Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Memphis Khan

Hello and welcome back.
Let me begin by stating that this group has produced the greatest version of "Beat It" I have ever heard. For one thing, Memphis Khan, the group in question, are a modern folk duo.
So, this recording has guitars and banjos and layered background harmonies, coupled with a sentiment evoking a sort of resigned determination, like the guy really does not want to have this conversation again. The result has its own unique power to it, and I don't think anyone can touch this.
I was first introduced to the music of Memphis Khan this past September ('08), at a gathering of about 20 people in Fox Point, in Providence. I managed to talk to both Ryan and Patrick that night, and decided that if I liked what I heard I would pick up a copy of the The Merchant EP, their six-song demo containing the aforementioned version of "Beat It". And it was in that spirit that I handed over a few dollars for a copy.
The next day I went downstairs and put the disc in the stereo, and was able to truly appreciate what I had seen the other night. This was due to significant differences between the live and recorded versions of the songs I had just heard.
Whereas the live set was Patrick and Ryan with no backup, the disc is a much more orchestrated experience. Not that the live set was lacking. Not true. In fact, it served to demonstrate the pairs' talent. The ensemble was tight and fluid. The songs were musically expressive and they managed to convey a lot of sonic information with a very limited personnel.
It helped me to put the demo in context. I would love to hear those arrangements live. The use of distortion on the banjo is an intriguing bit of orchestration, and brings out the natural metallic quality in its' tone-color. The use of overdubbing to layer the guitar and beef-up the arrangements in general is really interesting. The end result is some sort of electric folk music.
It was explained to me that there has always been an interest in American folk music, that "at some point you realize that the music made in the first half of the twentieth century in America had a raw, elemental power and heaviness." We agree with this assessment. What is great about this bands' conception is the way they inject electricity into the folk tradition. There is a certain aspect of noise rock in the proceedings. My personal favorite is "Criers On The Phone", with the slight bit of feedback at the beginning and then the clean banjo layered on top of distorted banjo following that. The form of the piece has a strange, assymetrical shape to it as well. It seems that they are using a harmonic sequence of some degree of regularity coupled with irregular phrase lengths and syncopated cadences, which evolves into an A-transition-B-coda type of form.
These guys definitely have carved out their own niche. There is something about the demo versions that reminded me of Smog, not in a specific way, but in the spirit of the proceedings.
Memphis Khan was born in the summer of 2008, after a homeless man stole one of the bandmembers' shoes and bet that person that they couldn't start a band called "Memphis Khan". They decided to take up the challenge in earnest, having a great love for those shoes.
The band plans on having a full-length release available in spring of 2009, and The Merchant EP has been picked up by an indie label called Reverb Worship (www.reverbworship.com), where it can be found for sale on the labels' website. They will be posting new tracks on their MySpace page, and will be appearing on the radio in Sydney, Australia on January 28. (www.sidewaysthroughsound.com)

check 'em out at www.myspace.com/memphiskhan

Monday, January 12, 2009

Hey Lovey Dovey

The focus of this blog is a band from the Garden State, Hey Lovey Dovey. These guys are relatively young in terms of their members ages, but they perform with a musical depth that puts them in league with their older contemporaries. Their expressive emoting is tempered by a sense of humor, which adds nicely to their style.
One of the interesting facets of their sound is the incorporation of certain aspects of grindcore in the writing, juxtaposed against a more melodic sound containihng quite expressive basslines (courtesy of Ian Eckstein). It calls to mind early Mr. Bungle and An Albatross, the Wilkes-Barre madmen.
One of the things that is quite interesting about this band is the fact that Brian Berman, the singer, has never fronted any other bands. The only track he has contributed vocals to at this time that I know of is "On a Glass Bottom Airplane", but it is obvious that the boy has talent. He has a strong sense of intonation, which imbues the lyrics (which are a collaborative endeavor) with a melodic expressiveness that enhances the abrasiveness of his tone. Another interesting thing is the fact that the drummer (Brandon Lipman) is only thirteen years old. This kid shreds. I mean he kills. His hits are dead on and he drives the hell out of the beat. His sense of pulse is real strong. He is tight-yet-flexible.
As I sit here writing this and listening, I cannot help but think that while what I said was true, at the same time I hear the talent of everyone involved. These boys can play. Everyone locks into the pulse and drives the beat from beginning to end.
The two guitarists (Justin Lipman and Dan Stone) and the keyboardist (Nick Potters) create interesting structures over the drum/bass complex. There are countermelodies underneath the vocals buried in the riffage and the changing textures of the keyboards and guitar effects enhance the sense of phrasing, which is strong and well articulated, culminating in songs which create highly unique music that still has tons of thrash and backbeat. It is music you can bug out to live, and it is hoped they stick around to become known by all.
The band started in October of this past year as a fourpiece, acquiring the keyboardist and vocalist by December. The resulting six-piece line-up is just a result of the fulfillment of the needs of their sound.
I was given to understand that the hardcore scene in New Jersey is not so unique and that this band wants to inject something fresh and new. They are living up to their intentions nicely. This music is, as above stated, thrashy yet strange, and the combination keeps you on the edge of your seat. The sense of storytelling, of drama, that they inject into the music, imbues the songs with a compelling aspect that simultaneously heightens the intensity and the musicality. Support this band, they are going places.

check em out at: www.myspace.com/heyloveydovey