Wednesday, October 24, 2012

mr. Gnome @ Zazoo's Tonight

I wrote this up for the LEO. Check out the show tonight!

Cleveland-based bands aren’t really known for their national recognition. After all, when Pere Ubu is one of the “Rock ‘n’ Roll Capital of the World’s” biggest claims to fame, it’s hard for natives like myself to brag about the local scene. But mr. Gnome is the kind of powerhouse duo that’s working hard to dispel the rumors that Cleveland is just a sad city with a hopeless football team. Nicole Barille and Sam Meister play the kind of experimental, art rock that alternates between creepy psychedelia and murky pop. They don’t stop at music. Their 2011 release, Madness in Miniature, follows the same concept as their graphic novel and a soon-to-be-released live-action music video. mr. Gnome kicks off its fall tour right here Louisville.

Zazoo’s Bar & Grill

102 Bauer Avenue • 384-8478
$5; 8 p.m.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

School of Seven Bells Rings to Life

Not every Ghostory is the same

Some bands are defined by their image. Some by the scratchy vocals, or the signature wall of sound. Others are known for simple melodies, the kind that stick around in the brain for hours on end. School of Seven Bells is more abstract. The number of musicians in the band is fluid. They’ll tour with four, then three, then five. Right now, they’re at four, but that could all change with a moment’s notice.

Alejandra Dehaza and Benjamin Curtis are the band’s core songwriting duo. But their three-album catalog has stretched from the ethereal, wispy musings of Alpinisms to the pulsing heat of songs like “Low Time” off Ghostory, which came out earlier this year. The discography spans from shoegaze to supersynthy, and across the length of just one album, you’re transported to countless places.

As Curtis explains, they’ve never really been a traditional rock and roll band. The one thing that brings continuity to School of Seven Bells is Dehaza’s emotional sensibility, her approach of taking simple subjects like love and longing and transforming them into passionate experiences.

Their songwriting process is unique. Dehaza comes up with the lyrics, and Curtis responds by molding the music around them. His creations prompt her to alter the words, and they bounce back and forth like that until a song is complete.

“The catalyst can be a line that Alley writes, or a sound that I make, or a melody, or anything. And the song just sort of explodes from that,” says Curtis. It’s different every time.

Ghostory is written from the perspective of a character named Lafaye. Sometimes Lafaye is sometimes a culprit, other times she’s the victim. It’s not Dehaza’s first time writing as a character; their other albums are littered with songs from different voices. She’s explained “My Cabal” as a story about an alpinist and a poet, both crippled by their impulses. Writing as characters, Dehaza can explore her own honest emotions.

Though the music can stretch into dreamy, wraithlike territory, Curtis insists it isn’t the kind of live show played behind laptops and machines. It comes to life, an immersive burst of emotions. And, he emphasizes, it’s loud.

“I like to be transported when I go see shows. I like to feel like I’ve never been in that realm before. I like to feel like I’m completely 100 percent absorbed in the music. And there’s a million ways to do that. In our shows I feel like that onstage, and I hope that that’s communicated into the crowd.”

Dehaza and Curtis are getting to the point where they can’t fit all the songs they want to play into their hour and a half set. Even while they’re touring, new songs are coming out of the woodwork. So quickly, in fact, that they’re halfway through writing the next album.

“We can’t stop making music,” says Curits, “It’s a good situation to be in.”

To share some of the wealth, they’re bringing a 4-song mini album with them on the road that fans can only get at the shows. The new material is their most direct and immersive yet, and for good reason.

“There’s an intensity to Alley’s writing, and some of the subject matter is really heavy. I think the idea this time was that we wanted your brain to be fully absorbed in the story and the words and where the vocals are.”

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Grizzly Bear - Shields

Grizzly Bear has been making languid a good thing since 2004. And though its latest effort is anything but a droning soundtrack for those unwilling to leave the couch, a certain slow, deliberate beauty still permeates through this collection. The band’s signature guitar flutter and piano twinkling is accentuated with jazzy interludes on “What’s Wrong” and full-out psychedelic pop glory on “A Simple Answer.” While the music here is remarkably gorgeous, it’s also insular and heady – not the kind of record that calls for group listening. Bubbling in all directions, sometimes tricky to follow, Shields makes a case that these four Brooklynites might just have more creative folds in their brains than the average human. Several songs here are upbeat, but Grizzly Bear hearkens back to their debut with the unhurried pace of “The Hunt,” a remarkable case that the tortoise really is the winner.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Django Django - Django Django

--> Life was getting boring. All sandwiches started tasting the same. All dance music started to sound like David Guetta. The drive to work was monotonous, one traffic light after the next changing to red in unison. Then came Django Django, a four-piece band from London by way of Edinburgh. They took all that boring, shook it up and down like a bag of sonic confetti and poured it into our ears. “Default,” one of the singles, is a beautiful mess of seemingly clashing parts; ping-pong basslines, effortless harmonies, synthesizer swirlies and beats so infectious it hurts. The rest of the album is just as puzzling and addictive. From the Arabian nights synthesizers of “Skies Over Cairo” to the ready-for-the-rodeo guitar twirls of “WOR” to the power pop mastery of “Hail Bop,” Django Django is bringing back life in Technicolor.