Posts Tagged ‘2012’

Jorge Arana Trio — Mapache (2012)

Posted: February 23, 2013 by Is This Revolutionary? in Album, Reviews
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MapacheOkay, so I honestly don’t know what I could or should say about these guys. Typically, I like talking about the structure of the music as well as the similarities I find shared with other artists, but I really have no idea where to start with JAT.
Next, I’m not really sure how to classify them. Are they jazzy math rock? Or maybe they’re mathy jazz (rock?).
For my own curiosity, I asked Jorge (the band) what their influences were (among a slew of other questions), and got a response from Jorge (the man) in which among his cited influences were Arnold Schoenberg and Charles Mingus. Now I start to get it. For those unfamiliar, check out those links. Any musician worth his weight in cassettes should know who both artists are. Schoenberg was an expressionist composer of the early 20th century, while Mingus existed more towards the middle of the century as a jazz composer. Both were hugely influential to their respective movements. As a matter of fact, Schoenberg was responsible for a lot of major developments in atonality, and for the conception of the twelve-tone technique, which were prominent features of music in the early twentieth century. Mingus is often regarded as the successor of Duke Ellington with his incredible compositional abilities and unique style. If you haven’t already made the connection, listen to Mapache as well as the Schoenberg and Mingus pieces above. I wouldn’t necessarily claim that these two composers are Jorge’s (the band or the man) biggest influences, but you can certainly hear some similarity.
If you’re both unfamiliar with the two and unable/unwilling to check them out, I’ll do my best to describe my rationale for the comparison. JAT dabbles fiercely with tonality and the lack thereof. The cerebral quality in “Bitter Era” that I referred to earlier is just that. The melodic structure is unabashedly coarse and dissonant. Texturally, you can take from them what you want. Each of the instruments functions just as well on its own as it does in conjunction with the ensemble. Not one is afraid to go off and do his thing; like true jazz musicians, each individual thing is still beyond fully functional as a part to amass to a greater whole. You get a real sense of an improv jazz band, which I personally find impressive on a (presumably) rehearsed and recorded album. Compositionally, the album is a bit of a beast. Dissonance is elevated to an artform. If you like consonance, if you look for your standard one-four-five-one, if you like sweet and smooth, go home. This is not a cry from the Ivory Tower; as I said at the beginning, I switched it off after a very cursory listening, simply because I wasn’t in the mood. If you’ll allow me to remove my scarf and horn-rimmed glasses for a moment, I’d like to make mention that I can indulge in Penderecki and Oliveros for their musicality. I’m not afraid of the abstruse or unconventional; I do, however like a warning. This is that.
The Jorge Arana Trio takes a very agressive approach to jazz in Mapache. This isn’t easy listening. This isn’t coffee shop music (or at the very least, not the music of any coffee shop I’ve yet been to). As I was saying, this is dissonance on steroids. If you plan on listening, you need to go in knowing you won’t always get the resolution you want. JAT will tease you, and they’re very good at it. They will grab you, throw you around the scale, throw you out of the scale, yank you back in, and beat your brains in before they resolve their progressions, if they resolve their progressions.
Another admirable trait is their progressiveness. I guess it goes without saying that a jazz band with such modernist influence is going to be progressive. Even with that expectation, even with this organized chaos, you would anticipate some themes, some motifs, some revisitation.
nopeNeedless to say, I’ve taken a long time to write this review. In that time, I’ve listened to this album quite a few times. The closest it comes to being repetitive is in its final track, “Ether,” in which the guitar/bass/keyboard motif can be heard through most of the track. Even still, in the closing track, in what should be the resolution to all the madness, the breaking of the storm, the consonance that we’ve so badly desired and quite frankly have earned from the beginning, they hold out on us. The guitar and drums go nuts from start to finish. While they might make it easier at some points than others, the sole purpose of such is to hook you in to bring you along for the ride. And what a ride it is. This is easy listening, isn’t it? (Please refer to the above image.) The melody is more tangible, maybe. The disorder is still there, though. All of it. The motif gives the impression of smooth(er) jazz without pulling any punches.
Okay, okay. Even the last track is intense. Surely, it’ll end on a major chord, right? It has to end on something consonant, something sweet, something resolute. It simply must.
Please refer to the above image one more time.

So…? So I’ve said a lot of things. I’ve made a lot of references to a lot of dead musicians that aren’t exactly familiar to the layman. I talked nonstop about dissonance. I basically told you that this music is good for reasons that I understand and you wouldn’t because I’m cultured and you’re all philistines and blah blah blah look at me I studied music.
One of my biggest fears in life is showing someone music I admire, and seeing that they can’t appreciate it. Seriously. Devastating. A lot of the time, should one not appreciate it, it is because he was not adequately prepared to listen to the music. It’s like really good hot sauce. When you find a sauce with good flavor and good heat, you want to share it. You can’t just pour it on your buddy’s food without at least telling him first, though. In the same way, you don’t turn up Glassjaw while he’s napping. It’s just not fair, and he’ll be trained to hate it. Just as a good hot sauce might make you tear up a bit, JAT may take you out of your comfort zone. It will do so with good cause, though. It might hurt at first, but it’ll feel good by the end. That’s why Mapache gets four kegs.


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Gifts From Enola- A Healthy Fear (2012)

Posted: January 4, 2013 by Is This Revolutionary? in Album, Reviews
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I’ll start with the obvious stuff: this is not what I want as a Gifts From Enola album. A Healthy Fear doesn’t have the same vibe to it that I get from Loyal Eyes Betrayed the Mind or From Fathoms. This is definitely a progression from the sound they established on their self titled EP, which was more like the former two than anything this has to offer. I’m not saying A Healthy Fear is complete garbage, but anyone who’s listened to Animal Collective knows that albums can be good on their own, yet disappointing as compared to previous works.

All right, now that that’s over, it’s time for the fun. Gifts From Enola has always been one of my favorite post-rock bands. As a proud merch/album owner, I fully support the band in whatever direction they decide to take it. The direction they decided to take it in with A Healthy Fear was one that sounds like And So I Watch You From Afar (especially Gangs) with Rosette-esque vocals. Not that that’s constant throughout, but that’s the main sound I’m hearing. And for those saying, “Oh, there goes Ben hating on vocals in post-rock again”, “Dime & Suture” was my favorite track off their last album, so there. The beginning of “Robespierre” has that exact feeling and then brings the sound of “In The Company of Others” from their first record, and thus I’m in love until the vocals come in. There’s going to be a pattern with that, I promise you. The problem is that the vocals become the main focus of the song, the problem so many bands have. In “Dime & Suture”, the balance was perfect: they were in the background and acted like beautifully-worded instruments. And seriously, don’t even get me started on the beginning of “Cherry”. That’s sums up my argument.

The good: they’re just as heavy as ever. When they return to their original sound, they’re unstoppable, fusing atmospheric soundscapes with crunching riffs. In addition, the instrumentals in “Honne/Tatemae” took my breath away. I’m just happy their ability to play what they used to play hasn’t been lost, regardless of the singing. That and “Jade” had some good parts.

Rating: I just wasn’t feeling it. I love them, don’t get me wrong. I would pay insane amounts of money to see them live, but A Healthy Fear just wasn’t cutting it for me. I’m not going to give this a good rating just because everyone else loved it. The songs just seemed too unoriginal. 2/5 kegs.



Strife – Witness a Rebirth (2012)

Posted: December 18, 2012 by Anthony in Album
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Strife was and is a band that held a lot of meaning to a lot of people in the hardcore scene in the 1990’s, namely the straight edge community. As far as names in hardcore go, Strife are regarded as one of the big three of the 90’s Victory Records bands (along with Snapcase and Earth Crisis) and carried a straight edge ethic with them that really brought people together after Judge had the last of their run in the very early 90’s. One Truth and In This Defiance were two records that really left a mark on me when I was a teenager in a Long Island high school that was dubbed “The Pharmacy” for its accessibility to drugs. I could have just as easily fallen into a lifestyle of substance-hedonism with the rest of my peers, 11 years later after claiming straight edge, some are still addicted and congregating in small circles, or even dead. However, I feel that it was finding hardcore and straight edge at that stage of my life that may have helped me transition into a healthy adult – bands like One King Down, Bane, and to really drive the point home – Strife.

It didn’t bother me so much when I heard all of the news that Strife had broken edge by the time Angermeans (2001) came out after their brief hiatus. It would be a brief resurgence because the band broke up again shortly after they released that record. I can only speak for myself, but I think it’s shared opinion that Strife’s essence really wasn’t captured in Angermeans as much as their two previous full-lengths. Even after Strife was done for good, I still spun the hell out of those two records and they’ve held up surprisingly well, even for a band that no longer claimed the straight edge lifestyle as a collective unit. Every straight edge kid in the 90s is encapsulated in One Truth and In This Defiance as were the ghosts of Strife. Even after Angermeans, it would have been an honorable time to call it quits – but old passions have a funny way of festering inside of us, even if they aren’t relevant anymore.

Fast forward about an entire decade. After a string of confusing reunion shows and scattered tours, Strife announced that they were in the works of writing and recording a new full-length album. A good friend of mine recently told me that no band had let its fans down more except Metallica, and with a heavy heart I have to agree. I was 50/50 about the release of a new record and 100% debating what sort of relevancy Strife could have in 2012 – a band that was no longer straight edge, the central-focus of what their band meant and still means to so many people. Strife could very well have put out a truly innovative and fresh new album, but to make it work, they would need an urgency greater than their last records. However, aside from the music itself, everything leading up to its release left a sour taste in my mouth that a torrent of meteoric lemons couldn’t achieve on their own. From the corny “making of” documentary (though it is no secret that they had DVDs on Victory) to endorsements from a major guitar company, I couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow when I read the final title of the album and come to the assumption that this all seemed like an elaborate hardcore cash-in–Witness a Rebirth.

Let me just say that it isn’t the musicianship of this album that strikes me as offensive. This is probably the tightest and most-polished you’ll ever hear Strife, but in a way I feel that’s the problem. The album plays out like a weird caricature of 90’s hardcore, rather than being created by veterans of such a vibrant time period. The riffs seem uninspired, and perhaps trying a bit too hard to recreate the mood and atmosphere of In This Defiance. Imagine my bewilderment when I discovered that a track I was listening to was actually entitled “In This Defiance”. I listened to this record begging to hear some sort of raw urgency, from a band that truly used to stand above the others in terms of importance. However, Strife just does not seem relevant in 2012 and I can’t stress that enough. Hardcore for the sake of hardcore is an attitude that’s best left behind us, and it has nothing to do with puffed-out chests and preaching loyalty – hardcore needs room to grow.

Witness a Rebirth is an odd record to observe from a distance. In a sense, even though it’s a shameless throwback to the 90’s, it oddly seems more inspired by contemporary hardcore acts in its delivery. It’s almost as if this record is trying to emulate the trend-sound in today’s scene (dare I mention ‘hardstyle’?) Or did it have to do with the production end of this record? To me, these are all very important speculations and I write with such passion because Strife is a band that means a lot to me. This is by no means to knock bands from the 90’s getting back together and writing new records either. By the same token, I was extremely skeptical when Earth Crisis got back together but they managed to put out 2 comeback records that were both great and relevant in 2012. 108 and Starkweather are two more examples of bands that got back together and wrote some crushing and relevant records. The difference with all of the bands mentioned is that these efforts seemed natural. It felt organic, they picked up exactly where they left off, and all without being disingenuous or seeming like an obvious re-lighting of a dead, damp torch.

Let me break this sour news by giving credit where credit is due. A band’s music is their own personal property, and a band should by no means write a record for anyone else but themselves. Even if I’m dissatisfied with the content of the record, it’s certainly their right to write whatever they want. If this is truly what they wanted to come from writing a new record, then hats off to them in that respect. However, my last and final argument is that perhaps a new record from the members of Strife would have been more powerful had it not come from Strife. Some ghosts are better left laid to rest if there is nothing left to wring from it, and I strongly feel that’s what happened with this record, and with Strife.

The verdict: (Witness a) new coaster for my frosty glass of orange juice. If you’re looking for 90’s hardcore by 90’s hardcore personae that are still killing it live and on vinyl, pushing our scene forward without looking back, I’d suggest a few bands and records. Between Earth & Sky (current-members of Trial) put out a great record last year that didn’t look to Trial for inspiration. Narrows is another great band from the same area that features members of Botch and Unbroken who put out an awesome record. If you’re looking for contemporaries who play with the same urgency as their 90’s predecessors, I would urge you to keep an eye out for bands like Foundation, Axis, Deathbed, Hollow Earth, and Discourse–just to name a few. Otherwise, this record is a lifeless paper doll of all of the things that are stagnant, non-provoking, and regressive in hardcore. If you’re so inclined though, you can stream the entire album for free. Regardless of this review, it’s important that you make the call for yourself.

1/5 kegs


– Anthony John Czerwinski

Gypsy Cab Company — Zoetrope (2012)

Posted: November 13, 2012 by Is This Revolutionary? in Album
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This album was a lucky find. Well, it wasn’t so much “found” as it was “sent to us via the email that we’re supposed to diligently check,” but before you jump down my throat, that email, up until a few weeks ago was so full of clutter, it could have had its own segment on Hoarders. Anyway, after countless times glancing over the email with this album, I finally realized it was a music submission, checked it out, and immediately decided it to be my next review.

Gypsy Cab Company is the solo project of multi-instrumentalist Jordan Miller. Jordan is also a founding member of math rock duo-turned-trio Time Columns, whom we reviewed back in June.

Zoetrope intertwines organic performance with computer-generated instrumentation in an entrancing sonic weave. In my short time with ITR?, I’ve listened to a ton of music submissions, plenty of which have used synthetic instruments. I’ve deleted most of them. I don’t care for them much. I’m fine with very obviously synthesized sounds. The ones that are intended to sound like real instruments, I am not so keen on. I find the timbre grating most times. Zoetrope is a glaring exception. One of the most endearing qualities of the album is the use of the synthetic instruments alongside the organic performance. A great example of this is the fifth track, “Nebulous.” The use of the MIDI vocals against the live electric guitar produces this bold, tantalizing texture that pulls you in close with the vocals’ sweet, curious allure, just to get you to the centre of the blast radius of the heavy, distorted guitar chords and blow you right back. Combine this with the subsequent soft wails of the guitar, and you have just a small taste of the highly dynamic interaction of the instrumentation. Point being, this album demonstrates an adept approach at aural multimedia.

I first listened to this album on Bandcamp through my phone, so the first track I heard wasn’t the first track on the album. It started me with the third track, “Underneath It All.” I had no idea what I was listening to, but I knew I loved all of it. The structure of it, as well as a lot of Gypsy Cab Company, is similar to many of the artists in the category previously mentioned. The difference? He does it right. The transitions are logical. The timbres are pleasing. Most importantly, GCC breathes life into a medium petrified with lifelessness.

So…? There are many artists that attempt what GCC does. I know of few that do it well, and fewer still that do it in the realm of efficacy seen here. My biggest complaint is that the album takes a while to get going. “Pulse” and “Mute” are okay tracks, but they seem to lack the passion of the rest of the album. On a six-track album, that is an issue. That said, the other two thirds of the album are still great, earning this album three and a half kegs.




The Gaslight Anthem are back with a new album that is sure to please fans and newcomers alike. Following up from their last album comes Handwritten; an 11-song full-length that is teeming with melody and brokenhearted lyrics to boot. If you were turned-off by 2010’s American Slang, you’re in luck. Handwritten boasts a style that can only be described as a fusion of The ’59 Sound and Sink or Swim but adds in a new flavor all at the same time. The album as a whole has a very Hot Water Music-ish feel to it, but with more of a bluesy undertone on many of the tracks (which is to be expected of TGA at this point)

The album kicks off with “45” and it starts with a bang. The track is incredibly catchy and driving, this will be one for the sing-a-longs for quite some time. The following 8 tracks after are all enjoyable as well, containing an array of melodic hooks (the title track is also quite good.) However, I think what stood out to me most were the last two tracks: “Mae” & “National Anthem” which I feel are the album’s strongest and a great way to close the album with an achingly melancholic tone. Bonus tracks also include a Nirvana and Tom Petty cover! The former was not expected but is certainly welcome.

The verdict: While this isn’t treading entirely new ground, Handwritten boasts a likely progression for the band and I feel it is their best yet. It’s great to see that a band who is on their 5th release not losing steam just yet. If you can catch them live, I strongly suggest doing so (if you can successfully wade through the rivers of people struggling to get a ticket)

4/5 kegs

– Anthony John Czerwinski

Time Columns- Mana (2012)

Posted: June 8, 2012 by Is This Revolutionary? in Album, Reviews
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The phrase “you guys are great…for a two-piece band” is like hearing “You’d be the best boyfriend…if you’d lose some weight.” There’s something that stings in that honesty: you’d be perfect if it wasn’t for just one little thing. Well, folks, Time Columns is here  to prove that size isn’t everything with their newest release, Mana. This two-piece, hailing from Maryland, is like a child Hercules, packing a serious punch in a bite-sized morsel. From beginning to end, Mana is 2 years of hard work paying off.

Utilizing their trusty Gibson Echoplex, Time Columns explodes past their Sunriseinthesea EP in terms of creativity and just sheer talent. The first song goes heavier than almost their entire last album combined, and it’s beautifully complemented by airy notes in that Beware of Safety sort of way. Not straying too far away from their roots, tracks such as Lights at Rendlesham feature their trademark uptempo, screaming guitar and fun, melodic play-style. However, there are a few big changes from late-2009 to now; they prove they can play both insanely fast and calm and peaceful. Also, they use vocals in an very interesting manner throughout the course of Mana. Lole’s Song uses them as just plain instruments, meanwhile Luma, my favorite track on this album by far, features a very Animal Collective-like vocal scheme that I fell in love with from the first play-through to the 20th (yes, twenty). Capping off with what sounds like a banjo moment at a backyard shindig, the sounds of crickets chirping, crackling fire and miscellaneous voices, Mana ends on a note that transmits loud and clear: even though this album gets serious, have fun with it. Life’s a party.

I never thought I’d see the day where I’d give a band back-to-back 5/5’s, but this is surely deserving of it. Ask me a year ago, I would have placed my money on Cicada, but Time Columns has crossed the finish line first. The first one blew my mind in its creativity, and this last one is its more mature older brother, impressing me with its ability to go from chaotic and calm and back, all the while never losing the sound that made this band great. My only regret is that I had not gotten to this sooner. Follow this band now, they WILL take off.



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John Praw- Four Twenty Twenty Twelve (2012)

Posted: June 4, 2012 by Is This Revolutionary? in Album
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I discovered John Praw through a split he did with I Am The Architect some time ago. Thought I wasn’t really crazy for his own contributions on that album, his remix of “Walk In Regret” is still one of my favorite post-rock songs to this day. I was really happy to get his email about his latest release, and I’m even happier to share it with everyone, free to download at the bottom.

Named after my favorite holiday (anyone who’s been reading will find the humor in that), Four Twenty Twenty Twelve is an interesting piece, to say the least. The opening is a prayer to Isis, read by what sounded to be an elderly woman, and it was the precursor to the eeriness that is the next track, “Nøkken”, a very minimal track accented by uptempo electronic glitch sounds. They juxtaposed each other quite effectively, utilizing the glitches to not only demonstrate how quiet the rest of the song was, but also preventing the listener from getting too spaced-out and lost in the track. Following that is “Four Twenty (2012)” , which sounds like John Praw’s tribute to Boards of Canada (think Geogaddi). Much more full and rhythmic, the sounds warp like Mr. Praw used the world’s largest wammy bar, and they play over the chirping of birds; although cool in concept, the execution made me want to hit skip so many times it hurt.

Track 4 is “My Precious Red Hair”, a cross between the previous two songs. It has the ambient sound and computerized glitching (only this time more feint) of “Nøkken” and the ending had what sounded like creepy organ in the realm of the title track. Probably the most interesting piece, filled with a constant rumble that reminded me of rustling wind over a deserted plane in the desert, it doesn’t prepare you for what comes next. Finally, “Young One, Young” caps off the album with some really strange audio. It begins with a dog panting, throws in some high pitched squeak, and adds in a  recording of a female voice singing in a language  I could not decipher. Then, it plays a combination of John Praw’s classic ambiance and an instrument like a wooden xylophone. This little bit right here is my favorite moment in this album, and it comes to a conclusion when a minute and a half-long interview between what I’d assume is the artist and a writer, talking about his family and how he write his music. Rough.

Rating: There are bits of genius scattered around John Praw’s Four Twenty Twenty Twelve, but they are so clouded by the rest of the album that it’s hard to pluck them out. Mr. Praw can be so talented in his ambient work, but when things start getting experimental is when I feel I lose my desire to listen. He is so much more intelligent than I am, and so I will continue to listen and figure out the meaning of Four Twenty Twenty Twelve, but as I’m still discovering what the concept was, I can only give this a 2/5 kegs.