In the Key of Protomartyr

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Protomartyr on Friday at Underground Arts in Philadelphia

Text and Photos by K. Cecchini

I just saw Protomartyr on Friday at Underground Arts, which is (I say) Philly version of Brooklyn’s Rough Trade  where we saw them in October. I wrote a piece after that show and never posted it, so I will do it now.

Protomartyr vocalist Joe Casey took to the stage October at Brooklyn’s Rough Trade in his standard business casual attire. Throughout the set, he alternated between nonchalantly standing with one hand in his pocket, suit jacket pushed back and the other holding the mike to his face and intensely stretching up to nearly wrap his mouth around the mike on the stand. And then, with his hand still on the microphone, he will often hang his head down until the next verse.

With Casey’s vocals, drummer Alex Leonard, Guitarist Greg Ahee and Bass Guitarist Scott Davidson brought their richly textured sound to life in Rough Trade’s intimate space. Not letting up on the music, Davidson played right through a bloody nose. It was also really fantastic to already hear their brand new album The Agent Intellect live. On its own, the track, “Why Does it Shake?,” was worth the midnight trip into Brooklyn.

Protomartyr appears to have gathered a slew of attention in the past year and I would love to interview them before they get too big.

I only had my phone at the Philly and Brooklyn shows, so check out my photos from the Protomartyr set at the 2014 year’s Seaport Music Festival here. 

Protomartyr guitarist Greg Ahee, vocalist Joe Casey, and drummer Alex Leonard
Protomartyr guitarist Greg Ahee, vocalist Joe Casey, and drummer Alex Leonard (October: Brooklyn)
Protomartyr bass guitarist Scott Davidson
Protomartyr bass guitarist Scott Davidson (October: Brooklyn) 

 

 

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The Pluto Moons: A Bowl of Mush

@KralTunes, written for @tonightatdawn

When I was younger, my sister and I would sleep over our grandparents every so often, and my grandfather would make us his specialty for dinner; roast beef, mashed potatoes, peas, carrots (sometimes, but hopefully not) and gravy.  Sounds generic, but you see, it was all in the presentation.  Rather than serving us a plate where everything was sectioned off, he would mix it all in a pot and serve it in a bowl.  And we called this delicacy, MUSH, and it was glorious.

Now, why the hell am I telling you this nonsense story?  Because this was the first thought that popped into my head while listening to the new PLUTO MOONS album, E$pooky E.P..

The Ultimate Amalgamation is the best way I can describe these Brooklyn boys (other than calling them mush).  Their sound philosophy seems to be “Fuck it, put it all in!” , and the strange thing is, it works!  Opener ‘$pooky’ says it all; theres a groovy riff, synths straight out of the 80’s, and I swear I hear Tibetan Monk chants!

‘#Badgoodbye’ may turn out to be the winner of the chicken dinner.  It contains more keyboards and effects, falsettos abound, and a chorus that immediately reminded my of a Krofft show from those glorious 70’s.

‘Skyler Lewis Fulton’ has a more hip hop bent, complete with auto-tuned lyrics, until it turns into a riff-fest in the middle section before the obligatory rap verse, courtesy of Marley G to close rings out (the swerves that this track takes could cause a 50 car pile-up, but it would be a party, if nothing else).

‘Eyez’ has an earthy, Afro-Caribbean vibe working, coupled with some love-seeking lyrics:

Now I see the truth/You never know until you lose/Yeah I want to be with you.”

The music itself is the pulse that is driving this release, and this trio know their way around the world musical landscape.

“Improv 11613 Remix” may be a confusing name for a track, but this band is currently on a hot streak with me, so I shall question nothing!.  The closer has a more minimal feel, with a hint of electronic and percussion (and mandolin?) thrown in to close out a wonderful release. Although it drags down the album down just a hair (like adding carrots to my mush), but not enough to lose its win as the first big hit for my 2015 listening season (carrots be damned!!).

Check it out for yourself:

http://theplutomoons.bandcamp.com

TV On The Radio…What The Hell?!

@KralTunes

“Hey, remember when hearing that TV On The Radio had a new album coming out sparked such a feeling of excitement in your bowels that it sent you rushing to the john in a fit of ecstasy?!”

No..me neither…mainly because its been quite a while since they have possessed such an uncontrollable command over my faculties.  It’s unfortunate, really, because there was a ton of simmering potential not that long ago.  Here, with new album SEEDS, the bands appears to be set on producing more laid back tracks – which would be great, if they were any good.

Truth be told, unless you are a hardcore fan of this band, a majority of this album will not engage you at all. The singles chosen to represent this album, “Happy Idiot” and “Careful You”, are just not attention grabbing.  The latter sounds promising at first but ultimately flatlines, while “Happy Idiot” starts with a danceable vibe but the vocals are dead on arrival.

“Could You” is a blinding bright spot in this sea of murk.  Even with the vocals, the horns and beat are enough to brighten up the mood just a tad.

Whereas other tracks that attempt to generate some sort of ‘oomph’ like “Love Stained”  or “Lazarray” ultimately suffer the same fate as Wyle E. Coyote – they fall right off a cliff in a puff of smoke.

To be fair, many lyrics on these tracks appear to reflect on the passing of band member Gerard Smith and explains the melancholy sound such as on “Careful You”:

“I know it’s best to say goodbye,
But I can’t seem to move away”

That grief and introspection, however, were injected into an album fraught with too many ‘EHH’ moments, which really pains me to say, since I look forward to hearing any new TVOTR release.

The overall feel of this album, in one word, is MONOTONE.  Perhaps I need more time to digest this release, but there is little here to inspire me to hit play again. Things just seem too gloomy…damn, even The Twilight Sad had more pep in their step on their very dreary new release.

Maybe TV on the Radio are content with their current work but I cannot shake the feeling that this is the sound of a band stuck on cruise control.

Run The Jewels 2

Text by @KralTunes

American hip hop duo Run The Jewels (Killer Mike and El-P) have returned to right all that is wrong with the world with one of the most bad mama-jama rap albums I’ve heard in a long time.  Now I may not be a connoisseur of the rap game, and my track record in such maters may not be so stellar  (I probably assumed that Ice Ice Baby was the greatest thing since my Cinnamon Toast Crunch back in the day), but I am pretty confident when I say that Run The Jewels 2 is probably the best rap/hip-hop album you will hear all year.

What makes this one a clear winner?  The fact that one album can be so ridiculous one moment and then immediately flip on its head to offer you some truly interesting and thought provoking lyrics the next. On the ridiculous side, you get quality lyrics like “Blockbuster Night Part 1″s epic: “No hocus pocus, you simple suckers been served a notice/Top of the morning, my fist to your face is fucking Folgers” (you see?).  Not to be outdone is “I smoke the kush/I eat the puss” off of “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry”.

A polar opposite to the recently reviewed MILO album, this release is full of self-aggrandizing, self-importance, boasting, braggadocious, unyielding, cocky (I’m running out of adjectives) , and every bit fun as that sounds! As an added bonus, we are treated to a less than subtle male/female reproductive anatomy lesson courtesy of the duo and Gangsta Boo on “Love Again (Akinyele Back)”, with lyrics that my boss @tonightatdawn wouldn’t dare let me reprint here.

Even while the content can be ludicrous at times, there are moments of seriousness baked in, such as in “Early” with Killer Mike spitting out “I apologize if it seems I got out of line sir, cuz I respect the badge and a gun/And I pray today ain’t the day you drag me away right in front of my son,” and that’s right before things turn grave”. “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)” is a highlight, which is only made more pleasing with Rage Against The Machine’s Zach De La Rocha on loop.  What’s more, it is another example of cleverly written verses that pull no punches on its target:

“The vision becomes a vow to seek vengeance on all the vicious Liars and politicians, profiteers of the prisons The forehead engravers, enslavers of men and women Includin’ members of clergy that rule on you through religion (So strippin’ kids to the nude and then tell ’em God’ll forgive ’em)”

  The beats come fast and furious with little give, matching the energy and intensity of the lyricists blow for blow.  This is a collaboration in the truest sense; each member pulling their weight throughout.  Everything about this release works perfectly.  Some tracks may not be as great as others, but they all mesh to reveal what will hopefully be a long and creative future for the rap game.

DUMBO Art Fest: A Playground of Light

Text & Photos by K. Cecchini @tonightatdawn

The DUMBO art festival at night never fails to be a playground of vivid lights so it seems appropriate to share a series of images from last Friday night in Brooklyn.

Please visit Tonight at Dawn in a couple of days for an interview with one of the artists at DUMBO from the Dear Climate project.

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Beast Coast: The Underachievers- Cellar Door: Terminus Ut Exordium

Text by Joe K.

When it comes to Hip-Hop, FLOW is half the battle.  You can spend 6 minutes rapping about doing the dishes, but, as Chris Rock so eloquently put it, “If the beat is right, she will dance all night”.  Fortunately, there are those artists that attempt to offer lyrics of substance rather than a diatribe of deviant sexual acts.

With that, I present to you the psychedelic hip-hop of The Underachievers on their official debut album, “Cellar Door: Terminus Ut Exordium“.

While there’s plenty of the egotism that appears to be requisite in hip-hop (Chrysalis: “As I blow my smoke and continue my reign, Cause that royal blue blood in my veins, I’m a king”), duo AK and ISSA GOLD counterbalance the bravado with intelligent and meaningful lyrics such as,

“Elevate your mind n—- play your part, Don’t waste no time cultivated by dark”

(ironically followed up by the sage-like proclamation, “Now you all can eat dick but at least get a tip”).  Additionally, the duo  outlines their take on a model utopia in “Metropolis”, “Build a metropolis, call it Indigo Providence”.

The Underachievers spit out verses as if time is a precious commodity; there are no intros/outros or choruses to be found. Although some broader musical experimentation may have enhanced some tracks, the beats on this album are not pedestrian. The beats on “Incandescent” would fit right in on a John Carpenter film soundtrack whereas “Quiescent” and “Felicity” allow the listener to catch their breath while relaxing to denser, more melodic rhythms. On the other hand, “Amorphous”, which samples Portugal, The Man, delivers the most poppy sound on the album.

It’s apparent that someone broke out the SAT prep manual to name some of the tracks (e.g. “Sonorous”, “Chrysalis”), which is apropos, because it can feel like an exam when your trying to keep up with the break neck speed of their rhymes.  However, once you buckle down and process the commentary, it’s clear that The Underachievers provide more than just flow.