BRETT.GRANT.5 – EP Review: “disqui.etude”

Brett Grant

I’ve been following the young singer-songwriter and composer Brett Grant for a long while, and am thrilled to finally have the opportunity to feature him on this blog. The Chicago-based artist goes by the moniker brett.grant.5, and drops his second EP disqui.etude today. Brett’s been involved in music for many years, both as a solo artist and in several bands. He plays guitars & synths and sings for A Million Rich Daughters, and previously pounded drums in Sleep For Dinner and TOOFUNCHILD. He released his first solo EP digital dirge in 2016, and in addition to his work with the aforementioned bands, managed to earn a B.A. Degree in Music, graduating just last month.

Brett’s fascinating and eclectic sound draws from a wide range of musical sources and genres, ranging from 1920’s jazz and classical to video game music and experimental progressive rock. He wrote all the songs and played all the music on disqui.etude, as well as recorded, performed, mixed, and mastered the entire project himself.

The EP opens with the eerily beautiful title track “disqui.etude“, an apt name as it’s essentially a disquieting etude. The song’s an instrumental, consisting of only a haunting piano riff, accompanied by rather menacing synths that build as the track progresses. It would make a great soundtrack for a horror film, and in fact reminds me of the music from the film Eyes Wide Shut. Brett states it and the album title are intended to represent the anxieties and unease he’s dealt with in his own life, which are expressed in the lyrics of the songs on the EP.

Next up is “Truth Be Told“, a moody track with spacey industrial synths set to a bouncy, stop-start bass-drum beat. Brett has an unusual but pleasant singing voice that’s strongly emotive as he sings of the misery and guilt he feels over the death of a loved one:

Truth be told, I never thought that you’d be dead
Truth be told, I just can’t get you out o’my head
Truth be told, I’ve been obsessing for so long
I’d give anything to write a different song
Truth be told, I should have been the one to go
Truth be told, this burden’s getting hard to hold

The poignant “Empty Bottles” features a beautiful but melancholy piano-driven melody, backed by delicate, sparkling synths. Brett’s vocals, which range from a low croon that seems to emanate from deep within his core, to just below a falsetto, are nicely displayed on this song. He sings of destructive and futile attempts to drown one’s troubles in alcohol: “You’ll see in the end this was the old me. And all my insincere apologies, like lobotomies, came off the top of me. Apostles of endless empty bottles. As we both drive full throttle to the bottom of my problems.”

Brett dives deep into electronica on “New Goner“, employing a rich mix of glittery and otherworldly droning synths to create a spellbinding track. On the apocalyptic, synth-driven “Might Make My Way“, he speaks to the downsides of the internet and social media, and the thought control we’ve allowed ourselves to become imprisoned by: “Alien intruder, watching from a computer. Alias abuser, flying fear producer./ The sci-fi officers playing cops and robbers. Have nothing to offer and keep us in coffers. You can’t run, you can’t scream, it’s all part of their dream. Bright lights and loud noises, foreign distorted voices. If they transport me safely, might make my way back maybe.”

The final track “Hitting Backspace“, which Brett released as a single in February (on Valentine’s Day), is the darkest and most intense track on the EP. The song starts off with an ominous throbbing synth, then 10 seconds in a loud piercing synth enters, sounding a bit like a slowed-down version of the shrieking music heard in the famous shower scene in the film Psycho. He wanted to create a similar disturbing backdrop for his gloomy lyrics about feeling like being buried alive by the weight of his problems:  “It wasn’t like I anticipated facing all this in the time since yesterday. Sands keep falling. Feels like I’m slipping away… And trapped hitting backspace./ It wasn’t like I could keep up pacing, keep up pacing through the sands of yesterday.” At the end of the first verse, the music intensifies with deeper synths and heavier percussion that continue until fading out at the of the song.

disqui.etude is a marvelous work that beautifully showcases brett.grant.5’s singularly unique songwriting, composing and production talents. One of the things I especially like about it is how every track sounds totally different, which makes for an interesting and surprising listening experience. If you like music that’s innovative and unlike anything else you’ve heard before, you’ll enjoy this brilliant EP.

Follow Brett: Twitter / Facebook / Instagram
Stream his music on  Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / Apple Music

MOROSITY – Single Review: “Time”

Morosity Time

Morosity is an unusual band with a unique genre-bending sound like no other I’ve heard. Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Morosity is comprised of front man Jesse Albrecht (Lead Vocals/Guitar), Sean Bachinski (Bass), Jason Wolfe (Violin, Guitar, Mandolin), and Nick Johnson (Drums). They meld progressive rock with folk, dark wave, psychedelia, Middle Eastern and even tribal influences to create an exotic sound that’s captivating, haunting and always mind-blowing.

They released their ambitious debut album Misanthrope in 2011 to wide acclaim, and after a six-year span, followed up with the magnificent Low Tide, which I reviewed. In May 2018, they released a darkly beautiful single “Defend“, which I also reviewed, and now return to grace our ears with a stunning new single “Time“, which drops today.

Wow, this phenomenal track is loaded with moody, atmospheric vibes and gorgeous instrumentation that make for a mesmerizing listening experience (all of their songs are, really). The intricately-strummed acoustic and electric guitars are exquisite, and Albrecht’s captivating echoed vocals run the gamut from seductive to chilling, keeping our rapt attention. Everything eventually builds to a crescendo, climaxed with otherworldly synths and eerie vocal chanting in the chorus that lends the track a dark, almost demonic aura.

The lyrics speak to the perplexities of time and the eternal unanswered questions mankind has pondered about it throughout our existence:

Time It’s in the stars above
Time The past and what’s to come
Time Exists infinity
Time An astral fantasy

Spinning round like hands
falling down the sand
you see the signs

Wondering if it ends
What’s the master plan
It’s Time Devine

Time It’s an illusion state
Time Lack of conclusion day
Time Controlling destiny
Time There’s no conspiracy

The more I seek the less I find
I can not see all Spectrum of light
Perception finite

The visually stunning and clever video was created by Albrecht and his wife Heather (who also created the amazing cover art of Father Time). It shows two toy figures representing a chicken and a rabbit encountering a host of characters and worlds as they travel through time and space. I love it!

Connect with Morosity:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Morosity Store / iTunes

WARMER – Album Review: “Anthropocene”

anthropocene

I always enjoy learning about talented artists who’ve been making really great, innovative music for years that somehow slipped under my radar, then making up for lost time by listening to their back catalog of songs. One of the more interesting artists I’ve discovered recently is Warmer, the solo project of singer, songwriter, composer and multi-instrumentalist Jesse Gunn. Based in the bucolic Western Oregon city of Eugene, Warmer fuses elements of Alternative, Metal, Industrial, Electronic and Art Rock to create singularly unique music that pushes boundaries, stirs our emotions and gives us a lot to think about. He cites as some of his influences the likes of Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, Sigur Ros, The Black Heart’s Procession, David Bowie, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Interpol, Spanking Dynamite, Faith No More, Beck, Diffuse, 16 volt, Depeche Mode, The Cure, “and a bunch of bad pop I don’t want to admit to.” Hey, we all have our guilty pleasures!

warmer (jesse gunn)

Since releasing his debut self-titled EP in 2005, Warmer has been quite prolific, dropping seven albums – some containing between 15 and 22 tracks! – as well as writing several soundtrack scores for films and video games. His latest effort is Anthropocene, a brilliant and scathing diatribe on the current fucked-up climate situation on several fronts – political, social and environmental. His songs are filled with powerful and biting lyrics, set to often dense and complex soundscapes.

Before getting to the music, I thought I’d provide a little geology lesson to explain the album’s title. Though not yet an officially recognized geologic time period, the term “Anthropocene” has been proposed by earth scientists to define the current period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment as a new epoch in the Geologic Time Scale. The word combines the root “anthropo”, meaning “human” with the root “-cene”, the standard suffix for “epoch” in geologic time. Debate has raged for years as to when this epoch began, with some placing it as early as 12,000 years ago with the rise of agriculture (which would generally coincide with the current Holocene epoch), the late 1700s with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, or even as recent as 1945, with the detonation of the first nuclear bomb (though most dismiss this later date). But what is agreed upon is that the Anthropocene identifies Earth’s most recent geologic time period as being human-influenced, or anthropogenic, based on overwhelming global evidence that atmospheric, geologic, hydrologic, biospheric and other earth system processes are now being significantly altered by humans.

The album opens with “Anthropocene Theme“, a somber and haunting piano instrumental that sets the tone for what’s to come. Then Warmer launches into an epic take down of humankind and the abuse we heap upon our planet with “Our Mother“. Starting off with a simple piano riff, moody synths and harsh percussion gradually enter the mix, creating a strong sense of foreboding. Warmer’s raw vocals are filled with anger as he lists the ways we are hurting our mother earth: “The earth our mother, she’s really sick, and its no wonder she’s got a hit on us. We drain her blood right from out of the ground. We drop our bombs and we leave our shit around.” He then shifts to a falsetto as he sings about how so many people are more concerned with their own personal appearance and well-being than the earth they live on: “I want to live forever. I want a real good health plan. I wanna stay looking so young with botox and collagen.” His vocals are backed by his own whispers, adding a menacing feel to the dirge-like track.

The brilliant and provocative video opens with American currency floating down, then scenes of nature, both beautiful and brutal, are shown until the song is abruptly interrupted by jarring images and a dire announcement of a possible attack from space – a nuclear attack perhaps? This is followed by the sound of a man screaming, then footage of President Trump calling global warming a hoax. As the song resumes, we’re shown images of man’s destruction and pollution, followed by scenes of space and a volcanic eruption. Once the song ends, we see a static-covered scene of an American flag, with the camera closing onto an expanding hole within it, accompanied by an increasingly distorted and harsh refrain of the song’s somber melody.

On “Pretty Bait Click Machine” Warmer addresses our manipulation by social media to the point of obsession (I’m sadly guilty as charged), and being perfectly complacent about staying in our own information bubbles “It’s so safe on the inside of this echo chamber that I hide. Cuz I will never see a different point of view other than me. It’s engineered algorithmically feeding the pretty click bait machine./We are just meat machines eating the programming. Notify me with dopamine. I’ll keep on posting endlessly.” This track is more guitar-driven, with light industrial synths and a rather upbeat melody that belies the serious lyrics. And by this point, I’m already hooked on Warmer’s rich and varied vocal style, which at times reminds me of Rufus Wainwright and Matt Berninger (of The National and EL VY).

Gimmie” speaks to man’s bottomless greed and willingness to destroy anything and everything in order to get more material things: “We’re just a bunch of animals raping the world we love. Don’t kind yourself, we’re not cultured and civil. Killing for the gods above. Gimmie precious oil and nicotine. Killing in the name of greed./Whatcha gonna do with all that stuff? When is enough really ever enough?” “Sugar” is about the conflicting feelings of employing a hooker: needing the sexual pleasures they provide, yet condemning the life choices they’ve made. Warmer’s vocals are seductive as he croons: “Be my vacation in this sea side hotel room. A skin destination I’m gonna crawl all over you. Please be my sugar baby. I need you so bad honey. Evolution is dead. It’s all about the money. Oh my sugar baby this is no way to live.” The track features gritty industrial and psychedelic synths and a low-key surf guitar. On “Lip Service” he ruminates on life choices and paths taken, wondering about different outcomes: “In times like these we analyze. we pick apart our very lives. Oh what could i have become if my fears had not won.”

One of my favorite tracks is “Orange Maniac“, a bitter renunciation of the vile cretin currently occupying the American White House, whom I despise with every fiber of my being. The song is dark, with a beautiful but mournful piano riff and an alternating mix of glittery (beautiful) and harsh (ugly) synths. Warmer’s vocals also vary, going from plaintive when he sings “Orange maniac he’s ruling me” to sneering: “You had better fall in line. You had better know your place. My world has become Anthropocene because my tiny handed president is an illiterate.” On the bleak and discordant “adaywhennothinggoeswrong“, he sings of wishing for a problem-free day. The track has a bit of a Nine Inch Nails vibe.

Channeling both Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode, Warmer delivers gnarly guitars, gravelly bass and ominous industrial synths on the dark instrumental track “This is Your Warning“. “The Great Dying” opens with sounds of his labored breathing, then he forlornly laments of the coming end of humanity: “Life used to be much more simple. I knew of less tragedies and friends were real people. Oh honey I’m not a rich man. I won’t be able to save you in the end. When they come to your home for your genome, crispr’s gonna take a piece out of you. We will draw the line that defines who survives the Great dying.” The music alternates between a gloomy piano-driven melody and a barrage of thrashing industrial synths and fierce percussion. It’s a hard-hitting and monumental track.

The video combines both tracks, first showing only explosive flashes against a black backround for “This is Your Warning”, then psychedelically distorted scenes from old TV shows and commercials for “The Great Dying”. Credit for both this video and the one for “Our Mother” goes to Jon Curry.

Warmer gives us a much-needed interlude with the hauntingly beautiful piano instrumental “Waltz for Bonnie“, which showcases yet another aspect of his impressive musicianship. He closes out the album on a jolt back to cruel reality with “House of Slaughter“, a very depressing song about the horrors of working in a slaughterhouse that really speaks to the larger issue that animals must die to satisfy mankind’s appetite for meat. Musically, the track is simple, featuring only Warmer’s strummed acoustic guitar and mournful vocals that convey a sense of numbness and sad resignation as he sings: “Damn the clang of the bell. Jolts me back into hell, my dreams my only escape. I try to wash off the stink from my face into sink. It hangs in the air like a mist. Off to another day, deaf to cries of helpless. Their calls heard for miles around. Yes this is, a house of slaughter. Yes this is hell on earth. It sticks inside my clothes. It’s always in my nose, the evidence of my cruel day. And if it comes down to it you know that i’d do it. Just know that i’ll eat you first. Cuz you are the sweetest meat, the sweetest I’ve ever seen.

OK, now I’m feeling pretty numb myself, yet also blown away by the sheer power of this dark and brilliant album. Warmer holds nothing back as he stirs our senses with incredible soundscapes, while punching us in the gut with his brutally honest and compelling lyrics. Anthropocene is an important album that needs to be heard by as many ears as possible.

Connect with Warmer on Facebook / Twitter
Stream his music on Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

MOROSITY – Single Review: “Defend”

Morosity is an unusual band with a unique sound like no other I’m aware of. Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Morosity is comprised of front man Jesse Albrecht (Lead Vocals/Guitar), Sean Bachinski (Bass), Jason Wolfe (Violin, Guitar, Mandolin), and Nick Johnson (Drums). They meld progressive rock with folk, psychedelia, Middle Eastern and tribal influences to create their exotic sound that’s captivating, haunting and stunning.

Morosity released their ambitious debut album Misanthrope in 2011 to wide acclaim, and followed in 2017 with the magnificent Low Tide, which I reviewed. They now return with a darkly beautiful new single “Defend,” which dropped on May 11. The track was recorded and mixed by Albrecht in his home studio Evensong Studios, and mastered by Jeremy Ramasir at Intangible Sound. It opens with a rather ominous-sounding guitar riff, then gentle percussion enters, accompanied by Albrecht’s deep, smoldering vocals that exude a sense of bitterness as he calls out someone’s duplicity and lies:

Invading on my faith again
Believe in nothing it’s a sin…a sin
Some things just aren’t meant to bend
The truth is yours not mine amen. Defend

The guitars intensify as hand claps, keyboards, crashing cymbals and heavier drums are added. Albrecht’s vocals become more animated as he decries their unwillingness to change their evil ways:

Offered up in a righteous plan
Extend a loving hand to mend…my friend
But if you can not understand
Leave me no choice but to stand and defend

I tried to be a matador
I can’t believe, you can’t ignore
This is war

All the instruments slow to a disquieting calm in the bridge, giving a sense that, despite the tranquility, all is not well. Albrecht’s gentle vocals are icy as he delivers his final words of condemnation:

Stabbing a snake tongue into your eyes
You’ll never see again, gone blind
Riding a pale horse into the night
You’ll never wake again, no more light

Put your sword back in its place
For all who shake must surely taste
The blood you drink it will be yours
The offered flesh will please the forest
Grow. Grow. Grow.

Connect with Morosity:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase:  BandcampMorosity Store / iTunes

MOROSITY – Album Review: “Low Tide”

Low Tide Album Art

Unusual. Exotic. Captivating. Haunting. Stunning. Those are all words that come to mind when I listen to the album Low Tide by Morosity, a genre-bending band from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Formed in 2001 by childhood friends Jesse Albrecht (Lead Vocalist/Guitarist) and Dave Rowan (Guitarist) as a two-man acoustic group, they spent their early years developing a sound uniquely their own, and playing local gigs and opening for national bands. Wanting to expand their sound and musical reach, they added bassist Sean Bachinski in 2007, and two years later, Jason Wolfe (Violin, Guitar, Mandolin) and Nick Johnson (Drums) joined the band to complete their lineup.

Morosity released an ambitious debut album Misanthrope in 2011 to wide acclaim, and nearly six years later, in February 2017, they released their second album Low Tide, which I’m finally getting around to reviewing. While retaining many elements of their signature sound – complex song structures and melodies, richly layered guitars, crisp percussion, and generous use of the violin – with Low Tide the band takes a more eclectic and decidedly darker approach. Melding rock with tribal, psychedelia, folk and Middle Eastern influenced music through use of the mandolin and hammered dulcimer, they’ve created a powerful work of extraordinary beauty and depth. The album was produced by Albrecht, who records, mixes, and masters in his home studio Evensong Studios.

Morosity

The album starts off with “Mind Over Matter,” a brief but mesmerizing track dominated by a gorgeous dulcimer riff. The song elicits several images and feelings for me, but I mostly think of a beautiful belly dancer moving to the captivating Middle Eastern music. The song immediately transitions to the mysterious “The Answer.” One of my favorite tracks on the album, the song features haunting guitar work that’s so incredible it gives me goosebumps. Furthermore, Albrecht’s vocals are amazing; he seductively croons the lyrics about questioning one’s belief system: “My eyes tell me that the truth’s not being told. What if all I see is just a lie?” He finally concludes that it’s all a sham as he wails “You’re all wrong” to a hard-driving guitar riff at the song’s end.

Without skipping a beat, we segue to “Ouroboros,” another mesmerizing (there’s that word again, but it’s just so fitting) track with a Middle Eastern vibe. The instrumentals on this track are rich and varied, and Albrecht’s smoky vocals have a chant-like quality. “Moon” has more of a traditional folk-rock sound, with some tasty layered guitars floating over Bachinski’s solid bass line.

The album plays like a rock symphony, with each track a string of movements, one flowing into the next. “Moon” transitions directly into “Smoke & Mirrors,” a powerful five-and-a-half minute long tour-de-force of a track about self deception. The guitar work is outstanding, and Albrecht’s raw vocals, which remind me a bit of the late Chris Cornell on this track, perfectly convey the biting lyrics:

Is all your smiling make-believe?
Who is it that you are trying to deceive?
What is it that you plan to gain?
A life of misery, false heightened sense of fame. It all goes away…

The most powerful, and dark, track on the album is “Death Grip,” which speaks to the epidemic of gun violence that’s become so pervasive in America today. The folk-rock song is chilling, yet has an interlude containing whistling that comes off as almost carefree, in sharp contrast to the subject matter. A similar treatment was used by Foster the People on their hit “Pumped Up Kicks.” The disturbing lyrics are from the twisted perspective of a mass shooter:

Lately I just wanna kill someone
You can hide away the ammo Lock up all the guns
But if I really wanna have some fun
There ain’t nothing gonna stop me til’ the job is done
I wanna kill someone
In a crowded theater
In the church of nuns
In a school for children
In front of everyone
You think that you can stop me
You say you’re good with guns
If you try to kill me I’m gonna blow up everyone

The video shows serene images of the countryside and a cemetery, interspersed with a shadowy figure walking, driving, and at a shooting range. At the end, people are shown having fun riding bikes, bowling, and at a demolition derby, presumably oblivious to any potential danger.

Limbo” features Wolfe’s sublime mandolin work, accompanied by lovely violin and subtle guitars. Albrecht’s urgent vocals are marvelous, as are the backing chorus. The violin and acoustic guitar take center stage on the melancholy title track “Low Tide.” The gloomy lyrics speak to feelings of being worn down, and that life is slipping away, but you’re not yet ready to give up:

From stone to sand, I feel it all sifting through my hands.
Worn to bone, nothing left just a skeleton.
Bottoms up and cut me down to size.
Drag me out and wash me in the tide.
Give me life now no I don’t wanna die.
Low tide

But by song’s end, the feelings of hopelessness, regret and despair have become too great to bear, thus death would be a welcome relief:

Can not maintain the pain the rain is welling in your eyes.
Pleasure came back down the drain swallowing the light.
Playing blame insane it’s you that’s done this to your life.
Missing sane tired and drained thoughts of the other side.
Pick me up and bathe me in the light.
Drive it down and bleed me dry.
Take my life I’m ready to die.
Washed away in the low tide.

The band keeps with an oceanic theme on the funereal album closer “Adrift.” The languid track is moody, yet peaceful, with the sound of waves drifting in and out as a somber guitar plays. Like the music, Albrecht’s low, echoed vocals are dirge-like, yet somehow comforting. The music and vocals end at 3:30, and we’re left with sounds of the surf for another 20 seconds, followed by birds singing in a gentle breeze, as if to signify the gradual and peaceful passing away of a life. Morbid, but beautiful at the same time, which fairly well sums up the album.

Morosity is currently working on a third album, and I eagerly look forward to hearing more songs from these exceptionally talented and creative musicians.

Connect with Morosity:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase:  BandcampMorosity Store