REVERSELS – Album Review: “LaSabre”

As EclecticMusicLover, I’m always on the lookout for artists who push boundaries and venture outside the mainstream in the creation of their music and/or identity. Furthermore, as a gay man, it warms my heart to discover LGBTQ+ artists who not only have the courage and fortitude to put themselves out there, but also make music that’s really good. With that in mind, I was pleased to learn about queer doom pop band Reversels when their publicist reached out to me about them and their new album LaSabre, which dropped July 23rd.

Based in beautiful Asheville, North Carolina, Reversels consists of Frankie ‘Pretty Boy’ Floyd (vocals, keys and synths) and Story (vocals and guitar). Frankie is a classically trained pianist who previously toured as part of the rock band The Winter Sounds, as well as performing in churches, burlesque shows and on children’s programs. Story has performed in a variety of genres with numerous bands, including dark western with Death & the Reverend, post rock with From the North, and art punk with Minge. As Reversels, the two create dramatic, genre-bending electronica music awash with alternative, goth, darkwave, psychedelic, industrial, pop and rock’n’roll elements. Frankie identifies as transmasc (they/him), and Story identifies as non-binary (they/them). The two met at a burlesque after-party in late 2017, and bonded over their love of music and shared experiences of having both been raised in different cults.

Frankie grew up in a fundamentalist religious cult that glorified limitless procreation, and pressured fathers to have vasectomy reversals. The children born after these procedures were reversed became singers in the leader’s “Reversal Choir,” and were told they owed their existence to him. Frankie elaborates: “Homemade dresses, homeschooling, the exclusion of all music but classical and hymns, and glorification of the patriarchy are some of [the cult’s] defining features. Also, the teaching that it’s a sin to *not* have as many children as one can possibly have. The cult leader, Bill Gothard, taught that anyone who had had a vasectomy was called by God to have it surgically reversed and bear more children into infinity. This led to many large families with a dozen or more similarly-named and dressed children. This also led to my little sister, seven years younger than I, and now one of my best friends. During the cult’s annual gathering, cult families amassed in their matching navy and white homemade clothes to hear the cult leader spout misogynistic, authoritarian rhetoric. We also all took our seats in that large stadium, once a year, to hear the Reversal Choir: an eerie choir of children who existed because Bill Gothard had convinced their parents to get vasectomy reversals.”

Seeking to undo and overcome the harmful predatory, misogynistic, homophobic, and authoritarian teachings of their youth, Pretty Boy Floyd and Story named their act ‘Reversels’ to signify their mission of fomenting change toward an opposite direction and course of action, spelling it with an ‘e’ “to keep it cute”. Through their colorful music and bold, in-your-face lyrics, they aim to poke us out of our complacency by pushing back on constraints of gender, power dynamics and sexual taboos. Their hope is to “sing-into-being a world of gender diversity, sexual positivity, individual growth, and healing” as they “advocate for the underdog and the demonized, rejecting oppression and celebrating life & death in all of their majesty.” 

The duo released their debut album Galaxie in November 2018, and followed in June 2019 with Crane, Breed. Now they’re back with LaSabre, their most ambitious work yet, with 13 tracks exploring their ongoing themes of queer love and loss. The album opens strong with “Gravitron“, a dramatic and powerful celebration of love and lust, and one of my favorite tracks. Starting off with a mix of swirling synths and guitar notes, the song quickly explodes into a maelstrom of pulsating psychedelic synths, thunderous percussion and gritty riffs, dramatically conveying the intense euphoria of unbridled sexual desire. I love the contrast between Pretty Boy Floyd’s beautiful lilting falsetto and Story’s deeper, commanding vocals as they sing “Lay your magic body heavy down upon me, In my ready arms, protecting you from harm. Tell me that you want me.”

The colorful, trippy and sexy video produced for the track shows Reversels performing the song, interspersed with scenes of two men, played by trans actors, passionately kissing and exploring each others bodies.

Azael” quickly follows, a darkly beautiful cinematic feast for the ears featuring a complex array of both spooky and magical psychedelic synths, overlain with heavy, fuzz-coated guitars. Pretty Boy Floyd’s lovely, ethereal vocals contrast nicely with the harsher instrumentals, softly crooning the lyrics that speak to a character named Azael’s sexual yin and yang: “You put on your makeup, both a warrior and a queen. Mastering the magic that we’ve all been kept from seeing. Are you male or female, are you somewhere in between? Make me filthy also make me clean.”

It’s Story’s turn to shine on the darkwave gem “Relentless“, their deep, sensual, and almost menacing vocals conveying a strong sense of foreboding. Another favorite of mine, “Absurdity” has a dark, goth rock vibe with symphonic overtones, thanks to Reversels’ rich blend of otherworldly industrial and orchestral instrumentals and their gorgeous choral harmonies. The lyrics address the absurdities and mysteries of life that often defy reason or logic: “No sense in trying to understand the point of all of our lives. Lie down, take in the mystery. Unknown absurdity thrives.”

Torch Song” is a smoldering song of carnal desire sung with raw, animal-like ferocity by Story that brings chills. Sung from the perspective of a drag queen, the lyrics speak to the promise of satisfying another man’s sexual fantasies: “I’ll be your toy. I got what you need. I’m just a boy. You’re just like me. I’ll help you burn.” In the video, which was filmed by Marquana Michael Burgess, directed by Story, edited by Danny Boyer and produced by Jennifer Love Lee, the drag queen singing the song is played by Natasha Noir Nightly, and the dancers are Clara Zander and Rebecca Miller. Story and Pretty Boy Floyd portray two men watching the proceedings.

The Real Pretty Boy Floyd” is an ode to the famous bank robber Charles Arthur Floyd. Born into poverty in Oklahoma in 1904, he led a life of crime starting in his late teens, and is believed to have killed at least 10 people before being shot and killed by federal agents in 1934. Over the years, he’s endured in American popular culture as both a notorious gangster and as a tragic and altruistic figure. While he did indeed rob many banks and killed in the process, he also reportedly provided food to at least a dozen families who would have otherwise starved during the depression. And when he robbed banks, he allegedly destroyed mortgage documents, making it impossible for those banks to foreclose on poor farmers and homeowners. He was often protected by people across many states who referred to him as “Robin Hood of the Cookson Hills” or “Sagebrush Robin Hood”, because he stole from the rich and gave to the poor. He’s been immortalized in song by Woody Guthrie, and referred to positively by John Steinbeck in his seminal novel The Grapes of Wrath.

The great tracks keep on coming. On the brooding goth rocker “SoftBoy Rabbithole“, they touch on the good and bad aspects inherent in each of us. Along a similar vein, the dreamy, atmospheric “Dreamland” is a celebration of queer and trans love: “Queen inside a king. She’s inside all things. We’re inside a dream Infinitely possible ways to love another being. All that’s wanted is allowed, Trading organs, feel new things.” Another favorite of mine is “Cupcake“, featuring terrific guest vocals by Asheville rapper/emcee Vvitchboy, and trumpets by Jay Widenhouse. The song has a delicious trap beat, overlain with ominous industrial synths, wonderful blaring trumpets and soaring vocal harmonies that give the track a dark, cinematic vibe. Though somewhat ambiguous to me, the lyrics seem to speak to finding respite from life’s problems by indulging in carnal desires: “Drown in my madness, but I can’t contain it. Refrain from engaging with haters, and faithless. Don’t make me a martyr, I’m tryna live greater. We making out- banging these dryads and Satyrs. Worship at the altar of decadence. We’re having dessert, what did you make? We have offerings of sweetest debauchery. We got swords, cunnilingus, and cupcakes.”

Reversels channels a bit of Marilyn Manson on the gothic shock rock-esque “Boom Kitty“. With its intense and spooky industrial synths and blaring horns, this would make a great soundtrack for a horror film. Story and Pretty Boy Floyd’s dual growling vocals sound downright diabolical. “Skin” features a mesmerizing repetitive piano chord, overlain with dramatic gnarly guitars that sound fucking spectacular. Story’s raw, impassioned vocals are pretty terrific too. One of the more melodic tracks on LaSabre, “Dissolve/Resolve” has a more upbeat tempo, highlighted by beautiful strings and the duo’s lovely vocal harmonies. The closing track “My My” touches on the subject of sadomasochism, namely, how far two people are willing to go in order to fulfill their sexual fantasies: “If you wanted more of me it could be a tragedy. It would be the death of me to keep you satisfied. But if you must have more I guess you could put me to the test.” The song has a brooding, atmospheric vibe that turns more intense in the bridge, courtesy of Story’s blistering guitar solo.

What more can I say about this amazing album? While the subject matter may turn off some listeners, there’s no denying that Pretty Boy Floyd and Story are very good at what they do. Their songwriting, musicianship and vocals are outstanding, and I applaud their boldness and courage to explore provocative topics head-on with unflinching honesty and candor.

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BUEL – Single Review: “Small Talk”

When I first featured the beautiful and talented Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter BUEL exactly four months ago, I fawned over her brilliant reimagining of Nirvana’s classic “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (read my review here). With her distinctive and beguiling vocals that range from smoky purrs to sultry vulnerability, combined with a sophisticated pop-rock style, she’s captured the attention of music critics and fans alike, garnering airplay on radio stations across the U.S. and in the UK. Her video for “Lemon Smile” won an award at the 2021 London Music Video Festival. 

Now BUEL is back with a another marvelous single “Small Talk“, along with a stylish and entertaining video. The song addresses the superficiality of small talk people often make to fill the time and airspace when there’s no meaningful connection between them. She elaborates “Small Talk is about the ingenuine daily conversations between people. Even though it’s pretty common and seen as an innocent aspect of our daily lives, I observed that oftentimes it tends to make people feel uncomfortable because talking to someone without giving any depth and sharing words to pass the moment can only be kind but not real.”

I love how the song opens with BUEL’s breathy gasp, accompanied by airy, otherworldly synths, setting a sultry tone for what’s to come. Soon, she croons “Some are scared of silence, when I need it so bad. And I’m calculated nihilist for the questions you ask to evaluate my life. Innocently creeping in, just to say ‘Hi, I’m alive, are you too?’ The way you look has left me blind. Are you too? I like you. Small talk, can find you anywhere.” Musically, the song features a slow, seductive dance beat, with a wonderful pulsating bassline creating a sultry smoldering groove that aims straight for the hips. The instrumentals are punctuated with exquisite keyboards, percussive synths and guitar notes, resulting in a beautiful and compelling soundscape for her enchanting vocals.

“Small Talk” is another winning single by BUEL, and if she continues turning out music this good, her star can only continue to soar.

Follow BUEL:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream/purchase her music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Amazon

EMMA YOUNG Releases Video for “All You’ll Ever Need”

Emma Young is a versatile and talented singer-songwriter, actress, model and producer based in Westport, Massachusetts. I first learned about her in April when I wrote about the song “Reanimate” by brett.grant.5 that she was featured on. Emma and Brett met as students at Columbia College Chicago, and played together in the band Sleep For Dinner, who released their self-titled EP in 2019. Over the past few years, she’s also released several singles as a solo artist, along with her debut EP Rise, which dropped a year ago in June 2020. On June 25th, Emma released a dark and provocative new video for one of the tracks on the EP “All You’ll Ever Need“.

The song and video explore the relationship between an artist and her fans. Emma explains: “People get a narrow, highly edited view of an artist. The artist’s job is to convince their audience they desperately need them. The next release is ‘always the best music to ever have been written’ and the next image is ‘always a flawless yet candid’ portrait of what the artist is selling. As I describe in my lyrics ‘This is how it works, parts of life are all you’ll ever see’. The artist singing the song knows their role is to tempt new listeners and get them addicted to their sound. So I play a siren of sorts, luring my follower (played by Wes Kader) through screens and song to the point of obsession. At the same time, I am watching myself through that dusty tv set, always judging the persona I have created, yet detached from her, as if all those photos and videos are just an ideal that I will never truly reach. I sit clawing at the tv set, lonely, viewing the alternate reality I created. I play both the artist and a fan because the artist must both create and be an observer of themselves to calculate the best plan of attack. When I see the fan start to follow me I am satisfied with the result. It’s a dark and multi angled view of music. I am also into horror movies and wanted to play off of some classic scenes!

Musically, “All You Ever Need” is darkly beautiful and mesmerizing too. Emma has done a masterful job creating a moody, yet sensual soundscape to perfectly express the double-edged aspects of artistry and celebrity. The song opens with discordant sounds and a rather ominous, droning synth lasting around 30 seconds, then transitions to an enchanting dance beat, accompanied by spooky ethereal synths and hauntingly beautiful piano chords. Her breathy vocals are captivating, with an almost ghostly feel as she sings to an imaginary fan who’s quickly becoming obsessed with her. The result is an outstanding song that brilliantly evokes her siren persona.

Here I am again, waiting for you in the dark
Here I am again, I know exactly what you want from me, what you want from me
See you through the lens, staring at me through the cracks
See you through the lens, you are waiting for a chance to see, you are waiting for a chance to see me

You don't blame me for, all the things that I've done
I left you wanting more, you left me with a new history, you left me with a new history
This is how it works, nights with you out on the streets
This is how it works, parts of life are all you'll ever see, they're all you'll ever need

Whoa whoa whoa
Oh I'm all you'll ever need
Whoa whoa whoa
Oh I'm all you'll ever need
I'm all you'll ever need
All you'll ever need
I'm All

The video was beautifully filmed by Bob Klein, who co-produced it with Andrew Bernard.

Follow Emma:  Facebook / Instagram

Stream her music: SpotifyApple MusicYouTube

ALAIN DORRA – EP Review: “Pelican Spirit”

Alain Dorra is a French musician and composer who creates a unique brand of electronic music, featuring his terrific guitar work in a starring role. His influences include such acts as Tangerine dream, Ashra, Ronny Jordan, Morcheeba, Mahavishnu and Soft Machine, as well as early Pink Floyd and Scandinavian jazz. He’s released quite a bit of music over the past three years or so, and his songs have been played on radio stations across Europe and the UK, including Deep Kulture, WIM radio, PRYSM radio, Décibel radio, Sword UK radio, Radio Three D. and Groover, as well as in London and Paris clubs.

At the end of May, Alain released his latest EP Pelican Spirit, featuring four relatively short instrumental tracks with a total run time of just under eight minutes. But what the tracks might lack in length, his deft guitar playing and the variety of sounds and moods of each track more than make up for it, resulting in a wonderfully engaging little collection of songs. “Mystical Teapot” kicks things off with a thumping EDM beat that immediately has our hips in motion, making it a perfect tune for those sweaty nights at the club. Alain’s shimmery guitar work is fantastic, finding a sweet spot between jangle and funk.

“Blue Desert” has a hypnotic deep house groove, with fascinating funky guitar notes that almost sound at times like horns. As it’s title would suggest, “Galactic Heart” has a darker, more spacy vibe, thanks to it’s strong pulsating beat and funky, psychedelia-tinged guitars. Alain’s guitar prowess really shines on the contradictorily-named “Short Eternity”. His guitar work here is truly exquisite – all jangly and bluesy, and soaked in reverb. The track’s languid, jazzy vibe and otherworldly synths are the perfect accompaniment to the amazing guitars, making this a standout track for me. But truth be told, all four tracks are great, so give this a listen!

Here’s the EP on YouTube:

And Spotify:

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DELAURENTIS – Single Review: “Be A Woman”

With her exquisite compositions, innovative music styling and beguiling vocals, electronic artist DeLaurentis is a rising star on the French music scene and beyond. The talented singer-songwriter, composer and producer has had music in her blood her whole life. Growing up in a home with a musician father, she early on discovered her love for music, and learned to compose music using keyboards, analog and contemporary synthesizers and computers. Drawing inspiration from some of her favorite artists like Ryuichi Sakamoto, Max Richter, Brian Eno, Oneothrix Point Never and the great Laurie Anderson, she creates electronic music characterized by bewitching piano melodies and cinematic walls of sound. She also uses synthesizers to manipulate her voice so that it becomes another instrument in itself.

She chose the moniker DeLaurentis for her music project and relocated to Paris in 2015. That June, she released her debut self-titled EP DeLaurentis, an impressive work featuring five beautiful tracks. Since then, she’s dropped several more EPs, including Brand New Soul, Big Part of a Big Sun, and Classical Variations, Pt. 1., as well as a number of remixes. She’s been featured in major French publications such as Trax, Rock & Folk and Les Inrockuptibles, and some of her songs have been used in French commercials. Her single “A Big Part of A Big Sunwas featured in the TV series How to Get Away With Murder.

Photo by Bruno Tognin

On June 11th, DeLaurentis released a beautiful new track “Be A Woman“, the third single from her forthcoming debut full-length album UNICA, due for release in September. The single follows two previous singles, “Life” and “Pegasus”, which will also be included on UNICA, a concept album inspired by the strong connection she developed with her machines. Beginning in the summer of 2018, DeLaurentis spent two years in a studio on the Saint-Martin Canal in Paris, working with her synthesizers and computers. In the process, she developed an almost mystical connection between the human and digital worlds, which led to her creation of UNICA, a digital-tale told in ten tracks exploring the emotions between a woman and her machine. She collaborated with Dan Black, Yaron Herman, Daymark and Fabien Waltmann in the album’s production, and experimented in a recording collaboration with the artificial intelligence developed by the Spotify CTRL research lab supervised by SKYGGE on the album track “Somewhere in Between”.

Regarding her inspiration for “Be A Woman”, DeLaurentis explains: I got the idea for this song after a hypnosis session, where I relived the same scene three times. First in a subjective way, then in a meta position (by being outside the scene, in observation) then a third time by imagining a double, a new version of myself that would take me by the hand, getting me out of this situation and took me to Sunset Boulevard where we would rollerblade towards the beach and the sunset! This double is UNICA, the one I call my digital sister. It was in this state of hypnosis that I first met her. In this initiatory journey, she guided me and whispered to me these words: ‘You’ll be more than kings, more than gods…you’ll be a woman’ in reference to the poem ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling ‘you’ll be a Man, my son!’ but in a feminine version.

The song opens with an enchanting piano arpeggio, immediately drawing us in as we want to hear more. DeLaurentis’ soothing, breathy vocals enter as she sings of her dream: “And I was there again with him. That cheap cafe. Evenin’. His words were arrows. I was the bird. The walls were green. The lights blurred. I felt that ice rush in my ears. And suddenly someone jus’ like me appeared and she took my hand. And we ran.” The music gradually expands into a gorgeous soundscape of swirling atmospheric synths, strings, hypnotic percussion and deep synth bass, while the piano arpeggios continue moving the song forward. Her vocals are lovely and captivating, and I adore her soaring harmonies in the choruses. It’s a brilliant track.

Header photo by Celine Van Heel

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OUI PLASTIQUE – Single Review: “The Fear”

Oui Plastique is a Danish electronica act consisting of Martin Nyrup and James Thomas. From what I can tell based on information provided in their social media accounts, the duo are seasoned musicians, songwriters, composers and producers who first collaborated with each other in 2017 on the Perpacity/DVL album Convergence (Perpacity is an electronic act comprised of Nyrup and British musician Ian Harling, and DVL is a British electronica artist). A short time later, Nyrup and Thomas joined forces to create Oui Plastique, and this past March, they released their debut single “Failure” a dark and brooding track that’s garnered airplay on radio stations across the globe, including the UK, Spain and Australia.

Now the guys are back with “The Fear“, the second single from their forthcoming debut album Fraternity of Strangers, due for release later this year. The single (and album) are being released through ScentAir Records. The lyrics were written by Thomas and the music composed by Nyrup, who also mixed, mastered and produced the track.

About the song, Thomas commented: “Writing ‘The Fear’ was one of the most fun songwriting experiences I’ve had, but also one of the most challenging. With Martin having outdone himself once again with regard to writing the music, I knew I’d have to step up my game and really do this track justice by writing some vocals that really work well. I’m really happy with how it turned out.” Nyrup adds: “I think ‘The Fear’ is one of our strongest tracks so far. It shows our evolution and development in terms of structure and production, and strengthens our identity as a group. It really represents us well, and I’m excited to see how it is received.”

Well, I think they’ve succeeded in their mission, as “The Fear” is absolutely brilliant. The song opens with sounds of someone turning the dial on a radio in search of a station, which are soon replaced with swelling synths and Thomas’ droning vocals. Forty-five seconds in, the music bursts forth into a stunning cinematic soundscape that would make Ennio Morricone envious. The darkly dramatic swirling synths are incredible, and complemented by gorgeous, deeply resonant piano chords and intense jangly guitars. Thomas’ fervent vocals turn even more passionate in the choruses, bringing chills. The song is a breathtaking darkwave masterpiece.

The lyrics are somewhat ambiguous, but my take is that they’re about a relationship that has deteriorated beyond the point of repair, with both parties feeling emotionally disconnected and dead inside. In the bridge, a woman recites the lines “It was nothing like I expected. It was beautiful. I wouldn’t change a thing“, accompanied by sounds of a hospital heart monitor stopping, as it to signify her or the relationship’s death.

Verse I:
Inside it seems
As unnerving as you
It burns my eyes
Like I’m staring into the sun

Verse II:
I’m beside myself
Cos I die every day
A blacked-out shell
Unemotional and distant now

Chorus:
Mesmerising absolute
The fear that comes from you
Wide awake beyond your dream and it’s
Too late to follow me

The beautiful artwork for the single was created by Janne Ervø.

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Purchase:  Bandcamp

New Song of the Week – DAWNING: “Ennui”

One of the finest artists I’ve had the pleasure of learning about in 2021 is Dawning, the musical alter-ego of insanely talented and charismatic singer-songwriter and musician Aaron Senor. On the strength of his captivating and dreamy style of shoegaze/electronic rock, emotive vocals that go from ethereal breathy croons to impassioned soaring choruses, and electrifying live performances, the Grand Rapids-based artist has quickly earned a name for himself on the crowded Michigan music scene. Aaron is also drummer for Michigander, an outstanding band that’s also seeing its star on the rise.

Photo by Jesse Speelman

Dawning released his wonderful debut single “Coronation” in early 2019, and followed this past February with the brilliant EP Petals (you can read my review here). “Rose Hips”, one of the stunning tracks from Petals, has spent the past three months on my Weekly Top 30, and is still climbing its way up the top 10. Now he’s back with an exciting new single “Ennui“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week. With “Ennui”, Aaron makes a bold departure from the rather dark and moody vibes of his previous songs. He further elaborates: “‘Ennui’ is a declaration of sorts; a declaration of happiness, of change, and of hope, [and] a clear change in tone and mood from previous, darker releases. A perfect summer single for rolling down your windows and screaming the chorus at the top of your lungs.” 

The song opens tentatively with quivering shimmery synths, accompanied by Dawning’s plaintive breathy vocals, then an aggressive pounding drumbeat suddenly enters the mix, exponentially dialing up the energy. His vocals quickly turn more impassioned as the music erupts into a bombastic and glorious soundscape of exuberant swirling synths, thunderous percussion and pummeling drumbeats, launching the song into the sonic stratosphere. As if to express an overwhelming sense of euphoria, he gleefully shouts the lyrics about coming out of darkness and despair into a life filled with light, hope and love: “And right when I thought life was not worth living, I saw you there. And I cannot deny I’ve got to give in, no matter where.” 

“Ennui” is an exhilarating and grandiose anthem, and I love the ferocity of both the instrumental arrangement and vocals that Dawning employs to drive home his positive and joyously celebratory message.

Follow Dawning: FacebookTwitter / Instagram

Stream his music: Spotify / Apple Music YouTube

9fm – EP Review: “First One, Ninth Fifteen”

9fm (short for Ninth Floor Mannequin) is the solo music project of New Jersey-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jarrod Pedone. Drawing influences from some of his favorite artists like Paul Simon, Fleet Foxes and James Blake, Pedone melds elements of folk, alternative rock and synth pop to create fascinating songs with a pleasing, often otherworldly vibe. He’s also a huge fan of the classic TV show The Twilight Zone, as well as the more recent Twilight Zone-influenced British sci-fi anthology series Black Mirror, and many of his song lyrics are based on particular episodes of those shows.

I first featured 9fm on this blog back in September 2018 when I reviewed his marvelous EP Little House. Now I’m pleased to share his new EP First One, Ninth Fifteen, which drops today. The unusual title is a combination of words from the titles of each of the four tracks. He wrote the music and lyrics, sang vocals and performed or programmed all music, as well as the recording, mixing and mastering of the tracks himself in his home studio. He’s a thoughtful lyricist, and each song tells a story based on a real-life incident or a TV episode.

The first track “Fifteen Minutes” addresses the traumatic brain injury Jarrod suffered in September 2012, when he was struck by a drunk driver in a hit and run accident while out jogging. He was put into a coma, then endured a grueling period of outpatient physical and mental therapy, as described in the lyrics “With no name or number, John Doe fought for his life. For one day he was someone, but then he went and survived.” Ultimately, it was his return to creating music that proved to be the most successful form of therapy, though he uses self-deprecating lyrics to describe his progress: “But still he plays and keeps on writing, with no good reason why. He sure wasn’t great in the first place, but now he’s barely alright.”

Using a cacophonous mix of instruments and eerie, lo-fi industrial synths set to an almost frantic driving beat, he creates an unsettling, chaotic soundscape that conjures up images of the pandemonium that must have ensued after he was struck and left fighting for his life. I especially like his guitar notes and jazzy saxophone played by Matthew Silberman that add to the overall moody vibe. The song ends with sounds of monitors and medical staff one would hear in a busy emergency room.

“Below the Ninth Floor” was inspired by one of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes “The After Hours” from Season 1, in which a woman named Marsha, played by Anne Francis, is taken by elevator to the ninth floor of a department store to buy a gold thimble, even though the indicator above the elevator shows only eight floors. The entire floor is empty, without any merchandise save a single gold thimble, which is exactly what she’s looking for. The employee who waits on her is a mysterious woman who asks a lot of probing questions. As Marsha rides the elevator down, she discovers the thimble is scratched and dented, and is directed by the elevator operator to the Complaints Department on the third floor. When she tries to convince the sales supervisor and store manager that she bought the item on the ninth floor, they tell her the store doesn’t have a ninth floor. To make matters worse, she has no evidence of the transaction as she paid cash, and has no receipt. Marsha spots the salesclerk who sold her the thimble, and is shocked to discover that the woman is not a salesclerk at all, but one of the department store’s mannequins. Things continue to go downhill from there. Jarrod also named his music project ‘Ninth Floor Mannequin’ after the episode.

For this song, 9fm’s lyrics speak of people putting up a false front and creating an image they think will impress others, as if they’re like a perfect mannequin: “Just before the stage lights up to a new crowd. Don’t fuck it up, don’t be yourself, or try too hard. Getting lost in the part, and go all in, give the people what they want.” Musically, the song seems to have an almost lighthearted vibe, with breezy synths and a relaxed, toe-tapping beat, but a closer listen reveals a slightly melancholy undercurrent, befitting the darker lyrics.

The third track “First Blush” is based on Season 3, Episode 4 of Black Mirror, entitled “San Junipero”. San Junipero is a simulated beach resort town where the deceased can live and the elderly can visit, all inhabiting their younger selves’ bodies in a time of their choosing. The plot involves two women, Yorkie and Kelly, who meet at a nightclub, and eventually become romantically involved. They meet up at different times over the years in both San Junipero and in the real world, where they face real-life complications. In the end, both are euthanized so that they can be together in San Junipero.

Starting with skittering percussion and assertive drumbeats, 9fm layers gauzy synths, humming keyboards, and what sounds like a bass guitar, though it could also be guitar that’s been fed though a pedal or some other device to give it a deeper tone. The result is a dramatic, fast-paced song that captures the sense of urgency and emotional intensity described in the lyrics about an unusual and logistically challenging love affair. His smooth vocals have an ethereal quality that’s quite pleasing as he sings “At first blush I came on way too strong. I’d never known someone like you. So I knew first, the path that I would choose. I’d trade that life for one with you. Please see it through, you’re all I have to lose.”

The final track “One for the Benders” is based on the Bender Family, also known as The Bloody Benders, a family of serial killers who lived in and operated a general store and small inn in Labette County, Kansas, from May 1871 to December 1872. While the exact number is unknown, it is believed they killed at least a dozen travelers and buried their remains on their property before their crimes were discovered. 9fm’s lyrics are sung from the point of view of the Benders to their visitors, lulling them to complacency as they move in for the kill: “Never could tell you that you say one lovely grace. Sorry to stop you, it’s just how we pray (prey). It’s been fun, I mean it really was. Now get some rest. Lie down, relax, put your feet up.

The fascinating song has a bouncy, almost upbeat cadence, however 9fm uses a dark array of mysterious synths, spooky sounds and haunting echoed vocals to create a decidedly menacing vibe befitting the macabre subject matter. It’s another great example of how adept he is at producing soundscapes that strike the perfect tone for each story. First One, Ninth Fifteen is a fine and extremely compelling little EP, and the more I listened to the songs, the deeper they bored themselves into my brain.

Follow 9fm:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  SpotifySoundcloud / iTunes
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

Album Review: “Head RUSH”

This is perhaps the most ambitious and unusual album I’ve reviewed yet, as it’s an extensive compilation work consisting of 15 tracks by different artists contained in three vinyl LPs (or two CDs), plus a bonus CD featuring another seven tracks, for a grand total of 22 songs! All of them are electronic instrumentals in various styles, but all essentially influenced by early 70s krautrock and motorik beat music made famous by such German acts as Can, NEU!, Kraftwerk and Harmonia. The collection, entitled Head RUSH, is being released by British independent label Fruits de Mer Records on May 17th.

First off, I must state that I’m astonished by the huge number of artists still producing electronic music, particularly krautrock and all its variations. Many artists featured on Head RUSH are accomplished acts with sizable discographies and followings, while some are relative newcomers. It’s truly an international compilation; represented are acts from England, Wales, France, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, Hungary, Russia, Peru and California. All were carefully selected for inclusion by Fruits de Mer Records head Keith Jones based on their quality and appropriateness for the overall theme. Because there are so many tracks – nearly all of which are over five minutes long, with one running over 30 minutes! – I won’t be boring my readers or making myself crazy by discussing all of them in detail. I’ll try to touch on as many as possible, albeit briefly, and include samples of songs for which the artists have made audio videos.

The album kicks off with “Sunrise, Part 7“, a shimmery homage to the music of NEU! by Giacomo & Carolina, the collaborative music project of California-born and now Berlin-based singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Anton Barbeau, and California-based singer Julia Boorinakis Harper. German electronic artist Das Blaue Palais dazzles with a mesmerizing “Dusseldorf Motorik” remix of his 2016 single “Zeitfeld”. The otherworldly synths, plucked strings and colorful guitar notes are exquisite and haunting.

Welsh-based English composer and multi-instrumentalist David Oakes, a long-time favorite of mine who I’ve featured numerous times on this blog, is represented here by his brooding track “The Sahara (2020 Remix)“. David layers a thrilling mix of exotic and gritty, reverb-laden guitar riffs over Nine Inch Nail-esque industrial synths and a pulsating groove to create a cinematic soundscape that beautifully conveys the vast and often terrifying expanse of the Sahara Desert.

Another terrific offering is “Getaway” by English space rock band Sonic Trip Project, who layer haunting spacy synths over a hypnotic EDM beat, creating a gorgeous sweeping soundscape.

Opening the second LP is Welsh psych space rock outfit Moon Goose with their trippy song “Shiny Man“, followed by the deliciously captivating “Obsession is the Mother of All” by Italian avant-rock trio Oslo Tapes. I said I wasn’t going to discuss every track, but the next one – “Ecstatic Engines” by California composer, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and producer Jay Tausig is so good that I must give it mention too. I also realize I’m overusing the words “mesmerizing” and “cinematic”, but both words strongly apply to many tracks. I wish I had a sample of “Ecstatic Engines” I could share on this post, as it’s incredible. I love the strong, driving beat, spacy synths and otherworldly sound textures he employs. In preparation for reviewing this album, I researched every artist and found that Tausig is especially prolific, releasing a full album and two EPs in February and March alone!

Netherlands is well-represented by “Telefunken Baby!“, a nearly 13-minute-long tour de force by electronic composer Son of Ohm. The track was originally featured on his 2019 album Zeitgeist. His psychedelic guitar work is fantastic.

Next up is the wonderfully spacy “Martine à la Plage” by French experimental psych-rock duo Alber Jupiter, the music project of Nicolas Terroitin and Jonathan Sonney. The song was also originally included on their excellent 2019 album We Are Just Floating in Space.

Wales is once again represented, this time by Fruits de Mer favorite The Lost Stoned Pandas and their sprawling psychedelic extravaganza “Motorik Wah Nine“. The reverb-soaked psychedelic guitars would make Jimi Hendrix proud, and the wobbly synths and undulating rhythmic grooves are pretty amazing too. I’m sorry I couldn’t find a video or link to the song. I do have one for the phenomenal “MOTOR!K” by Belgian krautrock trio Tyrants, however. The hypnotic song features a relentless driving motorik beat, a 4/4 beat originally pioneered by Jaki Liebezeit, drummer for the German experimental rock band Can.

From Lima, Peru hail space rock trio Culto al Qondor, with their trippy and dark “E1“, an epic 12-minute-long track originally featured on their 2019 album Electricidad. The spooky synths, wailing psychedelic guitars, pummeling rhythms and explosive percussion are pretty spectacular.

London krautrock trio (many of these acts seem to consist of three members) Psychic Lemon dazzle our senses with “Jam 7“, one of a series of studio jams they’ve recorded, in which all instruments were recorded live into a single microphone. Band guitarist Andy Briston lays down a barrage of super-gnarly distortion drenched in reverb, while his bandmates keep the track grounded with a powerful thumping rhythm. The face-melting track closes out the three LP set.

The Bonus CD serves up over 76 minutes of additional music contained in seven tracks, including “Vuh Parts 1 and 2” by British electronic outfit Taras Bulba, another terrific Jam by Psychic Lemon, the wonderfully psychedelic “69 Wheeler” by prolific British artist and guitarist Vince Cory, and the delightfully trippy “Grobmotorik” by Hungary-based Audio Cologne Project (a krautrock inspired music collaboration between Uwe Cremer (Level π) on guitars and keyboards, British musician Dave Pearson (aka computerchemist) on bass, keyboards and sequencers, and Zsolt Galántai on drums).

Closing out the Bonus CD are the two longest tracks of this entire project, the meandering and beautiful 14:14 minute-long “der Wald” by British composer and guitarist Icarus Peel, and the 30:25 minute-long live version of Harmonia’s 1974 motorik classic “Watussi” by Russian electronic band The Legendary Flower Punk. They’ve taken the original six-minute-long song and refashioned it into a magnificent and epic fantasia of atmospheric soundscapes, highlighted by psychedelic riffs, eerie synths and colorful sonic textures, all darting in and out like sprites over pulsating EDM rhythms. It’s a fitting end to this ambitious compilation of extraordinary compositions, and a testament to the enduring legacy and popularity of krautrock. If you like getting lost in spacy electronic vibes, then you will really enjoy Head RUSH.

Track List:

LP1:
1. Giacomo & Carolina – Sunrise, Part 7 (5:05)
2. Silver Vials – Follow The Sun (6:05)
3. Das Blaue Palais – Zeitfeld (Dusseldorf Motorik Mix) (8:11)
4. The Love Explosion – Anarchy! (3:58)
5. David Oakes – The Sahara (2020 Remix) (5:04)
6. Sonic Trip Project – Getaway (11:10)

LP2:
1. Moon Goose – Shiny Man (5:41)
2. Oslo Tapes – Obsession Is The Mother Of All (5:54)
3. Jay Tausig – Ecstatic Engines (8:42)
4. Son Of Ohm – Telefunken Baby (12:52)
5. Alber Jupiter – Martine A La Plage (7:15)

LP3:
1. The Lost Stoned Pandas – Motorik Wah Nine (10:16)
2. Motor!k – Tyrants (10:28)
3. Culto Al Qondor – Ei (12:19)
4. Psychic Lemon – Jam 7 (7:01)

Bonus CD:
1. Taras Bulba – Vuh Part 1 (3:56)
2. Vince Cory – 69 Wheeler (7:53)
3. Psychic Lemon – Jam 5 (8:26)
4. Audio Cologne Project – Grobmotorik (6:51)
5. Taras Bulba – Vuh Part 2 (5:15)
6. Icarus Peel – Der Wald (14:14)
7. The Legendary Flower Punk – Watussi Live (30:25)

Head RUSH may be purchased on the Fruits de Mer website: https://www.fruitsdemerrecords.com/

YELLOW SHOOTS – Single Review: “SIRENS (Mermaid Version)”

Yellow Shoots is the music project of singer/songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Greg Matthews. The Brooklyn, New York-based artist was one of the very first I wrote about, way back in March 2016 when my blog was still in its infancy. His artistic name comes from his experiences with synesthesia, a neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway, such as sound, leads to an automatic, involuntary response in a second sensory or cognitive pathway, such as sight. He sometimes sees vivid yellow colors when hearing music (a common form of synesthesia is known as chromesthesia, for sound to color), hence his name “Yellow Shoots.” With his distinctive vocal style and skillful fusing of R&B, soul, funk, jazz, electronic, hip-hop, alternative and psychedelic, he creates his own unique neo-soul sound that envelops listeners in raw sensuality and emotion.

Beginning with his debut single “Pieces” in 2014, the prolific artist has released an extensive amount of music in the years since, including his marvelous Prince-influenced album everything in 2018. One of the singles “make it to the summer” has garnered nearly half a million streams on Spotify. Last May, I reviewed his single “Wonderful Day”, which was featured on his EP Naked, released in July 2020. He’s also collaborated with numerous other artists, most recently last September with fellow Brooklyn singer-songwriter, producer and engineer Johnny Burgos on their single “Fun Tonight”. Now he returns with “SIRENS (Mermaid Version)“, the first single from his forthcoming sophomore LP The Green Album, due for release in July. He programmed synths, played all instruments, sang vocals and produced the track. His brother Jason Matthews did the mixing and Dan Millice did the mastering.

Release via his label La Reserve Records, the song is a totally reimagined version of his 2018 single “Sirens”, a silky and mesmerizing R&B/hip hop song about a long-distance love affair. Yellow Shoots uses the beguiling but dangerous Sirens of Greek mythology as a metaphor for the intense, all-consuming longing that comes from being far away from the one you love. He elaborates “They’re singing you to shipwreck. You put yourself in harm’s way because you’re so in love.” On “SIRENS (Mermaid Version)” he shaves about 30 seconds off the song and dials up the tempo from the previous version’s chill, musically-spare vibe to a faster-paced, more sonically complex track. About the new version, he said “This song is me drawing from my many influences, and not trying to fit into one style.” 

Yellow Shoots’ shimmery, psychedelic-tinged guitar notes take center stage here, as he layers them over a kaleidoscope of lush analog synths and skittering R&B grooves. I love all the colorful synth textures and quirky sounds he adds to the mix, and when accompanied by his electronically-altered falsetto, it all makes for an enchanting and fascinating listen. The more dynamic arrangement lends a greater sense of urgency to the lines he sings in the chorus “blind my eyes, tie my hands, I’ve got nothing left to lose“, symbolizing a complete surrender to lustful desires. It’s a great track.

Follow Yellow Shoots:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud / Tidal
Purchase:  Amazon