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

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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: Coordinated Suicides – False Pleasure EP

Coordinated Suicides
False Pleasure EP
The Ashton Velvet Rock Club Recording Company
4/6/16

Just when you think noise rock isn’t around or doesn’t sound like it did in the genre’s unequivocal peak in the late 1980s – 1990s, a band as fierce, plodding and heavy as Wisconsin’s Coordinated Suicides thrashes out of the prehistoric sludge.

Getting a name for themselves after self-releasing last year’s excellent Life is Beautiful, produced by Steve Austin of Today is the Day fame, False Pleasure is the band’s first release on a label proper, by Chicago weirdo label AVRCRC, known for its unusual no-wave and noise cassette tape releases, and the group does not disappoint on their first label outing.

Splitting the vocal and songwriting duties between both guitarist Mike Martin and bassist Chris Joutras, Martin’s half opens with ‘Marnie’, which starts with a lurching, hypnotic riff before jumping into a sludgy groove when Martin’s vocals kick in, shrieking away furiously until the chorus where he overlays his voice singing the bridge while he screams in the background. One part Unsane and one part Eyehategod.

Tachycardia, Martin’s closer is full-on anger and angst in a short one minute and nineteen second hardcore rager, bring your earplugs.

Bassist Chris Joutras’ side begins with ‘Rabbits (v.2)’, a re-recording of an earlier track by the band, combining riffs that wouldn’t be too out-of-place in a Jesus Lizard track while Chris wails amid the noise. Joutras’ closing track, ‘Milksops’ thrashes with a blissful yet noisy punk energy and an aggro-meets-melodic bridge with haunting vocals courtesy of the bassist.

While the EP’s length only hits about 10 minutes, all four tracks hit the ground running, showing the power trio of Martin, Joutras and drummer Tim Chandler running on all cylinders, and standouts such as ‘Marnie’ and ‘Milksops’ really show the potential in this young noise band. A superb victory lap for a band with only one album under their belt, and it holds a lot of promise for the band’s future from here on out.

UPDATE (7/16/2016): It came to my attention that I ignored to mention that the physical cassette of False Pleasure available at AVRCRC’s bandcamp site not only rips as the digital tracks do, but also contains a live set on Side B for potential fans on the fence. And really, for a band this loud on tape, one absolutely must listen to them live as well, which is more reason to acquire the cassette.

False Pleasure is available on cassette and digitally: https://avrcrc.bandcamp.com/album/false-pleasure-ep

Do yourself a favor and acquaint (or reacquaint) yourself with one of my favorite records from last year, Life is Beautiful and show CS some noise love:
https://coordinatedsuicides.bandcamp.com/

Ears: Coordinated Suicides – False Pleasure EP

78/87 #2: Pole Position II

Pole Position II
Released in 1987/Pack-In for 7800
100_0390
s_PolePosition_2

While not every system’s quality hangs in the balance from their Pack-In-Title, especially given that they are such a rarity in today’s market, keep in mind this is 1987. At the time you could still get an NES Action Set with Super Mario Brothers *and* Duck Hunt, along with two controllers and a light gun. The 7800 came packaged with two “Pro-Line” joysticks and a copy of Pole Position II, which immediately showed the system’s weaknesses right on display.

Pole Position II isn’t even a terrible game by any means, it looks close *enough* to the genuine article; the car as well as the background are similar enough to the arcade cabinet, but with the 7800’s awful sound chip, you won’t be hearing the memorable piece of music that plays before and after races, or the speech for that matter.

The control takes a big hit, just from the awful “pro-line” sticks. These joysticks are literally good for nothing, the joystick auto-resets decently enough, but with a hardly ergonomic design and buttons that constantly stick, it’s easy to see why even the pros would stay away from these joysticks.

Chances are if you purchase a 7800, it will come with this game, as most of the NTSC units sold in the late 80s and early 90s had PPII as the pack-in title. That being said, the game is also ridiculously cheap and easy to find now; even in places where Atari 7800 games are hard to find, there’s probably a copy of Pole Position II sitting in your nearest indie game shop’s Atari 2600 section: that’s how common it is.

That being said, purchase it if you can find it for less than a couple of bucks, otherwise skip this unfortunate launch pack-in. What was meant to be an example of the 7800’s processing power turned into an embarrassing look at the system’s most vulnerable spots: audio and control.

78/87 #2: Pole Position II

78/87 #1: Food Fight

Food Fight
Atari 1984
Released proper 1987
1-2 players

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Food Fight is a perfect example of everything the Atari 7800 can do RIGHT. Unfortunately early on there weren’t many titles that showed off the prowess of the system quite like Food Fight did. What exists here is an exclusive arcade port of an obscure Atari coin-op title, done just as well as can be given the limitations. In Food Fight you control Charley Chuck as he attempts to reach the end of each stage and its different flavor of ice cream, all the while trying to avoid deadly-to-the-touch chefs and the manholes that abound in each wave. Despite speed, your only hope is the food placed around each stage, which Charley can pick up and throw at the chefs, who can just as easily throw it back in your direction, so time, speed and skill are of the utmost essence in Food Fight.

One slight drawback to the 7800 port is Charley’s slow pace, even when he’s running he still goes at a slow jog, which is hardly fast enough to evade any close call moments, of which you run into many in Food Fight. Control takes no hits despite the awful 7800 “ProStick”, this is actually one of the few games where the stick’s awkward fashion actually comes in handy. Speaking to translation, everything is here, albeit downsized to the limitations. The music, backgrounds, colors, cues are all intact, including the instant replays during tense rounds. Food Fight had all the ingrediants for a killer app, but alas, time was its fate.

Released in 1987 as a launch title, but originally meant to be released in 1984, before the 7800 was shelved, Food Fight along with many of the system’s early titles sat on the shelves for years while Atari worked out arrangements with GCC, the company that designed the 7800 and its first wave of titles.

Even though Food Fight *was* an exclusive title, it doesn’t mean squat when it’s 1987 and Charley Chuck is no longer the fresh arcade face you’re used to – rather, it’s Mario and company, or 1942, Double Dragon, etc. By that time people weren’t playing the simple wave-after-wave-after-wave gameplay as much anymore, as arcades and developers had gravitated more towards shooting, platforming, or fighting games at the time.

Despite the slow movement, Food Fight is definitely a must own for the 7800, and seeing as it’s one of the most common games available for the system there’s no reason NOT to own it if you have a ProSystem.

78/87 #1: Food Fight