Thursday, September 04, 2008

We Hate Your New Band Too

Over the past few months, we've seen and heard a lot of quality local bands that are either new, new to us, or simply underappreciated.  We've mentioned many of them previously in It Lists and the like, but since we can only write so much for our show lists each day, we thought we should say a little more about some of the more interesting artists we've encountered recently, and that's where this feature comes in. You'll probably read more about these groups everywhere else like next year or something:  

Animal Forces: And/Or Gallery has always been a misfit in the Dallas Art Scene, often showcasing the less accepted and radical world of video artists, as well as the bizarre and obscure, such as "free art" champion Chad Hopper. Despite And/Or's daring exhibitions, the space still remains a cozy spot that is inviting enough to attract some of the more pristine patrons of the Dallas art scene. It's hard to imagine what some of those well-dressed enthusiasts were thinking a few months ago as they hurriedly scurried out of the gallery's door towards the respite of the crowded street (where the worst sound you have to deal with is the not so faint hum of the highway in the distance) in order to escape the brute force of Denton's Animal Forces. 

And yet Animal Forces made complete sense in the small space, terrorizing the crowd behind the curious sight of two voting booths, so as to make mysterious the method of attack. The duo is made up of Bianca Hockensmith and House Of Tinnitus' Amelia Jaycen. And/Or and H.O.T. remain the only two places the duo has played, meaning that they have only played in my two favorite places in either Dallas or Denton. When asked where they'd like to perform next, I was sent a cryptic email stating, "The forest/the mall." Animal Forces is obviously into extremes.

Their music is all at once a simultaneously violent, prickly, and ambient roar, further confusing the listener with tiny subtleties of variance screeching through the din. The sounds mostly seem to come from a combination of contact microphones, guitar pedals, and equalizer manipulation, and the little melodious bleeps that fade in and out are created by altered toys, reminding one of how creepy and noisy children's toys can be.

Though the band suggested that the And/Or exodus was perhaps a little lonely, it was a thrill to see guys in suits and women in dresses practically running out the door away from the calculated chaos. A little bit of ceiling fell off, and a piece of artwork took a spill, but overall I found the Animal Forces performance to be a harmless and positive little reminder that art and music can still shock and get under the skin of a largely desensitized public.  It also provided a hint as to the potential of cross pollination between two underground havens thirty five miles apart. (DL)

Febrifuge:  It's tough to figure out what to make of Febrifuge the first time you hear them.  On some levels, much of what they do is similar to more widely known, popular "indie" groups that you've certainly heard before-- you know what I mean, right?  The kind of pop that consists of sprawling atmospherics and sonic experiments surrounding quiet, relaxed songs steeped in traditional folk, chamber pop, blues structures and indie pop.  Stylistically, much of this is nothing new.  In fact, there are a lot of bands doing very similar things all over the country these days, resulting in quite an overload of this kind of ethereal, vaguely experimental folk based indie pop that seems all too easy to produce in the Myspace era.  But before you go conjuring up an image of Febrifuge as a group of twenty year old twits twiddling knobs and singing their hearts out between bong rips, you might want to dig a little deeper into what the group does, because the project reaches quite a bit farther than most comparable artists, and the audible talents of its central figure make it a whole different proposition all together.

Febrifuge is the moniker of a formerly one man project lead by Denton resident Chris Day.  Day handed us his debut record, A Short Instance of Separation, several months ago, and the sheer impressiveness of his songwriting and vocal talents stood out immediately amongst a pile of highly forgettable local releases.  From the onset, the most distinguished element of Febrifuge's sound is Day's studied and compelling vocals, soaring with a nervous, understated yet emotive croon a la Jeff Buckley and Elliott Smith, with a range nearly as impressive as the former and a quiet wistfulness similar to the latter.   His lead is front and center throughout the debut, and considering that he possesses the kind of polished vocal talent that could probably make an indie/major A&R guy swoon, this was certainly a wise move.

Nearly as interesting as the vocals are the arrangements and recording, both of which were done almost entirely by Day himself, aside from some help with backing vocals and a mastering assist from Alan Douches, who has worked with Animal Collective and Olivia Tremor Control, among others.  Every track on Febrifuge's debut is packed with tons of sounds-- piano, keyboard, strings, guitar, etc., but none of it ever feels like overload, and all of it is quite impressive.  Some songs, such as opener "A Wounded Bird Still Dreams of Wings," soar with touches of doo-wop and ghostly atmospherics that are nearly overwhelming, while "Our Hermitage" keeps things highly minimal, with pounding, disjointed percussion and a simple chime serving as the major melodic device behind interweaving vocal harmonies that are nothing short of gorgeous.  

At the end of the day, Febrifuge is reflective, emotional pop music for people who don't typically listen to anything that can be described in that way, and the care, thoughtfulness and attention to detail behind Day's wonderful debut will have many of you asking why you've never heard of this guy before. (SR)

Bad Sports: There was a time in Denton music where it was impossible to miss stoner sludge act Chief Death Rage. They played at every DIY spot, week-in and week-out, sometimes performing multiple sets at multiple venues in a single night. As much as their ubiquity and volume proved the group hard to ignore, what made it even harder was their remarkably tall bass player, Orville Bateman Neeley III, quietly towering over his considerably smaller band-mates like a Stoner-rock Dolph Lundgren. He anchored the group with his excellent basslines, as well as an intimidating visual element that emphasized the tankwheels-crushing-a-skull brutality of the Chief Death Rage sound.

So it was understandably surprising to see that Orville's next project was to front an upbeat, quick-tempo power pop-tinged punk group called Bad Sports. There was even a brightly colored green-screen music video, where Orville bobs his head along to his singing very much like a, well, like a lead singer. Forming late last year, the trio is comprised of Orville on guitar and vocals, TV's Daniel on bass and vocals, and Gregory Rutherford on drums and the occasional backing vocal. The songwriting is split between Orville and Daniel.

Material came quickly for Bad Sports, spurred on by a collective enthusiasm for the catchier sides of punk, hardcore, and post-punk such as Black Flag's earlier records, The Ramones, The Damned and Wire, along with a healthy dose of power pop like Slade, Sweet, 70's Sparks, and a hint of mod jangle pop. These various rock disciplines are then intertwined and reprocessed, resulting in brief, distorted little songs where the reverb decays just long enough to be dramatically effective, like the concrete echo of a band playing too loud in a greasy garage.

The band has already trekked out on a hastily planned tour, playing to weirdos across the Midwest, drinking Old Style Beer and eating pizza. In keeping with the Midwest theme, Bad Sports released a couple of seven inches on two notable labels respectively out of Saint Paul, Minnesota (Big Action Records) and Lincoln, Nebraska (Boom Chick Records), the kind of towns where this style of music seems to thrive. Neeley hints the group should have enough material for an album at some point, and Bad Sports seems to be as smart and prolific as fellow punks The Wax Museums in regard to conduct and philosophy.

At this point, Neeley has an impenetrable track record, with two wildly different outings under his belt. Though I'm a huge Chief Death Rage fan, I'm glad he stepped out of the shadow to turn in one of the few surprises in local music over the last twelve months. (DL)

Rocket for Ethiopia: The strange thing about Rocket for Ethiopia is that they are a young punk band that embraces pop but actually sounds more like Red Cross, the Adolescents or the Germs than the Descendents or Bad Religion.  Here's what I mean-- the immediately appealing thing about this Carrolton group is their reckless, fuck all, first wave hardcore slop, exemplified by their short 40 second bursts of angry distortion, indecipherable shouting and chaotic, whirlwind rhythms.  However, listen a bit closer, and you'll find some very poppy surprises-- is that a Dick Dale influence I hear on lead guitar?  Sure.  And did they just use the chord progression from the Misfits' "Teenagers from Mars" for ten seconds before causing the song in question to permanently self destruct before you really had time to think about such things?  I think so.  The point is that Rocket For Ethiopia are young enough to not quite know what they want to "be," but curiously, the indecisiveness works to their advantage. Shifting from almost traditional sounding surf guitar on one track to completely trashed, disorienting ferocious hardcore with touches of proto-punk on the next, the group seems to revel in being difficult to pin down, both figuratively and literally.

Another part of Rocket For Ethiopia's appeal is their non-preachy commitment to DIY and their willingness to help spawn and promote a scene that most local music followers don't even know exists. As one might imagine, Carrolton is hardly a center of artistic subculture, but the band has plans to try and change that, maybe just a tad, with a simple idea that might just be ridiculous enough to work. Citing their long time involvement with the 1919 Hemphill scene (they listed the venue as a major influence on their music), the group plans to attempt to unite what they characterize as a growing hardcore punk scene emerging in the suburban sprawl between Fort Worth and Dallas in order to create a new DIY epicenter based in Carrolton, complete with what they hope will be a fully functional DIY venue to open some time in the near future. "Yeah right," was probably your response to that last sentence, but stranger things have happened. After all, the cultural, structural and economic similarities between 2008 suburban Dallas and late 70's Orange County are sort of striking when you get down to it. (SR)

Ribelle Scaltro: I was hesitant to try to pin down Ribelle Scaltro. The two performances I had previously caught were exercises in opposites, and the tracks on the Myspace page did little to clear up the initial confusion. After a brief explanation from lone member Rachael Steinberg, it was revealed that the long waits between shows are only part of the reason that the music is subject to change so much. "I feel good about doing something different each time I play live. I don't want it to become something stale and predictable," she tells me by email when asked about the disparities. It wasn't that I disliked either version of Ribelle Scaltro, quite the opposite. It's just that I've seen and heard Ribelle Scaltro, the acoustic singer-songwriter, and I've heard an almost cold keyboard and drum machine Ribelle Scaltro. Both had their qualities, but the latter was what really compelled me to investigate further.

It's Saturday night in the dark, dusty, and literally dripping basement-garage of Wisconsin, and Steinberg cooly "mans" the keyboard in front of her. A slightly clipped beat adds minimal interference and emphasizes the inherent despair of the melancholy chord changes. Steinberg sings bleak yet pretty melodies where the vocal effect is more audible than the lyrics. She says her most recordings feature mostly "layered vocals, spoken word, and incoherent whispering."

Her latest collection of songs are collected under the title of "Death Confetti," and there is no word on whether this is a physical collection or a conceptual one, though I'm hoping it's both. These tracks are the most reflective of the style mentioned above, and it's hard to convey just how successful the vocal style in particular is, both live and on recordings. There are traces of Marble Index- era Nico but with more pop structure and a more sweetly melodic touch than a comparison to that legendary slab of despair implies. Other songs are less rigidly formatted, and burst more rudely with vocals simply spoken over caustic sound-scapes.

Critics, as well as fans, whether they admit it or not, consider it a sign of "artistic maturity" when a performer finally settles into a sound that they'll possibly milk for years to come, often writing off early material as lacking focus. It speaks well of Ribelle Scaltro's music that a reluctance toward a defining sound has proven to be an asset, thusly wielding the lacked focus as a play to the performer's strength, resulting in an equally intriguing sound as well as live show. (DL)

50 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update on what bands to avoid!

Any other '80s roller disco' bands I should know about?

4:16 AM  
Anonymous chad said...

Excellent work.

8:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I LIKE IT WHEN YOU ARE NICE AND SAY NICE THINGS ABOUT NICE PEOPLE I LOVE LIVE MUSIC YAY

8:59 AM  
Anonymous steve langford said...

who gives a shit, who gives a fuck

9:04 AM  
Anonymous cliff notes said...

cliff notes.. k thanx

9:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man. I fucking loved Chief Death Rage.

9:39 AM  
Anonymous stonedranger said...

Fuel City comments are now officially.... BANNED!

10:15 AM  
Anonymous stonedranger said...

Oh, and Atmosphere is for clueless pussies. Thanks.

10:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this was great. Lets make new band summary posts a weekly thing.

10:16 AM  
Anonymous Thank God said...

We're finally getting some action on banning Fuel City comments.

It's time to move forward with Sack N' Save in Denton. That's the new hot place to be.

10:39 AM  
Anonymous PATSY STONE is in JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH said...

TOMAHAWK BONG RIP!!!

11:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank god sr

11:18 AM  
Anonymous M-. said...

Comparing late 70's (and possibly early 80's?... no?) Orange County to the Dallas suburbs of today is a very valid point. I'm surprised that no one else has ever mentioned that when writing about music in the DFW area. Or, at least, I haven't read anyone else making that point. Nice to see Ribelle mentioned as well!

11:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

heartrapers....

12:43 PM  
Anonymous Sublimade said...

Why would anyone care about a similarity between Dallas and The OC?

What, are were cultural geoscience buffs or some shit?

The OC = oil town

Dallas suburbs = speculative real estate

Music from both places = buncha racket

Whatever.

1:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

denton wins AGAIN.

1:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

animal forces actually played with social junk on denton st last month too

1:35 PM  
Anonymous W. Crusher said...

I want Death Confetti at my funeral. A silver glove with a purple velvet lining laced with sedatives. Put it on and blissfully die a slow and painless death. Ribelle's fo realz!

1:37 PM  
Anonymous w. crusher said...

That little outburst was meant specifically for the 1st 2 morons. But anyway, Ribelle Scaltro!

2:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

8:16, you are completely right. and i've asked them repeatedly over time to do it. don't hold your breath.

golden gold, it's not THAT funny. and i'm thinking its the frequency of the shit that's tired. kyle anyone?

sublimade is also accurate...

2:44 PM  
Anonymous ed said...

I love these posts- asides from Ribella Scaltro, I haven't heard any of these. Excited to check 'em out. Every project I've heard Orville in is solid as fuck. Dude's a badass. Didn't CDR have a shirt or album cover or something with a drawing of a dog saying "Riff!" on it? Genius.

3:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would it be okay to say that Febrifuge doesn't land in my preference. Meaning, its not my style however I still respect the music for what it is?

4:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What does 70s Orange County and 08 Dallas have in common?

Shitty disco.

4:41 PM  
Anonymous chad said...

I'll just point out that Ribella Scaltro and Bad Sports both appear on the new denton Deluxe!

Bad Sports are amazing to the max. Recorded and live. They pump me up in the morning while I am dressing myself.

5:42 PM  
Anonymous there are no wolves here said...

thanks for taking the time t'use this space for that. s'nice to see more than the pedantic nepotism that it's so easy t'fall into.

and no, not bein' snarky.

6:19 PM  
Anonymous Bubbling under said...

A few other new Denton bands worth avoiding at all costs:

Fuck Breath

Spike Leotard

Swagger Like Seger

Wound Groomer

Squat Thruster

6:29 PM  
Anonymous product placement said...

How could you dis Steel Midget?

Seriously.

6:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

easily. so easily..................................

7:28 PM  
Anonymous Me said...

Ha yeah all the bands on this blog do suck!

7:43 PM  
Anonymous tomas garza said...

let's talk about the toadies.

8:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, Notwolf, the town you're from has never heard of nepotism. Right?

10:42 PM  
Anonymous swampasssss said...

i like rocket for ethiopia. more new band reviews! good job.

11:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

rocket for ethiopia sucks but it rules.

6:08 AM  
Anonymous cult of personality said...

you know what? none of this shit matters. in the end, music is just some sound in the corner while you're living your life. whether it sucks or sounds "good" is irrelevant. if you don't have a life, then listening to music isn't going to provide you with a sense of purpose.

talking about it, judging other people by what they listen to or what they rail on and on about, all of it is fucking juvenile. it shows an obvious arrested emotional development.

this blog is like a cult of zit-pocked twerps drooling over two girls and a cup.

12:25 PM  
Anonymous stonedranger said...

So what's your life like, guy?

12:42 PM  
Anonymous chad said...

Then what are you doing here 10:25? But you are right none of this does matter, but it is a fun way to pass the time. Some people enjoy listening to music to escape the mundaneness of life and escape people like you. So please go find some other blog, forum, street corner, church, diary or other soapbox to pout like an ignorant baby. Or continue to post here so I can reassure myself I am a less pathetic human in comparison.

1:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

fuck yeah chad!

1:49 PM  
Anonymous W. Crusher said...

"sound in the corner" huh? somebody just made a smell in the corner.

3:43 PM  
Anonymous cliff notes said...

i've removed the fuel from the fire

4:04 PM  
Anonymous cliff notes said...

i've removed the fuel from the fire

4:04 PM  
Anonymous superbligged84 said...

helllllllzzzzzzzzz yeah. i can't stand people that leave the negative comments about this blog. save the negative comments for bands you don't like, dudes.

4:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think AF played Strawberry Fields once too, right?

7:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well... it was'nt.. oh, no. i'm not mentioning a certain band. though of course i could..........................

11:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At first I wasn't sure what to make of [insert band name]. Most people would originally scoff at their combination of [punk/grindcore/indie/electronica], but upon multiple listens, you can really hear the influence of [insert punk/grindcore/indie/electronica with critical acclaim, but enough cred where most people under 24 years old will have to do a Wikipedia search on]. And who cares if they cleared out the place the last time they played [inset venue that considers 20 people "a good draw!"], I still dug the fact that they remained true to the original intent of the [punk/grindcore/indie/electronica] genre.

At its core , [insert band name] is kind of like [insert name of similarly unknown local band that kinda fits into same genre], but unlike [see last insert], [insert band name] seems to take [insert genre] to places [insert second band's name] is unwilling to, or unable to, hit with their live show.

At the end of the day, though [insert band name] might not one day be able to fill a venue as massive as The Cavern, their forays into [insert genre] are by all means progressive--you know what I mean, right? Critics, as well as fans, might not appreciate what [insert band name] is gunning for, but fuck it. At least the two people who post to this site, and the three people who comment to it under various and multiple user names will continue to pretend like [insert band name] has some serious potential to until [insert some unknown magazine] gives [insert band name] its due credit.

And if that never happens, you can pretend we never said this. And that's pretty easy to do when you realize that this site has no archive search utility.

But, even so, later, rather than sooner, you'll be asking yourself why you've still never heard of [insert band name]. At that point, we'll ignore your nonexistant "I told you so" remarks. Because there won't be any. Because the few who actually read this blog are too stone to remember who we wrote about anyway. ([insert "SR" or "DL"])

2:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Grammatical issues aside with the above post, I think I made my point.

2:42 AM  
Anonymous cult of personality said...

to stonedranger


what is my life like?

it's just like your life.

only, you're on one end of this html relationship, and i'm on the other.

2:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

12:40 makes a big effort at being a dumb fuck. I don't know what you consider "making it," but in the course of your pathetic life, you'll realize you were wrong and wasted time. Judging by that post, you absolutely do.

"Insert punk/grindcore/indie/electronica?"

Really?

So you mean like...most everything? That's what this site writes about? Most kinds of music? Can you name a local site that covers music better or a better variety? Sorry these writers didn't cover people selling out House of Blues, Palladium, and Nokia. Maybe that's what youre interested in.

3:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Grammatical issues aside, your post was still weak pointless and clever only to you.

8:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Grammatical issues aside, your post was still weak, pointless, and clever only to you."

I put some commas in there for you smart guy.

11:12 AM  
Anonymous Bob Seger said...

Let's talk about Mitch Ryder.

4:06 PM  

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