BOOGIE BOARD – Album Review: “Ferric Tape Noir”

Ferric Tape Noir

I’m a sucker for surf guitar grooves, and am really enjoying what seems to be a resurgence of surf rock in all its variations, whether it be garage, psychedelic, punk or even grunge. So I was pleased when the musician Stephen Denning reached out to me about his music project Boogie Board, and his latest album Ferric Tape Noir, which dropped at the end of January. Denning is a solo artist from Chicago who describes his music as “fuzzy midwestern garage/ psych/ surf rock.” He writes, performs, records and masters all his music directly onto a 4-track tape machine in order to achieve a lo-fi sound, and I after listening to the album, I’d say he succeeds quite nicely.

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Before getting into the music itself, I’ll provide a bit of background about music tape. Curious about the words “Ferric Tape” in the album title, I Googled it and learned “ferric” refers to ferric oxide, one of the oxides of iron that happens to be magnetic. That quality makes it an ideal coating for tape that allows both the recording and removal of sound. The tape coating on most cassettes sold today as either “normal” or “chrome” consists of ferric oxide and cobalt mixed in varying ratios. According to the website Cassetro, “ferric tape offers deep booming bass, warm mid-range and excellent high frequencies up to 16 kHz (the upper end of most people’s hearing range).” Now I understand why Boogie Board would choose ferric tape to record his music.

He’s been a busy guy the past year, releasing his debut 12-track album Surf N Turf in May 2017, then following up with a five-track EP Dream Telepathy in September. He dropped Ferric Tape Noir at the end of January 2018, then two months later released a double single Portal Window & Infinity Stairs.

Most of the tracks on Ferric Tape Noir are brief, generally running one and a half to just over two minutes, with the exception of “Moon Waves,” which is three minutes long. Also, many are simple instrumental compositions, beginning with album opener and title track “Ferric Tape Noir,” where Boogie Board delivers a repetitive gritty bass-like riff to a rat-a-tat drum beat. I say ‘bass-like’ because though the heavy, gravelly riffs on his songs sound like they come from a bass guitar, he told me they’re all actually only guitar. He added that one track is guitar run through an amp and another features guitar through a bass amp, with the remaining tracks dedicated to drum machine and vocals.

Moon Waves” is more fully-developed, with an intricate little surf guitar riff flitting over another sustained gravelly riff and frantic drum beat. His extremely distorted vocals add an interesting, rather spooky dimension to the song. The psychedelic “Flying Shadow” is a lively romp, with jangly and fuzzy guitars following a bouncy punk dance beat. We can hear Boogie Board’s distorted repeating chants of “flying shadow” in the background. One of my favorite tracks is “Magic Swamp,” with dense, gritty riffs and a hypnotic beat. I love the bluesy guitar riff in the song’s second half.

Cowabunga” and “Abyss With Me” are straight-up lo-fi surf rock at its best. The latter track has more distorted vocals of him repeatedly wailing the song’s title. “Night Walk” is very short, basically consisting of a repetitive riff over a gentle tapping drumbeat. Another favorite of mine is album closer “Spectral Glide.” It’s one of the more melodic tracks, with an intriguing guitar riff floating above what sounds like a very gritty bass line and muffled drumbeat.

I thought I’d also touch on his latest two tracks. “Portal Window” has a great little riff along with his highly distorted vocals that are basically unintelligible, but highly effective in giving off a mysterious vibe he seems to want to achieve in his songs. “Infinity Stairs” delivers a fast-paced tempo with rapid thumping drums and more of his awesome fuzzy guitars, along with some tasty added side riffs. I can hear him sing “infinity stairs” but can’t quite make out the rest of the lyrics.

Overall, I like Boogie Board’s interesting style of lo-fi surf/garage rock, and the roughness of his sound. I think he’s a talented guitarist, and would like to see him try some more fully developed melodies and guitar riffs that would make his songs even more intriguing.

Stephen is also a talented graphic artist. You can check out some of his work on his Instagram page.

Connect with Boogie Board:  Facebook / Instagram
Stream his music: Spotify
Purchase on Bandcamp

DENSE – Single Review: “Irreversible Knot”

Dense cover art

DENSE is an awesomely talented psychedelic garage rock band hailing from Leeds, England. In March 2017 they released a mind-blowing debut EP Third Eye, which I reviewed and you can read here. They’ve now returned with a new single “Irreversible Knot,” and it’s fantastic.

Their unique psychedelic garage rock sound is at once retro and futuristic. They claim as their inspiration such bands as Wand, King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard and Queens of the Stone Age, but I also detect hints of 60’s Yardbirds and early 80’s Billy Idol. If I had to put a label on their music style, it would be ‘industrial surfer metal rock.’ DENSE consists of Charlie Fossick (Guitar/Vocals),  Dylan Metcalf (Bass) and Sam Heffer (Drums). Charlie also produces, mixes and masters their music. Despite their youth, their intense music style exhibits an impressive maturity and density – implied by their name, perhaps? – that would be expected from a more seasoned band. Of course, based on the photo below, they still retain a playful sense of humor that would be expected from a group of young guys.

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“Irreversible Knot” opens with a grainy echoed synth chord, then an ominous rapid surf guitar riff and buzzing bass line enter the scene, propelled by a tapping drumbeat. Just as we’re becoming mesmerized by the hypnotic beat, we’re hit with a thunderous barrage of fuzzy distorted guitars steeped in reverb, Sam’s wildly crashing cymbals, and Dylan’s heavy throbbing bass. Charlie’s echoed, distorted vocals go from sultry drones to savage wails, while he shreds and distorts his guitar even further, creating a trippy, psychedelic wall of sound.

Halfway through the track, things calm down to just echoed synths and throbbing bass, then with a scream from Charlie, a cacophony of distortion comes crashing back like a tsunami wave. A second lull occurs three quarters of the way through, with a final return of heavy chaotic sounds. This back and forth ramps up the song’s tension to the breaking point, clearly with the aim of tying us into irreversible knots. The track is so delicious that, even at over four minutes long it seems over in an instant, leaving me craving more.

Connect with DENSE:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
“Irreversible Knot” is available for a free download on Bandcamp

DRUIDS – EP Review: “Pink Aliens”

Pink Aliens

Druids are an indie psychedelic punk rock band from New Orleans, and I’m completely smitten with their music! I can’t remember the last time I’ve had as much fun listening to a band as I do with their terrific debut EP Pink Aliens. Released back in February, it’s an adrenaline rush from start to finish, and I was hooked the moment I heard it.

All longtime friends with roots in the Crescent City, Druids consists of Brandon on guitar and lead vocals, Eric on bass, and Jeff on drums. Their hyper-kinetic lo-fi sound is built on elements of punk, psychedelic, surf, garage and doom rock, and influenced by some of their favorite bands like King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Thee Oh Sees, Wand, Black Sabbath, Ty Segall, The Doors and Black Flag. These guys are beyond high-energy, and with their charisma and sense of humor – just look at those silver pants! – I’m sure they’re a blast on stage.

Druids

Cult of the Pink Aliens” kicks things off with buzzing guitars, crashing cymbals and hazy echoed vocals. At the two-minute mark it abruptly erupts into a driving punk beat with surf-rock guitar riffs that occasionally venture into distortion, aided and abetted by pounding drums and an onslaught of crashing cymbals. But hold on ’cause things really ramp up a notch on “Black Magic,” a frantic head-bopping punk-soaked romp that’ll have you thrashing about the room with abandon. Brandon’s skillful guitar and Jeff’s pulse-pounding drums keep the energy flowing at full throttle, making this my favorite track on the EP.

Not skipping a beat, “Endless Maze” offers up over five minutes of punk rock goodness, with an infectious stop-start beat and killer guitar work. Brandon’s extended guitar riff will leave you breathless. A throwback to late 60’s psychedelia, but with a late 70’s punk vibe, “Lightning Bolt” will have you yearning for pink sunglasses and striped bell bottoms. Once again, the guys amaze with their awesome guitar work.

Ty Dye Rain” is a psychedelic beach party on steroids, with exhilarating stop-start guitar riffs and lively percussion. Two-thirds of the way through, the tempo slows a bit and we’re treated to more extended riffs of shredded and distorted guitars. Opening with a cacophony of distorted guitars and sharp cymbals, “The Hex” continues the slower bass-heavy tempo, but the guys seem to like surprising their listeners by changing things up to a frenetic punk beat halfway through, and it sure makes for an exciting listen.

The song’s about an evil temptress who casts her evil spell on men:

So I see you’ve learned some tricks
Dabbled dark arts, became the witch
I can see you’re planning something causing trouble whats comes next
I can see you contemplating planning evil, pass the hex

There are numerous bands out there playing psychedelic and retro punk rock, but Druids take it to another level, and deserve greater recognition. I hope they’ll keep making more music, because I can’t wait to hear it. Those in the Kansas City, Missouri area can catch them in concert on October 13 at the Riot Room, where they’ll be performing with The Crystal Method and other bands.

Connect with the Druids on Facebook and stream or purchase Pink Aliens on Bandcamp

DENSE – EP Review: “Third Eye”

I continue to be astounded by the sheer number of talented young bands today that are making some really great music. Another recent find is DENSE, a psychedelic garage rock band hailing from Leeds, England. Their music is unlike any other band I’ve heard lately, with a sound that’s at once retro and futuristic. They claim as their inspiration such bands as Wand, King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard and Queens of the Stone Age, and though it may be entirely unintentional, I also detect hints of 60s Yardbirds and early 80s Billy Idol. But whatever their influences, their sound has what I would describe as an ‘industrial surfer metal rock’ vibe, and I love it.

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Making this awesome music are Charlie Fossick (Guitar/Vocals), Dylan Metcalf (Bass) and Sam Heffer (Drums).  Despite their youth, their intense music style exhibits an impressive maturity and complexity that would be expected from a more seasoned band. In March, DENSE released their debut EP Third Eye, which according to their bio “was crafted by Charlie Fossick in his bedroom one summer.” And while it may be lo-fi, it certainly makes up for it with a thunderous wall of sound.

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The title track “Third Eye” kicks things off with a barrage of gritty, distorted guitars and throbbing bass steeped in reverb, while Heffer hammers out an aggressive beat on his drum kit. Fossick’s electronically enhanced, otherworldly vocals are mesmerizing, and hold their own with the power and intensity of the music note for note. This is one hell of a song!

The video is awesome, with clever psychedelic visuals that perfectly complement the song and its theme.

Distorted buzz saw guitars are in full force on the scorching psychedelic instrumental track “Glutton Free.”  At times, the guitars wail and scream like a raging elephant. Metcalf’s pulsating bass gives the song incredible strength, with added help from Heffer’s pounding drums and crashing cymbals.

Stone” starts off with what sounds like small explosions or basketballs hitting the court on heavy reverb, then a nifty little bass line ensues, followed by an eruption of frantic shredded guitars. At roughly the two minute mark, we’re treated to a catchy guitar riff before the onslaught of shredded, gnashing guitars return to close out the track, which immediately segues into “Shade.” Almost as if DENSE didn’t want “Stone” to end, “Shade” sounds like a continuation of it, but with a slight change up in the melody, and minimal vocals. It’s OK by me, as I didn’t want “Stone” to end either.

Connect with DENSE:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram /  Website

Stream their music:  Spotify /  Soundcloud

Purchase the EP on iTunes or download for free by joining their mailing list.

Single Review: LITTLE TRIGGERS – “Silly Cigarettes”

Liverpool-based indie rock band Little Triggers is on an upward trajectory of late. Following up on their exuberant punk romp “When the Lights Are Going Out,” they’ve recently dropped a terrific new single “Silly Cigarettes.”  The delightful but emotionally wrenching song further cements the quartet’s status as one of Liverpool’s most exciting bands.

Little Triggers is Thomas Hamilton-Hughes (lead guitar & vocals), Chris Carragher (bass), Sam Gallacher (drums) and James Crawford (keyboards, backing vocals).  Their music is a happy mix of garage rock, punk and new wave influences, giving it a retro, yet freshly current sound that’s candy for the eardrums.

Little Triggers

Photo by John Latham Photography

Silly Cigarettes” opens with a strummed guitar solo and Hamilton-Hughes’ melancholy vocals expressing the heartache of knowing his girlfriend is cheating on him: “Everybody knows, you’re wearing last night’s clothes, and that you’re probably acting up again. And I know where you’ve been, no you thought I hadn’t seen you’d been ’round again.” The intensity of the music rises as the song progresses, with lots of cymbal-heavy percussion, thumping keyboards and jangly guitars. Hamilton-Hughes’ vocals become more emotionally wrought as he sings the chorus: “Cause I’ve heard everyone is taking off your party dress, while I’m sad on the outside smoking silly cigarettes. Oh don’t you know?”   The guitar solo in the bridge is wonderful, and the powerful backing vocals in the chorus call to mind those of a classic ELO song.

Have a listen to this great tune:

Here’s a video of a great acoustic version of the song that’s less intense, but still emotionally poignant.

Connect with Little Triggers: Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram
Stream their music:  Soundcloud /  Spotify /  YouTube
Purchase:  iTunes