Ears: Blushing – Tether EP Review [2017]

Blushing
Tether EP
Released 1/13/2017
self-released (weareblushing.bandcamp.com)

blushing-tether

Shortly after the demise of beloved Ann Arbor shoegazers Pity Sex this past fall, it’s great to see more bands pick up the slightly-aggro yet chill ethereal influences of their take on dream-pop, and certainly Austin, TX’s Blushing has graduated at the head of its class on its inaugural EP release on their own dime, through bandcamp.

The first cut on the EP(and title track), Tether fires on all cylinders. Gauzy shimmering guitars from Michelle Soto and Noe Carmona lead into an anthemic earworm of a chorus, describing a rollercoaster of a relationship and it’s dizzying highs brought into such words as, “can we escape forever/growing up fast together/can we erase the past/forgetting it never lasts”. Following that, is a metallic bridge into dreamy goodness to close out the track.

“Why Can’t We?” follows up the raging first track and gives an aesthetic impression of the early years of Lush throughout the early 1990s with lead vocalist and bassist Christina Carmona sharing vocals with guitarist Michelle Soto throughout much of the track.

“Mess”, the third selection on the EP is the lengthiest track on it, but this is far from a negative mark on the song at all as it blisses its way through six minutes at an unexpected blistering pace, where the band really finds a groove within the dreampop gaze and jams its way through the entire track, swimming in such a way that evokes classic 4AD dream-rockers Cocteau Twins.

Closing cut “Protect You” begins with a brooding bassline from Michelle Soto, assisted with pounding drums from Jake Soto and wavy guitars from Soto and Carmona and leads into easily the heaviest shoegaze cut on the album, closing out the bliss of a relationship pictured in the title track, with the lovers in question splitting due to one leaving the other to move long-distance, in this track that echoes Siamese Dream to a point where you’d swear Flood was manning the boards on this release. Ending the EP with the heartbreaking line, “you gave it all just to leave here/I had no choice, but to stay”.

Blushing, not only has made a mark within their local Texas scene with such a great early release that shows only hope for the future of this great group of southern shoegazers keeping Austin weird one day at a time. Here’s hoping this release is only the earliest sign that 2017 will be another great year for music.

You can support the band’s self-released EP by going to their bandcamp page which I’ve linked below, where you can rep their music in your preferable aesthetic: CD, Cassette Tape or MP3. FULL DISCLOSURE: I purchased the cassette and can remark that the packaging on the release is top-notch, with a bubblegum Pink cassette tape and clamshell packaging that echoes a classy book on tape or an old VHS box. I’d recommend the tape based on quality and aesthetic alone, but any choice is certainly good for an EP of this caliber.

RIYL: Pity Sex, My Bloody Valentine, Lush, Ride, early Pains of Being Pure at Heart
weareblushing.bandcamp.com – support the band and their music

Ears: Blushing – Tether EP Review [2017]

Blackrocks – Presque Ale Review


Blackrocks Brewing

Presque Ale

Canned 7/20/16

Imbibed 7/28/16
Named for the ubiquitous Presque Isle Park in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Presque Ale is a light and refreshing brew that has summer written all over the can.

Opening with a piney, resinous taste, the beer initially raises comparisons to more of a hopped-up American IPA style, but the pine and resin notes wash away quickly to be replaced with a clean yet slightly bitter finish on the palate.

Clocking in at only 5.5% ABV, Presque Ale is made for those vacation days at the park, either camping and taking a nice trip through nature or just sitting by the campfire, Presque is there for you and with its refreshing nature, welcomes you to have another one as well to beat the heat, much like a session IPA style. That’s not to say that Presque Ale has a watered down taste though, hopheads and those looking for a piney pale would find a lot to like about this beer.

Presque Ale is a limited release by Blackrocks Brewing out of Marquette, MI and seeing that Blackrocks has been distributing their beers statewide for a little more than a year, one may have to look around for stores that carry their brand as well as their limited releases. As it just hit the lower peninsula this week, there’s certainly still time to find it but you may want to hurry if you want it, and most importantly to enjoy it as it was meant to be, fresh.

Blackrocks – Presque Ale Review

Ears: AndroidSpace – Beautiful Mistakes

androidspace - beautiful mistakes

AndroidSpace
Beautiful Mistakes
Already Dead Records/Tapes
7/26/2016

One of the latest bands to sign to Brooklyn/Kalamazoo/Chicago based label Already Dead Records & Tapes is an unusual duo out of New Jersey known as AndroidSpace.

Combining elements of post-punk, space rock, ethereal shoegaze, electronic music and just a pinch of left-field hip-hop, the duo comprising of Serske16 and Fillmore Castro make a very promising first statement on their initial full-length, Beautiful Mistakes.

Starting out the album with the noisy intro ‘The Arrival’ and seguing into the following track ‘Atmosphere’ sets an industrial tone at the beginning of the album, with pounding drums and sinister-sounding synths beneath the drum machine, with the addition of disorienting echo-assisted vocals, that remind the listener “Don’t be surprised/We’re just like you” as the duo get spacey.

‘Back in Notes’ takes a different direction, by applying a beat that would work perfectly in a dark hip-hop setting and adds some distorted guitar to it, giving the track a hypnotic effect. This key track describes a situation where someone positively recounts a current, long-lasting relationship and how they got there in seemingly no time, opining that “some time has passed/now it’s the morning/and you don’t know how to feel/but it’s alright/cause without warning/you’re in love for fifteen years/no matter how up or down/no matter how much we’ve lost and found/I believe you’ve made me the man I am/and for that I’ll continue to explore with you”.

First single ‘Augmented’ keeps the pace going with a steady beat and a bassline reminiscent of Peter Hook’s noodling, with an infectious refrain of “stop going to bed” as a chorus, with a guitar/breakbeat solo in the middle.

Tracks such as ‘The Near Future’ and ‘Jamage Voltron’ continue to close out the first half of the record keeping with the trend of applying hip-hop beats and echoing vocals to distorted guitars and heavy synths.

The second half begins with ‘Division’ and continues with the great ballad and key track ‘Before We Go’, which utilizes a classic airy drum beat and remorseful lyrics about watching all of your friends die and thinking of what to do, what you could have done before they untimely passed. The lyricism of AndroidSpace comes out in spades on this track, with the descriptive lines telling a warning to make peace with your loved ones before they’re gone for good.

Following track ‘Incinerator’ begins with a guitar/bass intro reminiscent of the classic 4AD sound and keeps the pace up until the album’s second ballad, ‘Retrieve Our Bones’, which is the standout track of the album by far. Combining elements from bands as far and wide as HUM to The Big Pink for this track with it’s spiraling guitars, booming synths and the , makes for a spacey emo-rock gem.
“It’s the sensation inside/it always makes me surprised/we’ll always look to the sky/while I reflect in your eyes.” The effect of the duo sharing vocals on the last word of each line and dueling on the chorus also gives it a very unique feel.

‘The Illusions’ takes the album back into a heavy, industrial direction, keeping with the muffled echoing vocals and a plodding drum beat that continues onto a series of tracks that combine more of the duo’s prowess at creating beats that would not only work perfectly on a hip-hop mixtape but also gel perfectly with guitar and synthesizers in ‘The Key To Truth’ and ‘The Milky Way’

Closing tracks ‘Eye’ and ‘DP-3’ are nothing but ear-piercing noise to close out the album on a high note, as it began with a rather easygoing push into the group’s mix of industrial, new wave, witch house, post-punk, hip-hop and space rock and locks it back up with a shove into harsh enjoyable noise.

Groups such as AndroidSpace don’t come around often, mixing together genres that on paper would not seem to go as well in pairs, but somehow manage to make the whole thing work over the course of an hour and nineteen tracks. Not only is this a promising recording from the Jersey duo, but it shows that not only do they have room to grow within their sound, being the definers of this sound, there’s limitless possibilities of where they can go from here on out. As someone who always needs more music to stargaze to on my vacations back to my sleepy hometown, I’ll be rocking Beautiful Mistake and looking forward to what AndroidSpace brings us in the near future.

On July 26th, Already Dead Records released a cassette of Beautiful Mistake which I have not yet received, so I can’t make a judgement call on the tape’s aesthetic in the meantime, but knowing the quality of AD’s materials in the past, I know to trust that they can provide a quality analog product. Watch this space for a quick review of the tape when I receive it.

Support AndroidSpace (and the good people at Already Dead Records & Tapes):
http://www.facebook.com/androidspacemusic
https://alreadydeadtapes.bandcamp.com/album/ad208-androidspace-beautiful-mistakes

Ears: AndroidSpace – Beautiful Mistakes

7/23 review: Exferimentation Brewing Co

exferimentationbrewingco

It’s been a while since I’ve reported on beer (a year, yikes!) so, over the weekend, I had the opportunity to visit a new up-and-coming brewery in Pontiac, MI that opened its doors on July 21st, Exferimentation Brewing Company.

As soon as you drive in the historic downtown district of Pontiac, one gets the feeling that help is not only on the way, but is ready to open the doors of prosperity in the downtown area. Over the last five years, the downtown area has experienced some flight and shock after the loss of events and the legal wrangling between city, county and company over what to do with Phoenix Towers and the Phoenix Center.

However, visiting downtown on a Saturday night showed more life than I have personally noticed in years. Restaurants ready to open, food trucks, bars, diverse music venues and night clubs light up Saginaw Street all the way to the loop, and wedged in-between is Exferimentation, located next to the Blue Note Cafe and lies across the street from the soon to be opening site of Slow’s BBQ.

Applying a great style to such a historic storefront, Exferimentation believes in the science of its beer and wears it on its sleeve as you enter the brewery and you’re surrounded with a DIY periodic table on the wall, with the brewery’s logo hanging proudly above it, an equation to mirror the scientific/mathematical theme. The brewery’s own label art for its flagship beers coat the original brick walls of the seating area, which also showcases a DIY aesthetic. One item you’ll notice immediately is the tables being made from former doors, as well as a copious amount of large chairs and couches to take a seat and relax with your craft beer of choice.

Like many breweries at their open – Exferimentation believes in the beer first, and as such does not offer food, but there was a food truck right next door to the venue as well as food options nearby in the downtown area. However, prices were steady at $6-7 a beaker, with growler fills in the low $20s for imbibers who would rather have a take-home option.

Typically the first test of a brewery at its open is the quality of beer, and given the homebrewing prowess of Exferimentation’s brewers, clearly they found styles that not only work very well, but make for an impressive start.

First up was a Hisbiscus Wheat ale called the Pink Tickler, which has an expected pink tint but proves to be an excellent thirst-quencher. The hisbiscus combines with the wheat to give the beer a clean, crisp and just slightly tart (but not sour by any means) finish. Makes for an excellent palate cleanser as well as a great option for a lawnmower beer as well.

Clownpocalypse, their Coconut Cream Ale not only shined in the coconut flavor not being overpowering, but rather modest alongside the refreshing nature of the cream ale to make a great, sesssionable beer for coconut fans. Normally, I’m not one, but this was the first sample I polished off in the flight because it hit the cream ale and the coconut notes just right. Typically, it’s either too much of one or the other and Clownpocalypse balances them nicely.

Mysterious Stranger followed in the flight, a beer that had no explanation by the brewery’s site and its own literature, leaving it up to the taster as to what it may be. I noticed some sweetness and malty elements, perhaps additions of wheat or honey. The mouthfeel on the beer lived up to its name as I couldn’t quite put my finger on it – especially with its lighter brown/orange color, as to what it was. It looked like more of an IPA/Pale Ale, but didn’t taste like one at all.

Kakahiaku Onu rounded out the flight, Exferimentation’s take on the modern classic Coffee Stout style, with very liberal doses of legitimate Kona coffee from Hawaii added to the stout which gives it the color, scent and taste of a fresh, strong cup of coffee. Being a coffee acheiver myself, Kakahiaku Onu hit every note that I want out of a coffee stout. Bitter, roasty notes and a slight element of chocolate/mocha give the beer the feeling of my morning wake-up call, only in a late night setting.

My favorite of the bunch was tied between the great cup of coffee that was Kakahiaku Onu and the refreshing Pink Tickler, but I will be looking forward to the upcoming release of GRIPA – a Grapefruit Rye IPA for short. Everyone at Exferimentation were very friendly and talkative regarding the brewery and its beers – they also seemed very thankful for the high volume of customers between the opening night and Saturday.

Another brewery, Fillmore 13 plans to open later this season only two storefronts down from Exferimentation and looks to be another fine add on to this great downtown region, but EBC was first to open and as such, had all eyes on them and my trip will definitely not be my last. I was very impressed with the flagship beers, and look forward to supporting this brewery very close to home as they hopefully succeed in the next few months.

More info on Exferimentation Brewing can be found at:
http://exferimentationbrewing.com/

Follow them on Facebook at:
https://www.facebook.com/exferimentationbrewingco/

7/23 review: Exferimentation Brewing Co

The RGB-Lution Will Be Televised

Over a decade ago, I remember being a part of a video game forum that is now unfortunately DOA, and there was a member there who always talked up RGB, nonstop. In a time when HDMI was just beginning to creep around and a lot of us still only had CRT televisions, I just assumed it was a videophile thing and never was interested. Over time, the forum mods created a text filter to replace RGB with the words ‘Warm Chocolate Pudding’, so that all of the posters comments would sound like a Pinterest recipe for the greatest Saturn Pudding Bake of all. Mmm mmm mmm.

Since then, I’ve now turned around on the idea of RGB and last month, I took the plunge and bought a PVM from someone on Craiglist. For those not in the know, a Professional Video Monitor is a CRT that is used primarily in hospitals and broadcast studios. As of the last few years, these monitors have been sought after due to the belief that they are some of the best monitors for outputting classic gaming consoles through RGB.

And with my own journalistic mind, naturally I wanted to see it for myself to find out if it really makes a difference in retro gaming in general.

In a series of posts I’ll be explaining the how-to and the results of this crazy gaming experience, but this will just serve as the introduction for now. 

Stay tuned, y’all.

The RGB-Lution Will Be Televised

Ears: Tracers – Jealousy [2015-2016]

Tracers

tracers - jealousy

Tracers
Jealousy
Self-Released 2015
Hot Vodka Records 2016
7/16/2016

Louisville, KY may not seem like an epicenter for experimental alternative rock to the untrained eye, but to the average indie music fan it’s the birthplace of post-rock as we all know it. Starting with the amazing noise group Squirrel Bait back in the early 1980s, whose members would break off to a handful of them forming the legendary Slint and later formed groups such as Tortoise, setting the stage for the formative genre as the 1990s rolled on.

Now, Louisville’s veteran musicians are inspiring a new school of instrumental rock acts, one of which, Tracers, embraces a style that combines 2000s emo, math rock and indie rock all into one, especially on their initial EP, Jealousy, self-released last year, but is now seeing a small Casssette run by indie tape label Hot Vodka.

Starting off with a quick bang in ‘Grow Up, Join The Party’, a one-minute track that begins with some light strumming and then jamming into a riff-heavy chorus, leading the charge into the second track, ‘Sounds Like Terror Squad’, which manages to start off light in the same direction as the first cut, but then begins to branch out into a spacier direction with plenty of the herky-jerky methods found in math rock, the band ever teasing the listener with four fake-out endings to close the track and the A Side of the EP.

Side B begins with the EP’s catchiest song by far, key track ‘Heavily Domesticated’. Combining the spazzy ethics of math rock experimentation and then tying it up with some crunchy riffs after the fast picking to get stuck in your head easily. The metal-style breakdown at the end of the track also highlights the band’s jump from a sound that would be more reminiscent of 00s Emo into more of a Hardcore bent, yet still channeling that era of underground music.

The ending track, ‘Lakehouse (Us and how we got this way)’, closes the EP with a more experimental progressive track that takes some ambient roads alongside the impressive riffing throughout the cut, serving as a similar pair to the A-Side’s catchy quick track followed by a more experimental spacey cut.

Jealousy only times out at a little over 10 minutes, but by the end of the EP you’ll be asking for more from the gang of four musicians and given the band’s social media presence, it sounds as if more is coming down the pike from Tracers, which hopefully is the case.

Processed with VSCO

As for the cassette release by Hot Vodka, if you find yourself enjoying these four math rock jams, you would have to check out the cassette release as well, to support a great creative cassette label as well as the band itself. The cassette splits up the EP into two-track sides and it comes in your choice of a black cassette with white paint splatter or a translucent green cassette with white paint splatter.

I went with the green cassette and the presentation is great, giving it an outer space slime feel. As well as the cassette’s Asteroids-themed label, which not only fits the band’s spacey style but also makes for a great reference for a retro gamer such as myself.

Louisville continues to keep creating some of the best in loud, experiemental rock and hopefully Tracers will continue their output to be part of that great class of musicians.

To show some love towards Tracers (and Hot Vodka Records), peep the links below:
https://tracersky.bandcamp.com/
iseetracers.com
http://hotvodkarecords.storenvy.com/products/16648356-tracers-jealousy

Ears: Tracers – Jealousy [2015-2016]

78/87 3: Asteroids, 1988

100_0398asteroids7800

Asteroids
1988
Atari Corp.

For this next edition of 78/87, we’ll focus on one experience that the Atari 7800 offers that almost no console on its level can replicate on the exact same plane: one very special game of Asteroids, the classic 1979 vector graphics arcade game.

Any arcade worth its salt in the 1980s had an Asteroids cabinet SOMEWHERE, whether it was the original ’79 classic or Asteroids Deluxe, the game’s sequel released two years later. Both are great classic games and serve as a very formative block for the advancement of the video game as a medium.

Asteroids should take no explanation at this point for how long it’s been part of american culture, but I’ll take time out to explain it. As a triangle-shaped ship, you’re lost in space facing asteroids that not only dwarf your size, but break into tiny, faster moving rocks that will crash your ship upon collision. Finishing off the entire wave of giant (then smaller) rocks will complete the level and you then face another round, after another, after another, and so forth. The trick is that you can choose to move your gun’s firing range in 360 degrees as you stay in the same place; or you can use hyperdrive and move yourself around the field to try and nail some of the harder-to-reach asteroids. Moving is a gamble, however, if you aren’t paying precise attention to the screen, as the asteroids leave the screen to the right, and immediately reappear to the left of you, ready for destruction.

Like any good shooter, the trick in Asteroids is simply a fight for room to breathe and think of a strategy while chaos follows you everywhere. Do you stay in the middle and go trigger happy to wipe out the screen of rocks, or do you bounce around and work the sides of the screen for a better result? The choice is yours.

The Atari 7800 version of Asteroids is a great example of the system’s strengths in porting classic arcade titles home. The ship, as well as the asteroids themselves pop with bold colors and a pseudo-3D effect which looked great in ’88 and ages beautifully today. The framerate has no issues and moves as smooth as silk, and the game’s sounds, albeit sparse, replicate the arcade experience of the classic cabinet perfectly.

Two-player cooperative works out great as well, and is actually a good fit for the 7800’s awfully designed ‘Pro-Line’ joysticks, as you only need a joystick for analog control and a single button to shoot the asteroids on the field.

The 7800 was chock-full of mistakes and lousy ports, but if there was one of the things the system could pull off well, it was reapplying and redesigning games that were stone cold classics in the late 1980s and keeping their timelessness intact. Fans of the 2600 port will be simply blown away by how much of an improvement the 7800 version is and will find themselves hooked for hours, trying to finish off that last wave while telling themselves, “just one more game…”.

Arguably, it would have faced no chance against the superior NES, but Asteroids would have made a far better launch title than the lukewarm Pole Position II.

Asteroids final verdict: +, if you have a 7800 and don’t own this, what’s wrong with you? It’s easy to acquire and can still be found sealed for cheap. When people ask me what 7800 games to recommend, this hits the short list every time, and with good reason.

Next week we’ll take another trip through the wild (and mediocre) world of the 7800, until each game is covered. Thanks for reading, y’all.

78/87 3: Asteroids, 1988