By: Joseph VanBuren
There once was a young musician named Hudson Eakin, who lived in the Portland, Maine area and met an early demise, killed by the horrible music of local bands. Shortly thereafter, his corpse was stolen from his grave and brought to a laboratory, where a mysterious entity infused his soul into a robot. The robot was programmed to save the human race through the power of hip hop, starting with its debut album Sermons Vol. 1: Infinite Capacity.
This is the story of The Reverend Robot, a very intriguing artist with an obvious abundance of imagination and a strong disliking for the current trends in both music and society. Infinite Capacity is the result of these traits: ten hard-hitting and almost overwhelming tracks of alternative hip hop that somehow combine a rebellious, underground attitude with a positive vibe of unity. In format, it’s more like a mixtape, borrowing beats from other artists. In content, however, it is unlike any mixtape that has ever come before it. Even in the choices of the music utilized (from artists like The Gorillaz and Sleigh Bells), this is a unique experience. The Reverend Robot strays far from mainstream clichés, packing a lot of knowledge and insight into his lyrics. And in between thought-provoking rhymes and calls for action, he (excuse me, it) infuses fantastic horrorcore imagery and sound clips, painting the picture of the inhuman vessel carrying these messages.
Though, there are two issues with the tracks on Infinite Capacity that take a little away from the album‘s greatness. The lo-fi sound quality of the vocals doesn’t always blend well with the jacked beats, which are mostly of professional production. It also seems that a little more time spent on practicing the rhymes would have probably resulted in more solid songs, particularly to avoid the sometimes sloppy overdubs. Then again, have you ever tried telling a robot to perfect something? They just look at you crazy like “don’t try to program MY mind.”
A couple production quirks aside, The Reverend Robot was apparently created to create something awesome. The amount of creativity behind Infinite Capacity is astounding and makes for some very refreshing music that stretches its chosen genre to the limits. It is rare that music can be both entertaining and enlightening, but The Reverend Robot is obviously a rare kind of artist. “When I open my eyes, I lose the words to speak/ because I can’t even believe that they are coming out of me.” So rare, the Robot even surprises itself.
By: Eliza Coolidge
There are not many men who dare to bare their nipples through the trials of a New York winter. One, who you can always count on, is Rex. The barefooted, overalls-only frontman of The Rex Complex is a might unreckoned. Though crunk, experimental and roots music are noted as the band's aesthetic posts, The Rex Complex charmingly darts and diverts through a tremendous variety of sounds, forming a new generation's book of Americana.
Their 11 track album, A Delicious Victory, does not presuppose the virtue of its title but charismatically charges its self-given prophecy. The album begins, no short of an extraordinary entrance, with "Debutante Brawl." Theatrical and warped, a short-legged polka hobbles center. Beckoning us in, two wailing voices lament "oh no, debutante brawl," inciting curiosity in the listener. Soon following, a woman begins to tell her story of the famed debutante bitch-bash. As her stately narration unravels into a ruction of screeches and accusations, we sense that The Rex Complex is slowly peeling back the curtain, unearthing a Bushwick Fantasy Freakshow, luring us and our unabashed hankering for the outre and entropic. Whispering in the eager ear, step right on up, step right on up…
Continuing to conduct their circus of debaucheries and delights, "Mafia Landlord" erupts with a Pulp Fiction-like guitar intro. The vocals retain the raw, uninhibitedness of a live performance. Growling, howling and screaming, Rex entices the listener to find a pit to mosh. Though, even Rex's animation finds itself jockeyed by the guitar solo—a feral scramble of a beast unfed, all the shred and distortion you would ever want (or need) trailing behind an unidentifiable carcass of wreckage. Brilliant.
Though counting their proclivities for bedlam, The Rex Complex also endears with more narrational songs. "Refuge on a Front Porch" reveals a more pastel side of the group. The guitar, drums and percussion tightly blend in a polyrhythmic fuse, sourcing an alloy of back porch banjo and West African traditional guitar. Rex's lyrics deepen the lightness of the groove with terrific storytelling. At times when the clarity of Rex's lyrics are sacrificed in place of his sensational mania, it is refreshing to be able to understand what he's actually talking about.
As virtuous to their live performance as A Delicious Victory may be, this band deserves to be heard while on the stage. All said, you would be hard-pressed to find a more exhilarating live performance in New York. One cautionary note, be sure to tie your boots tight. You will dance. You will rage.
Sounds like a weird thing to open up a record with, right? Frontier Land seems to be obsessed not just with the local geography and parts surroundin but the ways in which modern life and this engineered landscape forces our hands, worms its nonsense ways into our decisions and sometimes literally rips us apart. "Taconic Waltz" and "The City Put A Bus Between Us" are some of the more obvious examples but track six, "You Are What You Owe," is probably the most touching and personal song exhibiting these qualities. In which the narrator is defeated by the big city, moving back home broke to start again, he notes, "Well, frontier land, to get it right / you know they're on the train tonight / gonna take the ones who don't belong back home." That last train back to the suburbs at 1 am for those who have no business staying. I've known it well and will never miss it.
The music is pretty creative and entertaining for the most part, especially the stompers; this band is almost certain to be very entertaining live as the songs overflow with passion and creativity. But there's something that bothers me about this record here and there and I've had a hard time putting my finger right on it. So I'll just pick on "Empties," a fun, damn-the-man tune about thumbing your nose at the local authorities. It just doesn't feel like the music ever resolves, you have all this building and building and building, that great opening riff and hook line, "Throw your empties when it's time to go / sayin' we know betta, we know betta than you," and that's all you get. There's a lot of shouting that's totally indiscernible (which is fine if that's what you're going for, but these guys want to reach you), pounding away at the drums, guitars banging away at some riff that's just not particularly interesting without any supporting accompaniment. Then comes a repeat of the verse hook, rinse and repeat. This goes on for quite some time and what started you off dancing ends with you thinking about now's a good time to get another drink. Something should pull this song together in some triumphant and ridiculously catchy chorus in which a police car gets lit on fire.
A few of the other upbeat numbers flirt with this problem and it's understandable. You can hear these guys making a conscious attempt to avoid typical verse-chorus-verse song structures and they do a really great job of that. But it could use some refinemen, and it's a thing I've noticed that's pretty common to our local auteurs -- they seem to eschew anything that might be construed as pop, which doesn't make for particularly interesting rock and roll. My totally unfounded theory is that everybody wants to be experimental in some way or another and is therefore afraid to choke the chicken once in a while. If anybody can pull it off, I'm sure these guys can. I dare anybody who listens to "Wagbag" deny they weren't singing along to the refrain, "Take my money / Buy me a forty!"
P.S. What happened to the bass on this record? Often it sounds like an artifact in the mix instead of a proper instrument, when it can be heard at all.
By: Eliza Coolidge
Chase Desire, the third and most recent LP released by singer/songwriter Jeanne Marie Boes, is a complex amalgam of tastes. Indifferently, Boes juggles mild affectations of cabaret, blues, jazz, and a pinch of 60s Nashville pop. Though incorporating different styles, what incontrovertibly sounds is a muddled, flavorless palette. Within the ten-track album, there are a few shadowed peeks into Boes' potential, mainly in the title-track "Chase Desire," where she sultrily showcases the rich and luxurious tones of her voice. The production is, plainly put, strange — pop cabaret with a plinky piano, programmed drums, and synthesized horns (still waiting on the 30-second automated tap dance interlude). Painfully following is "The Closer We Got" which, if the title isn't already an attestation, is the composted waste of all love songs from the past two decades. At the turn of the second verse, the song transforms into a deficient 80s power ballad with all the victorious trimmings of synth drums and organ patches. And while "The Closer We Got" leaves the vestiges of power pop ailing in a small, ashamed corner, "And Paris Too" goes further to disrupt its grievous mourning with the likes of a Hallmark card commercial.
The amateur production of "Chase Desire" (which has me running rather than chasing) truly obfuscates the integrity of Miss Boes' talent. Her voice, smoky and deep throated, impressively coalesces a vast range. While the emotional munificence of her phrasing can at times border tacky, she possesses a truly unheard, singular sound.
By: Nora E. Lindner
Never fear, Brooklyn. The indie music scene is bringing in reinforcements and they go by the name of Brit & the Cavalry.
Last summer, Brit & the Cavalry put out their first EP Chapter One to critical acclaim. Recently, the Cavalry did it again, releasing its second EP Hiker. Fan-funded through Kickstarter, Hiker is a gallant effort, a follow-up that exceeds its predecessor by delivering more of the band’s matchless sound.
The Cavalry threw out the rule book years ago. Instead it blends the standard rock setup — guitar, bass, drums — with a veritable monkey-wrench of lilting strings and horns. What’s more, it works, seamless as it is unique and somehow satisfying to listen to. Maybe it’s because, despite how the combination looks on paper, there is nothing forced or jarring about it. Distinct but well-executed, it fits the alternative rock definition and listening satisfies both folk and rock cravings.
The head of the troop, Brit Boras has a swooning vocal range that emotes with the best of them. She is alternately tender and empowered, melodious and strong willed, all without missing a note, more of an instrument herself than anything else. Violinist Amanda Lo is also of note, her strings standing at the forefront of every song and often claiming the spotlight over lyrics, or rather, getting the point across without the need for lyrics at all.
Even with only four songs, the Hiker EP does not repeat itself. “The Great Forest Divide” is an excellent example of the band’s accomplished horn section. “Breathing Under Water” has the opening bars of a gentle, romantic sea shanty followed by the slicing lyrics of a ghost. The title track “Hiker” is an instant favorite. Putting that mysterious combination of violin and heavy rock guitar chords to its greatest extent, it’s a multi-depth encounter that, after only one listen, won’t be easy to forget. The combination is smoldering. The Cavalry signs off this EP with “The Sun,” where plucked strings and smooth electric guitar make a sweet send off. If the song “Hiker” shows the band’s intensity, “The Sun” brings out its gentle side, proving just the many ways this group can deliver.
Short and sweet, “Hiker” does exactly what an EP should — give a taste of what this band can do and show us why we should be listening; makes us anticipate a full-length album. Although technically a follow up to Chapter One, the first was mostly a solo endeavor by Boras. This time there’s a full brigade, made up of Brit Boras (guitar, vocals), Alex Beckmann (drums), Dan Krysa (bass), Kevin Birk (trombone), Jas Walton (sax), Aaron Rockers (trumpet) and Amanda Lo (violin).
Ready to call them in and make your own judgments? Tomorrow, Brit & the Cavalry will be celebrating Hiker with a release show at Pianos Friday at 8pm, $10 cover charge.