we’ve had to book a lot of our own shows or team up with bands that we’ve become friends with. But its been fun, I’ve got no hard feelings, I’m pretty patient and forgiving! (laughs)

What bands/singers/songwriters did you all listen to growing up? And why are/were they important to you now that you’re in a band?

We each come from different musical and artistic backgrounds which, when blended together, sound like something that isn’t quite jazz, isn’t quite funk, and doesn’t fall under the typical blues structure, so we’ve been calling it ‘Sonic Rock’. Just sounds, man. A lot of the music is written to be a sort of soundtrack to the lyrics and images we try to convey with the songs.
I can’t really speak for everyone else, but my biggest musical influences were Elvis, Sinatra, and Johnny Cash. One was a performer, the other could croon, and man, could Cash tell a great story.

Before this band you had another band – what happened to Kick The Ashes?

Yeah, I joined Kick the Ashes as their songwriter. It wasn’t really my project, I was just another member. We were together for just under a year until we decided it was time to kick the bucket on Kick the Ashes.

How did you meet all the band members in The Niche? Are there members from Kick The Ashes?

I met Ryley and Mario through Kick the Ashes. We started playing with each other again in 2010 and decided to form another band. From there we had auditions for a bass player, and then Ryley’s girlfriend, Kaylar, came into the picture as the keyboardist & saxophone player.

What’s the best part about being in The Niche?

I just love that my words are being put to use, It’s great to have the opportunity to be able to present your artistic creations in such a personal and engaging manor. It’s really quite special. Plus, it’s awesome having the opportunity to work some of my closest friends on such a regular basis. I don’t think I could ask for anything more, except for maybe a good record contract, that would sure help us out financially! (laughs)

You can find The Niche at the following locations:

The Niche website

Facebook

Twitter

Supernova.com