Lo-Fi Chamber Folk
Gubbey Records – May 19, 2017
Dream Eye Color Wheel is a project based in Louisville // New Albany, Indiana made of many musicians and led by Ben Traughber. Their new album, False Omega opens with the plodding instrumental, “Slow Thundergeist,” a dark, richly orchestrated piece (featuring my favorite woodwind, the bass clarinet) that toes the line between feeling mechanical, even machine-like, but ultimately human and raw. “Saw Teeth” opens as a waltz, led by acoustic guitar before Traughber’s soft vocals enter, eventually giving way to a lovely organ-violin solo. Later is “Flying Erase Head,” a beautiful piece that feels transmitted from a long time ago – everything is whispered and washed-out, like it’s coming from a distant memory. “Gamma” rumbles into focus on a low synthesizer note before acoustic guitar and Traughber’s voice enter, him singing a repeated “gamma, gamma, gamma… rays.” Balanced somewhere between upbeat and psychedelic, “On Arrival” challenges what a bossa nova can be, throwing a noisy guitar solo on top of an already disorienting track. The album closes with “Goodbye (Listen Here),” which starts as an unsettling duet between rewound guitar and an angry voicemail (the caller eventually cools off). Dream Eye Color Wheel is a fascinating, refreshingly creative project of Ben Traugbher – False Omega is a strange, disorienting listen, but a beautiful and enjoyable one at that.
Tracks I Liked: Slow Thundergeist!, Saw Teeth!!, Flying Erase Head!!!, Gamma!, On Arrival!!
Ben Southworth – May 21, 2017 – Kenwick Place
Fantastico Records – December 2, 2016
Johnny Conqueroo has enjoyed some fantastic (and well-deserved) success over the last two years or so. They released their self-titled EP last summer and have played a bunch of shows and local festivals, gaining a large following in a relatively short time. This Friday, they follow all that up with the release of their first full-length, Washed Up.
The forty-four minute album is ten songs long (eight and a half are originals), and though it explores a wide range of sounds over its course, it remains cohesive and engaging throughout. The lead-off // title-track is fun, catchy, and youthful – “Washed Up” expands the sound from the three-piece’s last release with bells, handclaps, and background vocals. “High Tiding” is a great take on fellow neo-blues musician, Nick Waterhouse, sped up and with busier instrumentation. My favorite of the album may be “Dancin With You,” a song whose unique texture catches your ear the very moment it starts, doubling the lead guitar on synthesizer during the intro and the bits between verses. The track is punctuated with spoken backgrounds of ‘dancin’ and ‘groovin,’ and fleshed out the rest of the way with shakers, shuffling drums, and a grooving bassline. “The Key” could nearly pass for The Doors, complete with ‘oompah’ organ and a vocal melody placed right in the harmony the way Jim Morrison might’ve done.
The latter half of the record is impressively strong and perhaps more experimental than the first half. “Who Do You Trust” is quick with barked vocals and warped guitars that remind me just a little of fellow Kentuckians, Teal Grapefruit. The slow, weighty drone of “Palindrone” goes along for nearly seven minutes with sparse vocals, but the instrumentation and intensity swells and recedes well, keeping the track interesting throughout. “Grinding on Sand” is lo-fi and crunchy with a totally bizarre texture of lap steel (and something, maybe whistling?) – it’s really far-out. The final track, “Take 5,” is sort of a cover on the jazz piece made famous by Dave Brubeck – a brief, and fairly faithful rendition of the tune starts around the three-minute mark, sandwiched between two mirroring sections of high-energy rock.
Washed Up comes out this Friday at the band’s release show at The Burl, where I assume you’ll be able to get the album in physical form – the photography and layout of the whole package wraps the whole thing well, perfectly matching the vibe of the album. It’s exciting to see such a high-quality release from Johnny Conqueroo, and to hear them continue to grow and establish their sound. Grab yourself a copy and give it a listen when it comes out – it’s great, fun stuff.
Tracks I Liked: Washed Up!, Dancin With You!!!, Who Do You Trust?!!, Palindrone!, Grinding on Sand!, Take 5!!
Ben Southworth – November 27, 2016 – Kenwick Place
Jigsaw Records / Hope for the Tape Deck – February 17th, 2015
Plastic Bubble is a Louisville, Kentucky band, making some of the catchiest indie-pop music in the state, and their recent release, Big Day Parade, is a great representation of just that. The album is made up of twenty songs, however it comes in at just over 39 minutes long – thanks to the fact that none of the songs eclipse three minutes. That said, the album listens well as a whole, and the brevity of the songs only adds to twee that makes them so fun and easily digested. What’s more, there were so many people involved with recording the record, I’m not sure I could honestly tell give you an accurate count (although, I’d guess it’s somewhere between 25-30).
The songs range everywhere from the super-sugary sounds found on “Sol Invictus,” to the alternating jazz/pop-punk feels of “Neanderthal Song” (which has an awesome video, featuring Louisville legend, Will Oldham). Some of the songs delve well into the realm of psychedelia, like “Caves,” “Changeling,” and “What We’re Made Of,” and the band channels this sound very well. The final track, “Moving Away,” is almost comically juxtaposed to the rest of the album, with its steel guitars and an Americana feel, but the sound is not just a gimmick – the band pulls off this song as well as any others on the record, and somehow wrote a really solid country song.
The fingerprints of many musicians are all over this album, perhaps the members of Big Fresh, as much as anyone’s – their frontman, John Ferguson, helped record pieces of the album (as did other members of the group), and it would be a treat to see a bill featuring both bands. The extensive album credits make me think that these guys must be pretty fun to make music with, and the record certainly makes it sound like that’s true. If you’re a fan of weird, silly, sugar-coated pop, this one is a must listen – the songs are fun, sound great, and the album is one I’m looking forward to listening to again and again.
Songs I Liked Most: Sol Invictus, Neanderthal Song, Traveling Song, Caves, In Kaleidoscopic View, Respectable Establishment, Changeling, What We’re Made Of, Moving Away
Ben Southworth – March 15th, 2015 – Mt. Horeb Pike