Category Archives: one to watch

Wknd to release The Venopian Solitude single June 7

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Just got an awesome update about a unique artist I wrote about a while back: The Venopian Solitude, stage name for a young woman from Malaysia with a great voice and even better tunes and lyrics.

The Wknd, a Malaysian magazine that promotes indie music, held a contest and put out a call for demos and The Venopian Solitude won. She is the first ever recipient of the Wknd Recording Fund. The fund will get her a professionally produced single, which Wknd will market and make available for sale through their website.

Wknd writer Faiz Fadzil commented in my “about” section, “We’ve finished recording her first single. It will be launched on Friday 7th June 2013. We’ll be announcing the Soundcloud links to her tracks on that day as well.”

Congratulations to a very talented and deserving musician. I’m proud to have had a chance to find her early and see her mature as an artist.

Check out my blog post about her from 2010: The Venopian Solitude – unique voice from the global village

Edit:

Here’s the link if you want to check it out http://the-wknd.com/music/new-music/the-venopian-solitude-warkah-narcissus/

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Filed under experimental, folk, indie, music, one to watch

Austin Psych Fest first day: Disappears killed it

Disappears - awesome performance at Psych Fest 2012. (Cellphone camera couldn't cut the mustard so I nabbed this one off the band's Facebook page.)

Just starting to feel human again after a late night at Psych Fest. As usual, the band I enjoyed most wasn’t the one I expected it to be. Best performance and a definite band to watch, is the Chicago-based band Disappears.

I did enjoy the bands we went to see: Dead Meadow were very good and The Black Angels were great as always, I enjoyed a few other bands as well, both at Emo’s East and the Beauty Ballroom. The thing is, none of that really jumped out at me. It was the kind of fare you expect to hear at a festival devoted to psychedelic music – lots of reverb, lots of Velvet Underground influence.

Disappears stood out from the crowd (kind of an amusing statement now that I think of it). They were very together, every member knowing what the others were doing at all times. Different rhythms, vocals higher in the mix. I got a strong postpunk vibe from them. They made me think of bands like Joy Division, Magazine and The Fall.

Chris, my concert buddy, was so impressed he bought three of their CDs. I would have if I hadn’t been a little strapped after buying a few drinks. We played through a couple of the albums after we got back to Chris’s appartment and their latest – Pre Language – is unquestionably the best. The others were good also, but they had a different sound, reminding me a lot of the Stooges.

Here’s one of their best in my opinion:

BTW, I just found out after a bit of searching that their drummer is Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth.

Disappears will be playing in Dallas tonight and in Memphis, Tenn. tomorrow night. They are also getting ready for a summer tour of Europe. Check out their website for more. Also visit their store. You can get Pre Language for $12. Worth it I would say. And check out their Facebook page.

Bands I look forward to seeing tonight include Pink Mountaintops, Olivia Tremor Control, Telescope and the Black Lips. But who knows? Best show might once again be someone completely off my radar.

Emo’s East

I’ve decided I really like the new Emo’s East location on East Riverside Drive. I will miss the old location on 6th Street. I saw so many great shows there. But this one is big, still homey somehow, and they kept a lot of the art from the old place – like the creepy/weird/trippy painting of the elephant cutting open its third eye and the one of Johnny Cash flipping the bird.

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Filed under live show, music, one to watch, psych

Sundress – great young dream pop band from Denton, Texas

I was playing through some mp3s from the South by Southwest 2012 and stumbled across yet another great band that I missed out on: Sundress. The Denton, Texas-based group is one to watch. They are right in that psychedelic/dream pop/shoegaze sweet spot that I find so irresistible. “Derelict” is a great song and the video is also quite impressive. Someone in the Youtube comments compared it to a DMX trip. I wouldn’t know, but it certainly is trippy.

Check it out:

Sundress has a new 6-song EP out on Bandcamp.

(You can download “Derelict” for free.)

Also check them out on Facebook and Twitter.

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Filed under dream pop, music, one to watch, psych, shoegaze, Uncategorized

Help Iran’s Casualty Process make their first music video

Being an underground rock ‘n’ roll band is tough anywhere, but especially so in Iran, where just playing a show can get you thrown in jail. That’s exactly what happened to one of my recent discoveries, The Casualty Process. The band did not let that stop them. They continue to push back and make the music they want to make – a kind of electronic rock that makes me think of acts like Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode.

The Casualty Process has a story to tell, and the band’s ongoing Kickstarter project will help get that story out. The band wants to produce its first music video for the song On the Ground. You can find out more about that here. If they can raise $4,000 by May 31 they can pull it off. A number of gifts are available for different levels, including a copy of their debut album, [Un]even plus an extended version of On the Ground. (I have [Un]even. It’s quite good.)

Check out the band’s Kickstarter project here, and pitch in if you can. And read what I wrote about them back in December 2010

Great indie rock from Iran (you didn’t think Iran had any of that did you?)

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Filed under darkwave, electro-pop, experimental, music, one to watch

Latest find – Austin singer-songwriter Shakey Graves (This guy’s gonna be huge)

Shakey Graves – an Austin musician with a big future, mark my words.

Every now and then I make a music discovery that is so good and so unexpected it stops me right in my tracks. Last night I was playing the free downloads from the Eye in the Sky Collective and I suddenly heard a song I never heard before that sounded like it might have been around forever – a sure sign of talent and inspiration. “Built to Roam” by Shakey Graves. Just a perfect, perfect song.

And after a bit of digging I got more shocks: Shakey Graves, aka Alejandro Rose-Garcia, is from Austin and has been featured by the Austin Chronicle and on KUT – by other people who were affected the same way by his music. I could have seen him live at South By Southwest if I had known. I will definitely be on the lookout for new chances to see him play.

Furthermore, I listened to his album, Roll the Bones on Bandcamp all the way through, and loved every song. His style is a blend of classic blues, alt country and folk music. Mainly just great songwriting. The picking in some of his songs make me think of blues legends like Bukka White. The songs are available on a “pay what you want” basis. Give it a listen and see if you don’t think it’s worth paying for. We need to keep this man in business. He’s brilliant.

Here is his Tumblr page, which includes dates for upcoming performances. If you’re in the Austin area, you can see him at the Hole in the Wall on Thursday, March 29 and at the White Horse on Saturday, March 31.

Shakey Graves will be performing at the Kohoutek music festival in Claremont CA on April 28 and is looking for other venues in the West – New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, etc. (E-mail him at shakey.graves@gmail.com if you have any ideas.)

“Like” him on Facebook to find out more.

And check out this video I just found, wherein he tells how he got his stage name and plays a really good song:

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Filed under alt-country, blues, country, folk, indie, music, one to watch, Uncategorized

SXSW 2012 final wrap-up

Finally got some free time to finish talking about the rest of my South By Southwest experience… Lots more interesting music on Friday, March 16 and Saturday, March 17.

Friday, March 18 finds

On Friday I went to the free Eye in the Sky Collective party at Shiner’s Bar at 5th and Congress. I only saw one band there, but it turned out to be pretty impressive. Sorne performed these tribal anthems that really got folks excited. The singer had a high, powerful voice. There were two percussionists in the group. For one song, he got the audience to divide into groups of “Vulcans” vs. “Romulans” and get them to perform a chorus. Sounded pretty cool.

Here’s an example of what they sound like (It’s the song with the Vulcans and Romulans in fact):

By the way, the Eye in the Sky Collective bears looking into. It’s an organization working to establish a new business model that works for both fans and artists. Just off hand, it makes me think of John Pointer’s Patronism. If you give them your e-mail address you can get 28 free tracks. Sounds worth it to me…

After listening to Sorne, I had an inexplicable feeling that I should leave the bar and go wandering outside to see what I could see. (The fact that I had no bars on my cellphone inside Shiner’s may have had something to do with it.) It was a good decision, because I saw the coolest act, playing on the street. Gouda Music – a group featuring Ghanaian xylophone player  Kwame Kponyo Wadada. Apparently there are different lineups, but on this night he was accompanied by a cajon drummer and another guy playing a kind of rasp. They were busking at the corner of 6th and Trinity and had drawn quite a crowd.

Here’s a video I made with my cellphone:

I love surprises like that. It’s part of what I like best about SXSW. There was another world music group on the street Saturday night, playing some kind of Caribbean music, but I didn’t get to stick around and wasn’t able to find out more. If anyone got to see more of them and knows their name, let me know.

Saturday, March 18

We started the day at a free party at The Belmont (305 W. 6th), sponsored by an app called Tabbed Out (you got a better place in line if you had it on your phone – lots of us were downloading it while standing in line. Mine didn’t download all the way, but they let me in nevertheless.)

Best bands I heard there were Bright Light Social Hour and Cuckoo Chaos.

Austin-based Bright Light Social Hour was quite like a throwback to the best music of the ’70s, doing hard rock, funk, and even throwing in some disco. A few times I was reminded of Grand Funk Railroad. Just one of those powerful, balls to the wall rock groups like I grew up with.

Next was a group called Kids These Days from Chicago. They are kind of a jazz-hip hop group, quite young. At first I wasn’t feeling it, but finally they got into a groove and I started digging their sound. They did a song kind of mock-fighting with the crowd, “Shut the Fuck Up,” and put their young female keyboard player on lead vocal for a really kickass blues song. They’re young, but I think they could be going places…

Cuckoo Chaos

Next up was Cuckoo Chaos from San Diego. I actually discovered them while playing a mix on the MySpace music player (might have to give MySpace a second look – they found me some seriously good tunes) and was looking forward to them. They do a kind of African-influenced pop-rock in the same vein as Vampire Weekend. I liked their sound and their tunes. The guitar player had a way of producing harmonics from feedback that reminded me a bit of Gang of Four. Definitely a band to check out further.

Not only did we get to hear free music at The Belmont, we had plenty of free alcohol. I could’ve stayed there all day, but we had another party we wanted to get into later. This was quite a party though. It looked like the party your parents were always afraid you were gonna have whenever they went out of town. Lots of drinking and dancing. And I might as well throw in my bathroom story. By late afternoon, the men’s bathroom looked like it had been hit by a very unsanitary tornado. I went in and there was a very drunk guy standing there with a roll of paper towels, going, “woo, woo,” just swinging it around. He comes up to me and goes, “You think I should get that guy?” pointing to someone taking a leak at a urinal. I said, “That would be totally up to you.” So he went up and wrapped paper towels around the guy’s face. The guy turned around and said “what the fuck?” and drunk guy threw the roll of towels onto the wet floor and left. I decided to use the stall so no one could sneak up on me. I sure feel sorry for the janitor…

Sometimes it’s good to let someone drag you into a place you wouldn’t have gone otherwise, and sometimes it’s good to throw your hands in the air and wave ’em like you just don’t care.

To my surprise, one of the biggest highlights of the evening on March 18 was the Thre3Style show, a free event sponsored by Red Bull including major acts Erykah Badu, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Crystal Method. It turned out to be mainly DJ music and a lot of hip hop. Not something I would’ve expected to enjoy. But enjoy it I did. I decided to give in and get down. It was a hugely popular event – at one point, security guards had to keep people who didn’t get in from pushing the fence down. (The only real downside to the event was actually the Red Bull itself – I hate energy drinks and the only alcoholic beverage choices were Red Bull & Deep Eddy vodka or beer. Also not a huge beer drinker.)

I enjoyed Erykah Badu and The Crystal Method. (I’m gonna have to dig out my copy of Vegas.) I also enjoyed the DJ sets more than I would’ve expected, especially a DJ who called himself Big Once, Dan the Automator, who at one point was accompanied by an excellent singer (and I believe actress as well) named Mary Elizabeth Winstead.

Badu did an interesting set, accompanied by a host of producers who refer to themselves as the Cannibinoids. The music was a kind of techno-hip hop, with a lot of rich visuals on the LCD screens. Psychedelia was a major theme, and everyone including Badu had names that sounded like names of illegal substances. The highly rebellious theme, along with the trippy visuals, made me think of cyberpunk. Points to Badu for doing something unique, but frankly I enjoyed it better toward the end of the set, when she performed some of her old songs from the ’90s.

In between sets, there was plenty of music to keep people dancing, a beach ball for people to toss around, and at one point, giant eyeballs. It took a while for me to realize there were cameras in them, flashing views of the crowd on the LCD screen. I only managed to graze a ball once, never got a good solid whack on it, but it was fun trying. There was also enough pot smoke in the crowd to nearly give me a contact high. A community joint came through my part of the crowd in fact – I let it pass me by, but still, thanks to whatever generous person it originated with.

We later went down to check out the madhouse that is 6th Street at the height of SXSW. It’s just barely controlled chaos. They close off the street, which fills completely full of people, desperately trying to cram in as much party as possible before everything ends. From the rooftops were laser beams, some of which fanned out and had smoke billowing through them, making interesting patterns. It’s crazy, all those people crammed together, but kind of an impressive sight.

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Filed under funk, indie, indie pop, indie rock, live show, music, one to watch, psych

Repeater – best take on gothic postpunk I’ve heard in a long time


Last night I was listening to a Pandora station based on ’80s postpunk band The Chameleons, when suddenly a song jumped out at me: “A Second Home,” by Repeater. I thought, wow, postpunk is my thing. How could I miss an awesome band like this?

I looked them up and found that they are in fact a current band from Long Beach, California, and everything I played by them I absolutely loved. They sound like a combination of Chameleons, Joy Division, Comsat Angels, maybe a bit of early U2. The singer has a bit of a rough voice which is very expressive. Themes tend to be rather dark, even goth. Right in that postpunk sweet spot that I cannot resist.

I have already purchased mp3 downloads from their 2008 album Iron Flowers and their 2011 album We Walk from Safety (which would’ve been a very good candidate for my best of 2011 list if I had found it in time). I have also found some impressive videos for their songs.

This one gives me the willies:

I think they’re doing what Interpol tried to do, but the songcraft seems much stronger. Interpol got old after a while, as I began to sense that they had a vibe and not much else. I think Repeater will be on repeat in my stereo for a long time to come.

Visit their website and check them out on Facebook.

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Filed under neo-postpunk, one to watch, postpunk, video