Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Band Review: Doomsday Student

     Arising from the ashes of several other projects, Doomsday Student resounds frenetically, their sound rife with notions of psychosis. The joke is that all that seeming insanity, sexual dysfunction, bodily malfunction, and obsessive-compulsive behavioral manifestation is underpinned by solid musicality and a highly disciplined sense of ensemble. In other words, this band is tight.
     To get a real sense of just how dead on these guys are, see them live. Their album, A Jumper’s Handbook, which is available for downloading at Anchor Brain records, does a fairly good job at conveying the jagged abrasiveness of their music. But, there is something slightly tame about the sound of the record. Live, all the latent potential bottled up in the recording comes bursting forth with ferocity and that collective rhythmic sense that is so satisfying.
     Craig Kureck, the drummer, is a human metronome. Not as overtly technical as someone like Gabriel Serbian or Zach Hill, his style is based on isorhythmic concepts, a reiteration of a few ideas, repeated almost to the point of redundancy. Craig’s dead solid sense of internal feel is what makes it succeed. This complements his phrasing style and overall musical instincts. There is a subtle intricacy at work in the way he utilizes the hi-hat that brings to mind some trippy version of jazz drumming, and the ‘four-on-the-floor’ bass drum bombs that clearly articulate the quarter note pulse of the music are also of interesting note.
     The interplay of the rest of the band continues and extends musical concepts that have been experimented with for years in this particular sector of the ‘underground’ scene. Stephen Mattos and Paul Vieira create a guitaristic framework that is more indebted to a linear as opposed to a riff-based style of thinking. In other words, their approach to writing guitar parts is closer to classical contrapuntal thinking as opposed to straight-up rock-based riff writing. This is not to say that they are creating ‘classical’ music. That would be a profoundly stupid thing to try and assert. It is to say that the tendency within this group of people to think in terms of stacked layers of melody creates a musical texture that is closer to classical writing than straight up power-chord rock style. Even in terms of the drumming, this melodic style can be felt. The interplay of the drumming and the guitar parts further confirms this hypothesis; Craig’s phrasing complements the guitarists phrasing at the same time his drumming solidly lays down the meter.
     On top of this, Eric Paul delivers the vocals in the manner he is known for- amelodic, half-shouted in a highly nasal upper register whine that suits the demands of the situation better than anything else would. As in past projects, the symbiotic nature of the vocals and music is highly intriguing. The schizophrenia of Eric Paul’s persona is mirrored by the schizophrenia of the group’s utterances. To truly get it, you have to hear it. Eric has always been a singular entity.

Check 'em out at:

Also, Anchor Brain records, home of Doomsday Student, is Eric Paul's Providence based label. Please support Providence rock and roll. Thank you.



Thursday, January 26, 2012

Band review: Slonk Donkerson

Rocking out in The Duddy since their formative years, Slonk Donkerson have built a strong musical unit that combines solid musical instincts with a strong group dynamic to produce historically informed rock music suffused with latent commercial potential. This is music that is at times a little earnest in its expression but is not at all contrived in its emotionalism. The impression remains that these guys stand behind what they write, and that conviction shows through.
     For the sake of full disclosure, let it be known that the fact of this bands existence was first brought to my attention roughly six weeks ago, which was due to my current position as barista at the Brown Bookstore café, of which Parker, the guitarist, is a patron. After giving the bands second album ( named II) a listen, I decided that I wanted to take on the task of producing 500 words about them. Part of this has to do with the fact that their musical aesthetic is one that I don’t relate to completely; in this group, however, I found the proceedings handled capably by a three-piece composed of musicians with the requisite degree of musicality.
     The band proper is Parker Silzer on guitar, Dylan Vandenhoek handling bass and vox, and Zack O’Brien on drums. They grew up together in NY and this band is the longstanding fruit of their endeavors in collective music-making. Befitting a group of white boys growing up on the East Coast of the Land of the Free, their list of musical influences includes Fugazi, Husker Du, and The Replacements.
     While other groups were mentioned in the same space as the above three, the imprint made by Fugazi, Husker Du and The Replacements is fairly clear. Songs like ‘Radical Dude’ or ‘The Edifice’ draw from 80’s indie rock, while the hardcore roots of ‘Heat of Night’ are undeniable. Echoes of Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. also jump out at times.
     The first track off of the self-titled drives this point home clearly. Clocking in at just under 5 minutes, the proceedings manage to evoke a danceable, sing-along anthemic quality while still rocking out. The result is something like a slightly less agro Fugazi with a more sophisticated sense of musical form. The song itself undergoes a few deftly handled stylistic permutations that all resolve intelligently at the end.
      A song that represents a different side of the band is ‘The Same Mud’; this song seems to be a meditation of sorts on the impermanence of things. This is the side of the band that I don’t relate to as directly, but, their cohesive sense of ensemble, songwriting skills and general musicality show through, here as elsewhere, which goes a long way towards balancing out the sense of overwrought earnestness that permeates the emotional life of the music.
     In short, while the ultra sophisticated might decry this bands obvious commercial potential, the fact remains that they stand behind their music and have the talent to back it up. Check ‘em out at:

Friday, January 13, 2012

Band Review: ZORCH

Zorch moves you. This conclusion is reinforced after revisiting the band. Comprised of a vocalizing drummer named Sam and a keyboardist wielding a formidable rig named Zac, this Texas duo produces music that embraces a very interesting esthetic, wedding trippy, funk hued jams with layered vocals and experimental electronics.
     They have been coalescing since 2007, after the two members had met in college. They worked out material for a gig, layed off for a while, and then got back into it, resulting in the 2009 demo. This is available for streaming on their website.
     I was introduced to the music of this band back in August of last year, when they played at Local 121. In some ways, it wasn’t the most ideal setting for this group, due to the sometimes-muddy acoustics. Still, they were impressive, unfolding their richly textured music with authority.
     Their sound has an uplifting quality to it, while being highly original and experimental. They know how to build a groove and overlay various keyboard textures to produce a constantly evolving tapestry of sound.
     The amount of textured sound they manage to produce is massive for a two piece, not in a heavy metal kind of way, but more in an orchestral sense. The small arsenal of equipment utilized by Zac enables him to create a fairly varied amount of texture; this, coupled with the solid drumming of Sam, registers a net effect of engaging and experimental groove music. Layered on top of all of this, the often wordless vocalizing of Sam creates a pronounced otherworldly effect.
      Consider a track like Morris the Loris. On top of Sam’s solid groove, Zac constructs a richly varied sonic structure; the opening major key groove and its subsequent development, moving forward at a fairly brisk tempo, present music that is overtly positive without being contrived. The song itself is spun out of a few ideas that seem to all center around the notion of a big, fat groove. The melody that Sam hums has a very major key feel to it as well; the fact that there are almost no words influences the psychedelic quality of it.
      For a really solid example of their ability to groove with serious feel, check out ‘Gimme that Axe’. After the intro, the song settles into a bit of phrasing based around a keyboard riff that sounds like a guitar. The whole first part of the song sounds like a synthetic version of rock and roll. All of a sudden, the riff oscillates back on itself in a pool of coalescing rhythm. As this subsides, a sample begins, and this leads into the second part of the song, which features Sam’s drumming. The contrast between the sections is highly distinct, and highlights the bands ability to weld disparate elements into a unified whole.
     This band sits in the same arena that is also sometimes inhabited by bands like Health. Listen to this band if you want to have your horizons broadened. You’ll never think about music in quite the same way.

Check 'em out at: