REVIEW: Metal Mother’s “Ionika”

Metal Mother photo MetalMotherII_cover_zpseb52b88c.jpg Oakland-based vocalist Tara Tati has returned once again as Metal Mother, and if her eccentric side wasn’t obvious with her debut album, wait until you listen to what she offers with album #2. Ionika (Post Primal) could be considered pop music if pop music was this adventurous, and that’s not taking away anything from the adventurists out there but… let’s just say that Tati has a creative side that shows how much she wants to explore, and while she could easily do it in a civil manner, she realizes that this is an uncivilized world. In order to get her music across, she’ll keep one foot on each side of the worldly equation, and that’s what you get in a track like “Prism”, which could easily be a pop hit today in the vein of Lady Gaga or Karmin, with hints of Siouxsie Sioux and Kate Bush. Perhaps the duality image on the album cover shows she can be two beings that may share the same mind, and it’s up for listeners to decide which part of her to like the most.

Just when you think she could allow herself to drift in pop purification, she does a few things vocally, lyrically, and musically that will immediately take her out of the system, and that’s a good thing. With songs like “Doomdome”, “Tactillium”, and “mind_off”, Tati is someone who either refuses to let go of what she holds true, or what we’re listening to is the sound of someone who let herself years ago, and we’re hearing her beautiful fall. If it’s the latter, I hope this fall never ends.

(Ionika is scheduled for release on April 16th.)

SOME STUFFS: Zang Tuum Tumb to release deluxe edition of Propaganda remix album

For some American fans, this release may come as a bit of a shock, especially since Propaganda‘s music was not heavily pushed/promoted here. After the release of their debut album, A Secret Wish, Zang Toom Toom Records decided to put together what worked as a greatest hits EP consisting of the hit singles that had come from the album, put in a few album tracks, but created brand new music of everything so that even if you bought the 45, the 12″, and the cassette singles, there would still be something unique upon listening to it. The album was (perhaps) aptly called Wishful Thinking, as if the label was perhaps aware of what they were doing, but despite the marketing plan, the album did work on its own merits. It allowed Propaganda fans to hear their favorite song in a new way, and the production work made it possible to dig deeper into the mechanics of the machine. While the album was released in the U.S. in the late 1990’s, it was a bit after the fact and did not get much attention, if at all.

Over 25 years after its original release, ZTT have remastered it and are releasing it as a deluxe edition, complete with liner notes about the album along with previously unreleased material, as the ZTT vaultmasters continue to find delightful goodies.

Here is the official track listing for the deluxe edition of Wishful Thinking:
1. Abuse
2. Machined
3. Laughed
4. Loving
5. Jewelled
6. Loved
7. Abuse
8. Thought
9. Strength to Dream (Outtake 04.02.84)
10. p:Machinery (The Beta Wraparound)
11. The Murder of Love (Murderous Instrumental)
12. Dr Mabuse (Outtake 24.04.85)
13. Frozen Faces ( A Secret Sense of Rhythm)
14. p:Machinery (The Voiceless Beta Wraparound Edit)

The original album consisted of tracks 1-8 (with the instrumental “Thought” being a personal favorite), so even if you have the original CD pressing, you have some extra goodies to dive into. This deluxe edition will be released on June 12th.

REVIEW: Brothertiger’s “Golden Years”

Photobucket If you were around in the early 1980’s, you will no doubt have a fondless for television, movie, and cartoon theme songs, along with those catchy melodies from video games. This is what Brothertiger have done on their Golden Years (Mush) album, creating music that would’ve sounded great during a raunchy disco scenen on Miami Vice or a movie introduction with Mary Stuart Masterson playing air drums in her room.

Basically, it sounds dated on purpose, but one can also describe it as being “appropriately distant”, ina good way. If you weren’t around back then, you will hear an innocence in these tracks that might sound like music you hear in a favorite movie loved by your parents. But that innocence comes from simply playing the music they loved, with love. Within this music are hints of yacht rock, pop soul, new wave, and dance music, which are all popular today in different forms. The reason why this type of sound and production works today is because of that innocence people look and/or long for in music and in life, it’s creativity without complication or concern, it’s just fun to listen to. As the lyrics to “Wind At My Back” say, you can dance the night away and not worry. So don’t. Then do.

(Golden Years will be released on March 27th.)

Brothertiger – Lovers from Mush Records on Vimeo.

VIDEO: Paul White’s “The Doldrums”

Digging that Paul White album? Here’s an animated video for the song “The Doldrums”, and I will say this: if you are high or have been eating foods with a lot of carbs, you may not want to watch this. For everyone else, go ahead.

DUST IT OFF: Kraftwerk’s “Electric Café”… 25 years later


Different generations come to the music of Kraftwerk for different reasons. I became aware of Kraftwerk in 1981 with the release of their album Computer World/Computerwelt. The music was electric, it could make you dance, especially the robot. When Michael Jackson and The Jackson 5 danced like robots as part of their routine in “Dancing Machine”, they were looking towards the future. It looked incredible, and it sounded funky. Then you had Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back at theaters, Battlestar Galactica and Space: 1999 were on TV. Kraftwerk, however, sounded like the future. It was not of 1981 even though it very much was. A lot of people at my school heard “Numbers” and that was the song we all wanted to dance, pop, and break to. I loved the song because it consisted of nothing but numbers said in different languages. Then MTV played the video for “Pocket Calculator”. “Whoa, these guys ARE German.” “Whoa, look at that person in the crowd pressing the key to play a little melody!” MTV had also put “The Model” in rotation, so their music was very much a part of my upbringing as I explored the double digits. Little did I know how much of an influence Kraftwerk was making in New York City, where MTV made its start. That same year (1982), Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force came out with “Planet Rock” and that felt like an anthem. All of my friends were singing it, and it was our 6th grade year, our last year in elementary school. The rockin’ wasn’t going to stop, and you know why? Because the rockin’ don’t stop. Then a song that changed my world for good: Malcolm McLaren & The World Famous Supreme Team‘s “Buffalo Gals”. It was all on the same level, the same wavelength, and these were sounds that were our “coming of age” soundtrack. Throw in Yellow Magic Orchestra‘s “Computer Games/Firecracker”, then we could head to a video game room and waste our quarters on candy, ice cream, coda, cracked seed, and video games. We were now of the future, this felt like “our toys”, not board games we played during Christmas and ignored. This rap music felt like “our music”, not what our parents gave us. Nothing wrong with that, but all of these new, electric and electronic sounds felt like we were ready to fly. Maybe in space, maybe to the park, maybe to the shopping center, but we loved it.

In 1983, I remember going to the GEM department store in Honolulu and seeing a new Kraftwerk record, a 12″ single of “Tour De France”. I had to have it, begged my mom that I needed it. This was a year that would also give us Yes90125, The Police‘s Synchronity (my favorite album of 1983, BTW), and the mandatory Into Battle EP by Art Of Noise. I needed Kraftwerk in my life, and I would get the record. Brought it home, and all of a sudden I’m hearing these German guys breathe hard. I hear them riding a bicycle. I hear them singing in German. It was incredibly funky, and it made by body move. Less than a year later, Breakin’ was released and as Turbo was told by Ozone to sweep outside, he had his boom box ready to go. The cassette inside? “Tour De France”. I remember that moment in the movie theater all too well: we all knew that song, we all cheered him on, and then he made that damn broom float. When we got home, we all looked for brooms to do the exact same thing. It was not only a Breakin’ moment, but our Kraftwerk moment.

It would be five years before Kraftwerk released a follow-up to Computer World/Computerwelt, and three years before fans heard new music from the group. By then, I had moved from Honolulu to the Pacific Northwest, and the culture shock of my new surroundings were bad. On the positive side, I had more access to music than ever, although that probably had to do with me being older and more aware of what other music was out there. Kraftwerk remained a personal favorite, I played their albums continuousy. I then saw a magazine ad for their new album, and now it seemed like the future was here. The computer love talked about on Computer World/Computerwelt made the group into genuine digital architectures, they were now showing us the future: today. I believe I saw the video for “Musique Non Stop” before I bought the new album, but for days I would find myself saying BOING! BOOM TSCHAK! over and over. Kraftwerk were speaking, and this was nothing new, there were always voices (their own and computerized) on their albums, but these were “new” voices. Their music had a way of hypnotizing you. Well okay, me, but it was really just hearing these sounds and wanting to dance, or simply create something as powerful.

Electric Café was the album, and while it didn’t floor me as much as Computer World/Computerwelt did, I liked most of it. Side 1 was basically variations of the same song, with the lyrics serving as the song titles: “Boing Boom Tschak”, “Techno Pop”, “Musique Non-Stop”. Up until that point, synth pop and techno pop were terms one would read in magazine articles, but for Kraftwerk to call what they did “techno pop” was bold. This was their music, and Side 1 just felt like “the next shit”. I played Side 1 of my tape over and over, I’m surprised it didn’t snap.

Like Side 1, Side 2 also had three songs but they were three distinct songs. “The Telephone Call” reminded me a lot of “Computer World”, but it almost felt like the group were willing to look back at history and go back to the old ways of the telephone. “Sex Object” was a cross between the past and the future, while “Electric Café” established what the album was about. We were now in their café, and we were free to roam and explore. It sounded fun, and it didn’t matter what it was. For me, it was new Kraftwerk, and I just hoped it wouldn’t take another five years for the group to come up with new music.

Why the wait between albums? It seems the group did have plans to release an album in 1982, called Techno Pop, with the title track being a 16 minute suite of the three songs that would end up on Side 1 of Electric Café. “The Telephone Call” and “Sex Object” would pad the album, along with “Tour de France”. When the album didn’t make it out in time, they chose to release “Tour de France” as a single. 1983 would have been the perfect time for the group to release an album, but it would be another three years until Techno Pop would be released, removing “Tour de France” and replacing it with “Electric Café”, which would become the album’s title track. What is amazing is, while we know the album as being that from 1986, most of the songs originated in 1982. Elements would carry over with new versions and revisions, so while we know and maybe hear of it as being a mid-80’s album, it isn’t too distant from the music on Computer World/Computerwelt.

It would be another five years before the group released a new album, and that was a recreation of some of their hits and key album tracks in the form of The Mix. At that point, the group were truly of the digital and computer age, albeit a bit primitive compared to what it would become a few years later, but their integrity and influence would remain solid. Electric Café became the last sound of Kraftwerk from the distant old world of the 1980’s, and yet it still sounds as pure and shiny as it did 25 years.


REVIEW: Pikachunes’ self titled EP

Photobucket Pikachunes play electro/techno-pop with an emo feel, which will definitely make fans of Depeche Mode, Erasure, and Yaz want to hear more. The group get melodramatic on each track, but do so in a way that pulls the listener in throughout the duration of each song. Some of it sounds like minimalist dance songs, but that could easily be said for songs like this when they were released for the first time 25 to 30 years ago. I see this working great in a club setting, as Pikachunes create arrangements where they’ll take an isolated part of the song and make it go into repetition mode for a long time, without care for self-editing. I like it, and it also works in a home or car setting.

Not sure if Pikachunes will plan on branching out with their minimal approach, but I’m ready to hear what the next chapter will reveal.

VIDEO: New Look’s “Nap On The Bow”

As much as I have praised the early days of MTV, there’s something that can be great about the network not playing music videos. For one, there was a time when, if you wanted to be seen in order to be heard, you had to go through someone else’s regulations and standards. Just as computers made it possible for fans to find and obtain the music they want, when they want, technology has made it possible for anyone to create a music video with the potential of it being seen my hundreds, thousands, maybe millions. No waiting, no special orders, see the video right now.

I don’t like to cut and paste from press releases, but the video for this song said this:
By hijacking the XBox Kinect‘s camera which emits thousands of infra-red dots to track a player in 3D, directors Tim & Joe, created this seemingly underwater video for New Look‘s latest single “Nap on a Bow”.

Interesting concept, and the song compliments the imagery captured very well, and vice versa. Electronic pop with a bit of soulfulness, a bit post-modern, a hint of the old with a nice slice of the new. It works for me, so spread the word.

If you want to know more about New Look, they will be opening up for SBTRKT next week at the following cities:
Tues, October 25th – Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada – Fortune Sound Club
Weds, October 26th – Seattle, WA – Neptune
Thurs, October 27th – San Francisco, CA – 103 Harriet

REVIEW: Geoff Geis’ “Princess”

Photobucket It is uncertain if Geoff Geis felt like a Princess on his new EP… or is it short album (it’s actually 11 songs, but runs under 25 minutes so call it what you wish)? Nonetheless, Geis’ music sounds like he recorded this over a weekend or two on his own, playing everything from bass and guitar to drum machines and an Omnichord, but creating songs that are sure to please admirers of the clever eclectic pop of They Might Be Giants and early Beck. There is a slightly humorous side to Geis’ music, but it sounds like he’s in on the joke but wants everyone to know “laugh and smile along with me, and we can get through this life together”, as these songs touch on the banality of life, which can often make us laugh or cry at the same time. These songs are keyboard rich, one might call it techno pop/electro pop, but very much showing the richness of what made these styles of music work in the late 70’s/early 80’s. It may sound quirky and almost odd to hear this in 2011, but beyond that, these songs are well written and are perhaps better than most of what you hear on the radio these days. There are beginnings, middles, and ends in these songs, stories that sound like they came from him and not just “oh, I wish these stories I am writing could happen to be one day”. If he speaks of discovering what love means, you might reflect on your own experiences, and through his music you might be able to have a sense of what he was feeling. It’s not all incense and peppermints here, but it’s nice to hear someone be so honest, or at least make an effort to create candid songs that are believable.

Maybe as an ode to the era he is influenced from in these songs, Princess can be purchased as a cassette.

REVIEW: Eat Sugar’s “¡Levántense!”

Photobucket Upon first listen to Eat Sugar‘s ¡Levántense! (Mush), it sounded like nothing more than another group trying to be retro for the sake of having an old feel. As I listened to it more, they are a group that are trying to capture a sound but not doing one thing at a time. Artists seem to be enjoying mashing up different styles, textures, genres, and influences, and not that this wasn’t done before, but it seemed one industry rule was that “if you’re not The Beatles, you remain one thing or do nothing.” European… well, any artist outside of the U.S. could get away with mixing up thinks, but it was a true career risk if you were American and chose to do something “outside of your forced norm.” This is music by a band in an industry where the walls haven’t so much fallen, but are revealing that these walls never existed in the first place. Time for fun.

Sticking to the 1970’s rule of making an album with “10 songs, no more, no less”, the look of the cover should be a hint: late 70’s/early 80’s vibe with hints of new wave, punk, electro, disco, and rock. Imagine a jam session involving Flaming Lips, Gorillaz, N*E*R*D, DâM-FunK, Daft Punk, Chrome, and Lady Gaga conducted by Afrika Bambaataa and Larry Levan, and you would have the songs you have hear, energetic soon-to-be classic club gems mixed in with things that maybe shouldn’t be there, but are. Then again, what does “shouldn’t be” mean when you’ve already torn down the walls. This is the music you will do the late night creep to, as your genitals are wet from liquids of unknown origin. Moist towelette?

(¡Levántense! will be released on February 22, 2011.)

REVIEW: Propaganda’s “A Secret Wish (25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)”

Image and video hosting by TinyPic In the 80’s, when I wanted a Zang Tuum Tumb tattoo, drew ZTT logos all over my portfolios and wished to be in England in the summertime with my love (HEY!), I became a huge fan of the German group Propaganda. I’m not sure if it had to do with them being German, but I loved Kraftwerk and Accept so maybe it wasn’t much of an issue. However, their music seemed to be a bit more dark and melancholy than some of the British pop going on at the time. But looking back, I think much of what I was hearing from England in the 80’s came from MTV, back when the former-music network was showing a ride range of sounds. While Propaganda didn’t get a lot of airtime in the U.S., it was the idea of them being “something that should be more popular” that kept me listening. A Secret Wish was an album that seemed a bit more sophisticated compared to the random-yet-carefully-selected sounds of Art Of Noise and the deliberate sexual overtones of Frankie Goes To Hollywood. As a teen, maybe that made an impression on me, that something so dark and melancholy could also be sensual. Maybe that’s me.

25 years later, ZTT/Salvo have reissued the album as a special 2CD Deluxe Edition, and if you were ever someone that made attempts to collect ZTT’s vast discography, you’re going to enjoy what’s on here. Not only do you get the original A Secret Wish album in full, but you also have a number of remixes and “revisions”, some unreleased remixes, and even the original program that was on the “Duel”/”Jewel” cassingle. At least for me in the U.S., the cassingles were hard to come buy after their initial release, so hearing the 20 minute “Do Well” (which utilizes “The First Cut”, “Duel”, “Jewel (Cut Rough)”, Wonder”, and “Bejeweled” is a trip.

Not surprisingly, all of these songs hold up incredibly well 25 years later, especially “p-Machinery” with its massive wall of synths and the underrated “Sorry For Laughing”, and to hear Claudia Brucken speak in “Dream Within A Dream” and “The Last Word (Strength To Dream)” brings me back to a time when I was dreaming for bigger and better, and to find a way to live out my dreams.

The booklet will be a treat for liner note junkies, designed in typical ZTT fashion with loads of classic photos used throughout the years on album and 12″ single covers, and with that Anton Corbijn eye for things that I came to know and love. It would be nice if some of these songs were covered by today’s artists, and maybe it will come around again in another 25 years. In that time, that could be 25 years of Propaganda appreciation, which would not be a bad thing at all. This deluxe edition has me on my knees, but years later, I now need assistance to get me back on my feet.