Audra – Dear Tired Friends

photo by Jaymz

A decade is a long time to be without something but well worth the wait when it comes to the new album from post punks Audra. It is ten years since the Arizona hailing band released third album Everything Changes and it is fair to say a great many have been eagerly and patiently awaiting its successor and just as simple to assume they are going to greedily bask in the dark beauty of Dear Tired Friends.

Formed in 1991 and primarily brothers Bart and Bret Helm, Audra enfold the inspirations of post punk and its numerous shapers alongside the eclectic imagination found in the likes of the Velvet Underground, Jane’s Addiction, Joy Division, David Bowie, James, and Tom Waits within their sound. As Dear Tired Friends proves it emerges a riveting often haunting embrace of intimate shadows and bewitching melancholy framed in post punk starkness and gothic rock romanticism.

An album which “deals heavily with loss and letting go” and described as “a testimony of the effect the last decade had on each band member”, Dear Tired Friends opens up with the song Tired Friends and took barely a handful of seconds to seize attention with the sizzle of Bart’s guitar across the bold but controlled rhythms of the band’s drummer, Jason DeWolfe Barton. From there pure addiction grew as the track unveiled its post punk prowess around Bret’s potent tones, the imagination only further ensnared as a calmer passage of reflection bares the heart of the track. It is a compelling and irresistible start to the album and quickly followed and matched by the outstanding Wish No Harm.

This is a song which began back in the early nineties and reappeared on a cassette they found when the band was assembling demos for what originally was to be a 4-track EP. Completed last year, Bret adding lyrics and melody to the original demo, Wish No Harm became the lead single for Dear Tired Friends and there could be no finer invitation to the album. The opening bassline was immediate manna to the ears, its lure unapologetic flirtation echoing the core essence of eighties post punk and only enhanced by the swiftly following enticement of vocals and guitar. There is something of Bauhaus meets The Cure to the song with a just as flavoursome tease of bands such as Leitmotiv and Gene Loves Jezebel but nevertheless stands unique to Audra and their dark imagination.

Another Fallen Petal is next up, the song a slowly unfurling piece of emotive solemnity and melodic intimacy within the mournful yet radiant embrace of keys. With the pure captivation bred leaving a lingering presence in thoughts, the song simply beguiled as too its successor, Drinking Yourself To Sleep. Fuelled by an instinctive catchiness bred in all tracks however their darkness and character, the equally enthralling song bears a glam rock lining to its harmonic stroll with psych rock currents in its breath.

Sunglass provides another romance of ears, keys and vocals almost crawling over the senses with the subsequent blaze of guitar sparking a Bowie-esque hue to the soulful and atmospheric piece of dark rapture while Planet Of Me steps forward with a knowing swagger to its rousing virulence. Featuring Mike VanPortfleet of Lycia as guest on lead guitar, the track is a weave of contrasts and stirring imagination; it as striking in its calm as it is in its lively eddies of contagious enterprise.

Across the fertile almost invasive liveliness of Sliding Under Cars and its Numan-esque poppiness, through The Sound/The The styled bold rapture that is Fireflies, and over the doleful but enslaving fascination of 1987 we can only say that Dear Tired Friends engrained itself deeper under the skin and into the passions before Falling brought it all to a close with its dark wave nurtured seduction. Volatility lies in the heart of the song, never fully erupting but teasing fiery emissions to the surface as it adds to the inherent beauty and splendour which lines its shadowy magnificence.

We all may have lingered ten years for a new adventure with Audra but we can tell you that every long second was worth the wait and more.

Dear Tired Friends is out now digitally and on CD and vinyl; available @ https://audra.bandcamp.com/album/dear-tired-friends

https://www.audramusic.com/   https://www.facebook.com/audramusic   https://twitter.com/audramusiccom

Pete RingMaster 28/11/2019

Copyright RingMasterReview: MyFreeCopyright

Crooked Ghost – Colors Bleed

photo by Rome Widenhouse

If you look at the press release for new EP, Colors Bleed, it suggests the sounds within would make something appealing for the fans of bands such as The Smiths, Suede, The Cure, Muse, Siouxsie And The Banshees, Gun Club, and early R.E.M. With each a valid clue to the Crooked Ghost sound it is a list suggesting its thickly flavoured body but maybe not quite its distinctly fascinating and often consuming character.

Asheville, North Carolina hailing, Crooked Ghost has already made a potent impact in 2019 with their album Skeleton House, released this past February. Recorded with producer Edward Madill, Colors Bleed now sees the quintet cast tracks which are “bigger and brighter than those before” but within the shoegaze, post punk, and dream pop seeded tapestries there is no escaping the invasively intimate shadows and esurient often raw melancholy fuelling their hearts and imagination.

Latest single, Black Rainbow, opens up the release, its gentle melodic beginning an evocative coaxing. Soon it is building up into a creative crescendo, the lively rhythms of drummer Jon Wyatt uniting with the jangling prowess ringing from the guitars of Charles Reed and Ray Lark, with the latter’s similarly magnetic vocals swiftly adding to the catchy temptation. Already there is emotional weight and tempestuous to the track and its mental illness themed intimacy, the keys of Alex Cannon radiant smog within the textures as the bass of Chris Saldin brings firmer shape to its inherent shadows.

By the breath the song only intensifies its fears and emotional turbulence yet there is a melodic sun at its heart which just beguiled before Sinew In Red shared it’s even more fervid breath and conflict. Again there is an enveloping heat to sound and emotion at the core of the song, its dark embrace a fusion of enquiring warmth and invasive melancholy within the haunting bewitchment consuming ears and attention, it all enveloping like a kind of rapturous romance. As its predecessor, the track simply bewitched though again as with the first leaving a lingering touch built on doubt and hope in its wake.

The final pair of Golden Blue and Bright White Noise provided just as evocative explorations to keenly immerse in. The first rises from its crepuscular calm with melodic captivation wrapped in more strident sonic threads yet again there is instinctive warmth which seduces across both keys and guitars. Lark’s inimitable tones only add to the bracing emotion soaked soundscape, his voice and words crafted in open and candid reflection.

The closing song is in many ways the most intense and haunting track of all, its sorrow verging on claustrophobic and melancholy devouring  yet once more Crooked Ghost bring a glow and melodic captivation which lights its shadows alongside the listener’s thoughts and feelings.

Colors Bleed quickly proved a gripping release but became increasingly spellbinding as each fresh listen opened up more depth and temptation in its body and imagination.

Colors Bleed is out now: available@ https://crookedghost.bandcamp.com/album/colors-bleed

https://www.facebook.com/CrookedGhost   https://twitter.com/thecrookedghost

Pete RingMaster 05/11/2019

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Dry Cleaning – Sweet Princess

Picture credit: Hanna-Katrina Jedrosz

There are times when you realise that unknowingly you have been waiting for a certain encounter and such is our feeling with the debut release from UK outfit Dry Cleaning. The Sweet Princess is a fascinating chunk of post punk/new wave drama which is openly inspired by the dark glories of the eighties but revels in an imagination and creative irreverence which wholly belongs to the London based quartet.

With a karaoke party in 2017 inspiring an instrumental collaboration, Dry Cleaning found its whole and voice with the addition of Florence Shaw six months later, she with no prior musical experiences joining Lewis Maynard, Tom Dowse, and Nick Buxton. Together they recorded the six-track Sweet Princess EP before playing their first show only last year which has been followed by headline shows and a tour with NYC’s Bodega. That live presence has already urged keen interest which their debut as a full introduction can only embrace and further ignite.

To try and place the sound of Dry Cleaning, it sits somewhere between Pylon and the Au Pairs with an originality which embraces some familiar hues but twists them to its own inventive devices. Shaw’s spoken word styled delivery sparks thoughts of Lesley Woods of the latter of the previously mentioned bands and at times The Anaemic Boyfriends, her words almost snatches of life and opinion woven together to create and echo kitchen sink situations as well as broader issues. EP opener, Goodnight quickly reveals it is a potent and striking incitement just as magnetically matched by the sounds which stride alongside. The first song concussively strikes like a sonic cobra before breaking into a virulent stride the Gang Of Four would be proud of. Vocals and rhythms collude in their temptation, the insistence of the latter led by the throbbing bass irresistible as guitars add their choppy lures and beats swing with matching rapacity. A melodic hook right out of the Buzzcocks songbook is extra manna to devour as it entwines the intimacy of word and reflection.

The following New Job quickly proved itself to be just as tantalising, also needing mere seconds and breaths to tempt and enslave as beats draw in another eagerly enticing hook aligned to the melodic tones of Shaw. Its punk breeding is soon released in flames of jangling guitar, a Raincoats meets early Cure spicing lining the track’s irreverence romance of discord.

An ode to the Duchess of Sussex and look at the intent and deeds of the media towards such celebrities, Magic of Meghan entangled ears in a guitar bred web from the off, appetite only further bound as the song  sets off on a sonic saunter driven by the band’s ever tenacious rhythmic nagging with its Artery-esque agility. As its predecessors, it burrowed deep within the skin and enslaved in no time, a prowess just as hungry within the dark crawling proposition of Traditional Fish. Even in its almost predatory prowl there is an energy which is pure incitement as too is the melodic and sonic wiring that threads its Feelies like body.

For all the references Dry Cleaning is a band which only uncages a sense of uniqueness in its sound as evidenced once more within Phone Scam. There is a Fire Engines hue to the guitar as the song shapes its refreshing presence around Shaw’s ever potent collage of words and phrases; that alone proving enough to incite greed though it is the delicious bass and drums propelled lure at its core which turned greed into lust.

Concluded by the keenly swinging sonic shimmer of Conversation, the song a final piece of dark and pulsating imagination, Sweet Princess is a release we for one cannot get enough of. Over far too soon, the EP sparked excitement as thickly as pleasure; at times that is a rare find in music but easy to imagine the first of many alongside Dry Cleaning.

Sweet Princess is out now via It’s OK; available @ https://drycleaning.bandcamp.com/releases

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Canshaker Pi – Naughty Naughty Violence

The word is that Dutch outfit Canshaker Pi is one emerging proposition sparking excitement and keen attention at every turn.  Now having been introduced to them through their first album it is easy to hear why. Naughty Naughty Violence is a devilishly magnetic and creatively mischievous indie rock romp; one spawned from a fusion of ear grabbing flavours equipped with an arsenal of hooks to make a Cenobite jealous.

The Amsterdam band’s sound is bred through varied strains of rock, punk, indie, and noise woven into a web of rhythmic and sonic manipulation. Since forming, the quartet has earned increasing attention and praise through their music and a live presence which has seen them share stages with the likes of The Cribs, Car Seat Headrest, Parquet Courts, Pip Blom, and Scott Kannberg’s Spiral Stairs and this year alone gather plaudits from playing Eurosonic, SXSW, and The Great Escape. That Pavement link is maybe no surprise as the band’s sound has a certain spicing of them and no doubt helped the band grab support slot on Kannberg’s side project’s tour in 2017 and continues with Canshaker Pi’s debut album being produced by Stephen Malkmus.

Naughty Naughty Violence swiftly shows that there is a definite individuality to Canshaker Pi’s sound, one not necessarily unique but springing a fresh and distinct character of imagination and flavouring which quickly got under our skin. Album opener is Pressure From Above, a song instantly teasing with an electronic wag of its creative finger and soon bursting into a fuzz fired boisterous stroll. As calm vocals join in, the track relaxes but is soon romping again bringing greater clamour and tenacity to its contagious rock ‘n’ roll. Already it is easy to sense that Pavement inspiration and too of bands like The Mai Shi, a kaleidoscope of hooks and melodic unpredictability additionally lighting the great beginning to the release.

It is a start soon eclipsed though, the initial off-kilter sonic lure of next up Tonsil enough alone to ignite our discord loving instincts. It is a kind of false start but the trigger to the glorious swagger wearing exploits of the track, that continuing discord a delicious clamour of temptation and trespass often enticing like a raw pop fuelled mix of Shellac and The Melvins. The final sonic sigh of the track drifts into the opening vocal and sonic discordance of Sooner Later. Around a compelling bass throb, the brief but dramatic track ignites and disrupts the senses, noise and voice a volatile incitement driven by the irresistible manipulation of the drums.

Three tracks in and fair to say we were hooked and only dangling with further enjoyment as Smurf uncaged its infectious canter like a grunge inspired Fountains of Wayne next with the following If Kelly Doesn’t, Then Who Will calming things down with its melodic and rhythmic pop ‘n’ roll. Neither track quite sparked the more lustful responses caused by their predecessors but ears could not evade being caught up in their individual and increasingly persuasive captivations; the latter especially as it just blossomed play by play to have us bouncing around as forcibly as its own endeavour.

But Why provided one minute of rousing noise rock next, rhythms humping ears as guitars meddle with the senses and vocals tease. With not even a breath allowed between them, No Sack, No Way saunters in to match its success, an immediate ear enslaving hook steering its lure. It is matched in magnetism by bass and vocals, each a controlled but virulent tempting entangling for even greater seduction of the imagination. Pop rock has rarely been heard more addictively in our speakers though its successor Put A Record Out with its ballsier rock ‘n’ roll was more than a match as it unleashed its resourcefully fiery clamour around further rhythmic machination.

In contrast to its raucous blaze, Legless provided a calm almost solemn amble through sound and imagination. The outstanding track carries something of early Cure meets Dinosaur Jr to its tantalising slow post punk sway while The Indie Academy straight after is up on its heels swinging along with pop rock devilment to almost as imposingly please.

The final pair of Half Book and Beautiful World brings the album to a potent conclusion, the first of the two again inventively merging flavours and eras with its post punk/pop punk infested rock before the second leaves ears immersed in a shadow wrapped melancholic croon with its own infectious gait and enterprise boiling up to a rousing corrosive climax.

Naughty Naughty Violence is an album which was really hard to move on from which tells you all about its exploits and temptations. As we said at the start, Canshaker Pi is being very highly talked of right now, their new album gives all the reasons why.

Naughty Naughty Violence is out now through Excelsior Recordings.

http://www.canshakerpi.nl/   https://www.facebook.com/CanshakerPi/   https://twitter.com/CanshakerPi

Pete RingMaster 05/06/2018

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Kudzu – Defeated

With a sound as eclectic and unpredictable as it is ravenously catchy, US synth pop duo Kudzu have just released their new album, Defeated. It is an infestation of infectious hooks, flirtatious synths, and rousing escapades but to tag it merely as synth pop is an injustice to its diversity, the album a stirring web of post punk, electro punk, industrial and more across its seriously magnetic body.

Springfield based Kudzu consists of Seth Goodwin (vocals, synth, and drum programming) and Mark Gillenwaters (vocals and guitar). Inspirations to the project include the likes of Tears For Fears, The Cure, Spectrum, Guided by Voices, Sympathy Nervous, and This Heat but as suggested, their sound has a much broader tapestry which is as bred in the seventies/eighties synth landscape as the creative now. It makes for a proposition which is as familiar as it is boldly fresh and one massive treat of a listen.

It opens with the punk assault of Some Cops, a track bursting from its electronic shimmer with zeal and urgency soaked in creative dissonance. At the same time it is a virulently catchy incitement, its fuzzy fumes leaving the senses as woozy as the bone shuddering beats. Like Calling All Astronauts meets Artery at its core, the song equally embraces psych rock winds in its contagious turbulence to provide Defeated with one ear grabbing start.

Straight away the variety of the album is at play as the following and quite superb No Backbone breaks the dividing peace with electro pulses straight out of the early Mute Records catalogue. Instantly thoughts of bands like The Normal arise but are soon pushed to the background as guitar spun melodies and harmonic vocals tease and caress respectively.  The hook Gillenwaters casts with his strings is simply delicious, a psyche enslaving lure soon backed by the darker pulsation of keys and the snapping resonance of rhythms; kind of like a fusion of B-Movie, The Cure, and Modern English yet unique from start to finish.

The album’s title track brings a scuzzier breath to ears; its post punk irritability echoed in the John Lydon textured vocals but again there is a repetitious coaxing teasing and tempting at the centre of the fuzz ball which necessitates only submission to its infectious demands. As its predecessor, it brings another hue to Defeated as does next up Burn Yourself, though its electro punk surge is akin to the opener. With the increasingly magnetic vocals almost gliding over the tides of noise springing from synths and guitar, it was so easy to be swept up in the raw yet skilfully nurtured arms of the track as thoughts colluded with its lyrical insight. Defeated is described as “a reaction to mounting disappointments and frustrations with increasingly frustrating and disappointing realities” and with intimacy and a worldly observation its often dissonant words hit the spot whilst almost arguing with the rousing catchiness of their vehicles.

The mesmeric Balking the Grave is next, the song a riveting post/gothic punk shadow bound serenade which almost seeps under the skin with its slow drawl and bordering concussive clang while Sleep in Disguise is a boisterous slice of synth pop/new wave with the scent of bands like Mr.Kitty, OMD, and early Human League to its bright if slightly caustic breeze.  Both tracks border the irresistible yet still get slightly outshine by One Purpose with its flirtatious Blancmange like melodies and climate.

One definite peak in the lofty heights of Defeated is followed by the ear grabbing proposal of When You Were Mine. The song is almost like a weave of the best traits of its predecessors, a tenacious pop song with attitude and seduction in its raw charms which manages to grumble and serenade in the same breath before leaving to allow B.I.Y.E. to bring things to a transfixing close. With its cold scenery and instinctive bounce, the song merges the alluring traits of a Joy Division and Modern Eon in its industrially edged and melodically draped canter. It is a fine end to an album which we are finding hard to shake off as new propositions to look at build up. That is never a bad aspect to have and as Defeated is so enjoyable we are certainly not complaining.

Defeated is out now via Push & Pull Records; available @ https://kudzukudzukudzu.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/kudzuspringfield/    https://twitter.com/kudzuzudukudzu

Pete RingMaster 09/03/2018

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Secret Sight – Shared Loneliness

Back in 2014, we like so many others were impressed and hooked on the debut album from Secret Sight. It was a release which surprised having come out of the blue awareness wise and introduced us to the captivating dark post punk/gothic rock sound of the Italian band. Now the Ancona hailing outfit has repeated the feat with their second full-length, Shared Loneliness; a collection of songs as striking and captivating as their predecessors but with a maturity and enterprise which sets it apart.

Secret Sight emerged the same year as their Red Cat Records released debut album Day.Night.Life, though there is a 2013 self-titled EP under the name Coldwave before then. Recorded with Paolo Rossi (Soviet Soviet, Be Forest, Brothers In Law), Day.Night.Life swiftly sparked support and praise carrying attention, the band supporting its release with an extensive tour around Italy, Switzerland and Austria where the plaudits continued coming. A quartet at the time, the band has since slimmed to a trio with former vocalist Matteo Schipsi leaving, vocals being shared across guitarist/synth player Cristiano Poli and bassist/synth player Lucio Cristino. With its line-up completed by the dramatic rhythms of Enrico Bartolini, Secret Sight linked up with producer Alessandro Ovi Sportelli for Shared Loneliness, resulting in an album which has mellowed out in regard to the raw edged post punk tone of its predecessor but blossomed in its haunting melancholic drama and melodic suggestiveness.

As with their first album, the band’s sound harkens back to eighties post punk/new wave and their gothic companions but with a bolder identity and imagination belonging to Secret Shine. It opens with Lowest Point, the initial coaxing mist of synths soon joined by the atmospheric lures of guitar and bass, keys simultaneously thickening as melodies simmer and echo in the ears. The instrumental’s shadows carry over into the following Stage Lights where the mesmeric groan of the bass and aligning dark textures seduce the imagination ready for the song’s spirited stroll which erupts soon after. Like a fusion of Leitmotiv and The Sound the track dances on the senses, its rhythmic shuffle sculpting their own catchy charm to the temptation. Superb in voice and enterprise, the song swiftly grips attention, vocals as enticing as the sounds around them and with a great nagging essence to its tenacious rhythms, infectious melodies, and tantalising hooks, the tone and heart for the album is set.

The following Blindmind matches its success with its own compelling design and creative intimacy. As in the last song Cristino’s bass makes an addictive proposal, moody and melancholic in its bold exploits with the same traits fuelling the adventure and intimation of Poli’s guitar which beguiles the imagination in its own right. To be honest all three musicians seize attention with their individual prowess but uniting perfectly to create an even greater temptation, that aforementioned maturity lining every twist and turn.

There is also a breath and tone to the song which reminds of The Cure around their second album, a thick shadow draped air which is as open in songs like next up Fallen and its successor Flowers if to lesser degrees. The first of the two similarly bounds through ears, emotively conjured melodies webbing its rhythmic canter as a China Crisis like catchiness brews while the second with a calmer energy has something of a Modern English to it. Though neither song quite matches up to those before them each leaves pleasure high and attention glued before Swan’s Smile envelops the senses and drives the spirit with its sprightly canter. With a scent of The Danse Society cast, the track simply made an already keen appetite hungrier for more, a want quickly satisfied by the rampant dynamics of Over led by the skilful endeavour of Bartolini. A fusion of post punk with gothic and synth pop, it is a rousingly infectious affair with theatre in its veins and emotional drama in its voice.

The pair of Surprising Lord and Sometimes completes the album in compelling style, the first a pulsating and again relentlessly catchy incitement on body and pleasure as dark and imposing as it is hopeful and anthemic. The evocative balladry of the final track ensures the pleasure listening to Shared Loneliness is relentless even if the song does not quite meet the lofty heights of many of its companions such their might. Epitomising the release in its emotional depth and musical enterprise, it is a fine end to another mouth-watering outing with Secret Sight.

We suggest focusing on the CD edition of the album as it carries a quite excellent cover of The Sound song The Fire as a bonus track, Secret Sight not detouring too far from the original but giving it all the energy and passion it and that great band deserves; just a shame it is not on all versions.

Shared Loneliness is available now through Manic Depression Records for its vinyl edition, Unknown Pleasures Records for the CD, and digitally @ https://secretsight.bandcamp.com

https://www.facebook.com/secretsight

Pete RingMaster 16/01/2018

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright