SHOW REVIEW: Brutus @ St. Vitus

On the one hand, it’s hard to imagine a better venue than Greenpoint mainstay St. Vitus for the stateside return of a band that integrates black metal, punk, and post-hardcore into their dizzying sound. But even if it seemed appropriate on paper, the stifling black box of  the venue was hardly enough to contain Belgian trio Brutus, whose towering sophomore effort Nest has easily placed them in the running for many a genre-spanning year-end list. Though the densely packed room and breakneck speed at which they played muffled some of the more dynamic qualities of their recorded output, there was no mistaking the explosive energy of drummer/vocalist Stefanie Mannaerts, guitarist Stijn Vanhoegaerden and bassist Peter Mulders. The force with which they played is practically begging for bigger rooms, better soundsystems, and longer sets allowed to linger beyond the neighborhood curfew.

Opening with atmospheric, disembodied synths, the band humbly took the stage and immediately launched in the slow-burning assault of opening Nest track “Fire.” Mannaerts’ drum kit was situated stage left, facing Mulders in the middle and Vanhoegaerden at house left; her mic was perched over her left shoulder, there to amplify her full-throated howls and yet somehow remain out of the way of her rapidly moving arms. She seemed to perform mostly from muscle memory, pounding out complicated blast beats and thrashing her cymbals as if her life depended on it. Her voice channeled “Human Behavior”-era Björk, the air pushing from her lungs in a raspy, desperate wail.

Vanhoegaerden was mostly stoic, focused on threading raw-nerved guitar through ominous bass and careening percussion; every so often, he’d wander toward Mannaerts’ kit, as if checking to make sure she wasn’t about to keel over from sheer exhaustion (incredibly, she showed little sign of fatigue). Mulders, meanwhile, hammed it up, throwing devil horns and sticking out his tongue after the band nailed more difficult stretches of music. It helped that he is comically tall – for those stuck in the bottleneck by St. Vitus’s soundboard, he was the only visible member of the band. The show was sold out, one of only a few U.S. dates the band had booked around their set at Austin’s Levitation showcase with Sargent House labelmates.

There wasn’t much banter between songs but Mannaerts in particular espoused her thanks at every opportunity – the band seemed truly blown away by the positive response to Nest, not just in the sold-out room, but the world over. After their Los Angeles show at The Echo, they posted a heartfelt message to fans on Facebook, saying, “When we started this band, we had no idea what it would bring for us. We had big dreams, and we thought we were ready. But we were not.” They went on to explain that Nest was written in the wake the initial success they experienced surrounding their debut LP Burst, “for our loved ones, left in the dark at home while we were on the road chasing this weird and unpredictable light.” It was certainly revelatory to bask it its glow, if only for a moment.

11/17 – Mexico City, MX @ Corona Capital
11/24 – Berlin, DE @ Festaal Kreuzberg
11/25 – Köln, DE @ Stollwerck
11/26 – Amsterdam, NL @ Melkweg
11/28 – Leeds, UK @ University Stylus
11/29 – London, UK @ Electric Ballroom
11/30 – Paris, FR @ Le TrianoN
12/03 – Milan, IT @ Alcatraz
12/04 – Ljubljana, SI @ Kino Siska
12/05 – Munich, DE @ Backstage
12/06 – Vienna, AU @ Arena
12/08 – Warsaw, PL @ Progresja
12/14 – Brussels, BE @ AB Brussels (SOLD OUT)

PREMIERE: Priestess Debuts Self-Titled EP

Photo by Noelle Duquette

Priestess is the haunting doom incarnation of Brooklyn-based songwriter Jackie Green. Green straddles worlds as divergent as day and night with a grace that understates her inimitable work ethic, playing music in what little spare time she has entering her second year of law school. Flanked by a new line-up of bandmates, she premieres her debut self-titled EP today on Audiofemme.

Raised upstate, Green had nearly fifteen years of classical violin training under her belt before she first picked up a guitar three years ago. She cut her teeth playing in a handful of Brooklyn bands, like Evil Daughter, while growing as a guitarist at home by writing her own songs. “I taught myself a lot about how to play guitar by writing songs that I couldn’t play yet and mastering them,” she explains. “The goal is always to be as good as Black Sabbath, but no one ever will be, including me!”

The EP articulates Green’s love of psychedelic rock and heavy metal well, though her take on these classic sounds is modern, nodding heavily towards contemporary doom metal. The looming riffs of opening instrumental track “L.V.B.” evoke the early King Woman EP Doubt, and the cadence of Green’s vocals throughout the EP, namely on lead single “Locomotive,” call to mind those of Pallbearer’s Brett Campbell.

Citing her extreme form of organization and time management, Green managed to get this EP written, recorded, and mastered while also putting together a new cast of bandmates and finishing her first year of law school. While on the surface it seems like she leads a double life, Green has come to the conclusion that she’s merely a multifaceted person. “I’ve almost kind of criticized myself, and I’ve sort of judged myself, like, you’re two-faced! Pick one! Like, who are you?” she says. “But I realized they’re really not so different, everything is still me – I like to work hard. I work hard at music, and I work hard at school, and I like to feel challenged and intellectually stimulated.”

Photo by Noelle Duquette

She says this with a marked humility that minimizes such an impressive achievement, to release music she wrote on an instrument she taught herself to play not all that long ago while completing arguably one of the most difficult academic tasks one can attempt. She believes one provides an escape for the other, between the cerebral and the physical realms – a refreshing take on the balance so many young creatives struggle to achieve in their lives. This form of intentional escape is evident in the EP itself, brimming as it is with the truth and freedom of an artist fully immersed in her present moment, a few hours stolen away from a packed schedule.

Priestess celebrates the EP with a release show this coming Monday, September 16 at The Broadway. Expect to hear tracks from the EP updated and evolved by new bandmates, as well as newer material. Green hopes to take it on the road while on break from school in January, and aims to be back in the studio recording a full-length this time next year. I have no doubt she’ll pull it off.

NEWS ROUNDUP: Northside Festival, Metal + Politics & More

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  • In Case You Haven’t Noticed, Northside Is Happening
    You may have already seen 20 amazing shows! Or you may be like me: someone who bought tickets to one event and won them for another, but went to neither because they managed to get deathly sick in June (thanks, universe). Before you head out this weekend, make sure you check out AudioFemme’s guide to the festival! We’re also hosting our very own showcase Saturday at noon at the Knitting Factory with our friends from Glamglare; hope to see you there!
  • Meet The Transgender Metal Musician Changing Politics
    Via Noisey: Danica Roem is many things: Transgender, a journalist, a musician in the metal band Cab Ride Home, and a groundbreaking candidate in Virginia politics. After gaining some notoriety by fighting anti-LGBTQ  policies in schools, Roem is running as a Democrat for Virginia’s House of Delegates, against an opponent that has a bathroom bill similar to North Carolina’s. Read the whole article here.
  • The Fall Announce 5-Night Run at Baby’s All Right this September
    Mark E Smith’s volatile personality and penchant for wild experimentation made Manchester punk act The Fall both legendary and influential. With their 32nd album, New Facts Emerge, slated for release and in July and a scheduled date at Cropped Out Festival in Louisville, Kentucky, The Fall have blessed Brooklyn with a five-night run of shows at Baby’s All Right. These, along with the festival set, will be the band’s first stateside concerts in over a decade. Most shows are sold out, but you can still get tickets for Wednesday, 9/13.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

ALBUM REVIEW: Planning For Burial “Below The House”

Below The House is the latest offering of musician Thom Wasluck, who has been recording and performing as Planning For Burial since 2005. Romantic and devastating all at once, the record is about nostalgia and the pain of loss – a prime example of how an artist can meddle with various genres to add emotional nuance to their sound. Wasluck seamlessly intertwines thundering doom riffs with lyrical elements of post-hardcore. The arresting force of doom adds weight to the romance of the record’s emo-tinged lyrics, so that it feels painfully realistic and all too familiar, without feeling dramatic. It reminds us that it hurts to ruminate in the past, because oftentimes our fallible memories make it so we can only remember the good.

The nostalgia of this record becomes apparent the second you look at the album art; the coziness of the snowy houses juxtaposed with the cold greyness of the winter sky, like you’re on the outside looking in. The first track, “Whiskey & Wine,” opens with a heavy doom riff, before Wasluck screams, “It’s true, I couldn’t keep my hands off of you.” Couldn’t, past tense; the introduction of a “you,” the counterpart of the failed relationship. Wasluck layers twinkly bell percussion over the brutality of the riffs to illustrate the unbearable weight of remembering. This remains consistent throughout the record, drifting into the next track so faintly you can hardly tell the song changed.

Wasluck captures every emotional element of missing someone. There’s rage: “Somewhere In The Evening” layers screaming over slow somber chanting, like despair feeding into anxiety, the mind racing with the unanswerable questions. There’s wistfulness: “Warmth of You” is perhaps where the record’s post-hardcore influences become the most apparent, at times reminiscent of A To B Life-era mewithoutYou.

The record is intermediated by “(Something)” and “Past Lives,” two mid-album ambient instrumentals that emphasize the monotonous way time slows down when you desperately want something you can’t have.

There’s tarnished hope and the lack of acceptance: on “Dull Knife Pt. II” Wasluck softly cries, over and over, “Call me back home.” Beginning to end, it a snapshot of pain and regret. The lyrics are drenched in infatuation and codependency, our human tendency to remember all the things you miss about past relationships but forget the ways they didn’t work.

Overall, this is a beautiful album, owed largely to the realness of its sentiment. Our memories can make the past seem romantic, but rumination only lends to the pain. Wasluck understands that sadness isn’t as beautiful as music can make it seem.

Stream Below the House via Planning For Burial’s bandcamp:

LIVE REVIEW: Plague Bubonika @ Trash Bar

Plague Bubonika

Meet Plague Bubonika. They play thrash-psych-surf-rock, so basically the auditory form of eating sand as a wave tosses your body-surfing ass: oh fuck I think I might die but this is really fun. Fitting for their sound, I was introduced to them in a rad turn of cosmic events, a Twitter friendship and micro family reunion at Williamsburg’s Trash Bar – a perfect night for the memory shelves as the music venue is slated to close due to raising rent price. The show caught you off guard in that sense where you had to hold your breathe as you felt something important was happening. Strings popped off a guitar, the boys conjured a new one from the arms of the sweaty audience and continued playing with a mere brush off the shoulder. Plague Bubonika is Tony, Dreamy, Atilla Hunk and Zacky Boy coming live from Wilmington, DE. As if it wasn’t a rockin’ special time already, they dedicated a song to yours truly, which I must shamelessly brag about and request you listen to below.

The take away from this post is that nepotism is fine with the talent and originality to back it up, and journalists are attention seeking narcissists who can absolutely be won over. Oh yeah, and get sick on Plague Bubonika without losing eye contact – I see big things ahead.

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With a name inspired by a Kafka story, it makes sense The Harrow would be well-spoken. Yet even with the bar set high the mysterious Brooklyn coldwave/post-punk band impressed with their bewitchingly intelligent interview. The Harrow is Vanessa Irena (vocals, synth, programming), Frank Deserto (bass, synth, machines), Barrett Hiatt (synth, programming) and Greg Fasolino (guitar). They are currently working on an upcoming LP that we’re already gnawing to hear. I spoke with our Artist of the Month about gothic art, nerdy influences, and selectivity of gigs.

AudioFemme: How did you guys meet and form a band?

Barrett: We all seemed to have traveled in the same circles for some years, and it seemed like it was only a matter of time for this band to come to fruition. Frank and I became close friends during our previous band, and we had shared stages with Greg’s previous band as well. Vanessa and Frank met through their respective DJ gigs, and the timing just felt right. Frank had some demos kicking around, I jumped in and we started fleshing things out. We then invited Greg to add his signature sound, and Vanessa was the perfect last piece to the puzzle.

AF: Who do you look up to as musical inspirations?

Frank: As far as sound is concerned, bands like Cindytalk, And Also the Trees, Breathless, Cranes, For Against, and of course, The Cure and Cocteau Twins are hugely inspirational, as well as most of the players in the French coldwave and early 4AD movement. Belgian new beat and ’90s electronica have been influences that I’m not quite sure have fully manifested yet, but are definitely something I’d love to explore further in the coming years.

Greg: For me, the 4AD sonic universe is definitely a place we all intersect and Cocteau Twins are the ultimate touchstone. As a musician, I am particularly influenced by classic ’80s post-punk bands like The Chameleons, Comsat Angels, Banshees, Bunnymen, Sad Lovers & Giants, and The Sound, as well as ’90s genres like shoegaze (Slowdive, Pale Saints, MBV), trip-hop (Massive Attack, Portishead), and alt-rock (Smashing Pumpkins, Suede, Radiohead, Jeff Buckley). Lately I am very inspired by a lot of modern neo-shoegaze bands, who seem to be carrying the torch for dreamy, effects-heavy music now that much of the post-punk revival has dissipated, as well as more atmospheric metal stuff like Agalloch and Deftones/Crosses and creative, hard-to-categorize bands like HTRK and Braids.

B: I’m not sure if I can get through an interview without mentioning Trent Reznor, but he has always inspired me, through his recording methods as well as his choice of collaboration, and just his general attitude towards music. Of course: David Bowie, Chris Corner, Depeche Mode, Massive Attack, The Cure. I do have a tendency to lean on bands from the ’80s.

Vanessa: I’m a huge fan of Karin Dreijer Andersson (Fever Ray, The Knife) and Elizabeth Bernholz (Gazelle Twin). These days I’m mostly listening to techno and textural stuff (Ancient Methods, Klara Lewis, Vatican Shadow, Function, Profligate, OAKE, Adam X, Mondkopf, etc.).

AF: What about other artists: poets, painters, writers – who else has influenced your sound?

F: Literary influences are as important to me as musical influences. There’s the obvious surrealist and nightmarish nods to Kafka, but other authors such as Isak Dinesen, Robert Aickman, Albert Camus, Charles Baudelaire, and William Blake have inspired the lyrics I’ve written for the band, some more directly than others. As for art, the same applies; Francis Bacon seems almost too obvious to mention, but his work is incredibly moving. Francisco De Goya as well. I’m also drawn heavily to bleak, medieval religious art, usually depicting the crueler aspects of Christianity. Perhaps a bit cliché as far as gothic influences are concerned, but lots of imagery to draw upon.

B: David Lynch, John Carpenter, Jim Jarmusch, Anton Corbijn, just to name a few. These guys paint wonderful pictures through film, and I always find it very inspiring.

V: Frank and I have pretty similar tastes in art, so I definitely agree with him on the above, but I think it’s worth mentioning that we’re also all a bunch of huge fucking nerds. I’m not ashamed to admit that lyrical inspiration for me can come just as easily from The Wheel of Time or an episode of Star Trek: TNG as it does from Artaud.

AF: What do you credit to be your muse?

F: My bandmates.

G: Posterity.

V: My shitty life/Being a woman.

B: Dreaming.

AF: Blogs love labels, but how would you describe your music?

F: I don’t ever attest to reinventing the wheel. We all draw from different influences and I mostly consider our sound to be a blend of shoegaze/dream pop, 4AD, and early ’80s post-punk vibes. We generally err on the dreamier side but have no qualms with getting aggressive if the mood calls for it. At this point in the game, creating a new sound is out of the question, but our varied tastes and interests have led to some cross-pollination of genres that hopefully proves to be interesting amidst dozens of modern bands operating in a similar medium.

B: I’m still trying to get a little saxophone in there.

AF: Will you speak to the darker element of your style?

F: Operating in this medium is less of a conscious choice for me than it is a catharsis. Therapy in a sense – a method of expressing otherwise unpleasant thoughts and feelings to make something creative, rather than letting my shadow side consume me.

B: Darkness is way more interesting. And real.

AF: If you could collaborate with any artist, who would it be?

F: At this point, the idea of collaborating with someone famous is an overwhelming thought. Sorry for the cop out, but I can say that we’re looking forward to some collaborations from some of our peers, both original and in remix form. More on this as it develops!

B: Sorry Frank, but I’m going with Pee-Wee Herman.

AF: Will you tell me about your current LP you’re working on?

F: We spent the majority of 2014 hunkering down and working on the record. We recorded Silhouettes in piecemeal form over the course of the year, layering synths and guitars and drums as they fell into place. The record is currently in the can and is being mixed as we speak by the uber-talented Xavier Paradis, and will hopefully see release this fall via aufnahme + wiedergabe.

AF: How does it differentiate from previous work?

F: The new record is incredibly diverse – there are ambient segues, the occasional industrial/hip-hop hybrids, and plenty of other eclectic sounds to go around. There are more complex rhythms that are the result of Vanessa and Barrett’s superior drum programming talents, for starters. We also took turns writing lyrics this time around, with Barrett, Vanessa, and I all contributing. It’s truly The Harrow as it’s meant to be – a band hitting their stride as a full working unit with equal love and collaboration driving us.

AF: Can we expect any live shows for you in the future?

B: While we enjoy playing live from time to time, it isn’t the primary focus of the band. We are at points in our lives where making the music is more important and rewarding in and of itself than performing it on stage. Our goal with the band leans much more toward the creative side. When we do play though, we want to make sure it is an event, and something to look forward to, not just the typical four random bands on a Tuesday night thing.

Watch The Harrow’s music video for “AXIS” below.

PLAYLIST: A Spooky Scary Halloween Playlist

So you’re throwing your annual Halloween party but you shot your wad on all the holiday classics ( the Monster Mash, the Time Warpthe Purple People Eater, etc, etc) on last year’s mix. So you’re going as Will Smith circa “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and you’re looking for something seasonal to blast from the boom box slung over your shoulder. So you’re psyching yourself up to wear your Sexy Einstein costume complete with the 3-inch hair (go for it, Miss/Mister Thang!!). So you’re hosting a seance and you need some tunes to help you commune with the spirit.

WE GOT YOU. Behold AudioFemme’s spookiest, scariest, most rockin’ and rollin’ Halloween playlist, guaranteed to thrill, chill, and catch the eye of that babealicious witch doctor in the apartment down the hall. Onward!!


1. Walk Like A Zombie – HorrorPops

This Danish psychobilly act shares its guitarist Kim Nekroman with the thrashier but stylistically related Nekromantix, for which Nekroman plays a recognizable coffin-shaped bass. HorrorPops formed in the late 90s, when Nekroman met Patricia Day at a music festival in Germany. Day now fronts the group, which draws aspects of ska, rockabilly, and punk that both she and Nekroman found lacking in their other projects. The two eventually married, and fittingly, “Walk Like A Zombie” is doo-woppy and more than a little romantic. Perfect for that un-dead high school prom you’re DJing. Just make sure to keep the glassy look of death in your eyes.


2. Chainsaw Gutsfuck – Mayhem

Off the seminal Norweigian black metal album Deathcrush, released in 1987, “Chainsaw Gutsfuck” won the prestigious title of having the Blender award for “Most Gruesome Lyrics Ever” in 2006. Fifteen years beforehand, it was inspiring black metal bands in Scandinavia and beyond to delve deeper into lyrical bleakness, to glorify extremity in violence and misery, and to distort their music into the grainiest, harshest possible sounds. “Chainsaw Gutsfuck” is one of the doomier songs on a very doomy album, with lyrics that sexualize death and corporeal decay. But, if you can handle the black metal sludge, it’s totally catchy, too. Want to dress the part? Christ, you could go as any of Mayhem’s members or black metal contemporaries and stand a solid chance at being the scariest monster at the party. The group’s most recognizable figure is perhaps Euronymous, its founder and guitarist, who held some nasty political views and achieved infamy when, upon discovering the body of his band’s singer Dead after the latter committed suicide, allegedly made necklaces out of his skull fragments and possibly (though it’s unlikely) cannibalized him by stirring flecks of his brain into a stew. Euronymous himself was murdered by another bandmate, Varg Vikernes, the following year. Halloween is the time to be tasteless, so wear corpsepaint, long hair, black and leather.


3. I Put A Spell On You – Nina Simone

Originally performed by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Nina Simone’s “I Put A Spell On You” is seething, brooding and betrayed, like she’s looking into a crystal ball to discover a lover’s duplicitous carryings-on. Especially towards the end of her career, Simone had a reputation for fire and fury on stage, too. A life in the music business left her weary and long-embattled, bitter alike to the people who loved and exploited her. Released decades before her death, “I Put A Spell On You” foreshadows the betrayal she seemed to come to see in the people around her. But, no matter her demons, Simone’s genius is present here–as everywhere–glowing like an ember, dying down when it’s still, and firing up again in a slight breeze, even after you think it’s gone out.


4. Tainted Love – Gloria Jones

And speaking of women scorned, “Tainted Love” is practically an anthem for love gone frighteningly awry. Gloria Jones recorded “Tainted Love,” which later became an electronic single for the band Soft Cell, in 1964. The original fell somewhere short of Motown, akin to demonic bubble gum pop that had been steeped in the sultry blues. Five years after recording “Tainted Love,” Jones began singing backup for the British rock band T. Rex and met her future husband, Marc Bolan. It was Jones who was driving the car when, one night in September of 1977, Bolan died in a car accident. Jones–who nearly faced charges for impaired driving after drinking wine on the night of the accident–lost the couple’s house and moved back to L.A. “Tainted Love” remains her longest-lasting hit, with covers aplenty and appearances in current film and TV soundtracks.


5.  Somebody’s Watching Me – Rockwell (featuring Michael Jackson)

It’s not just those Jackson hee-hees in the chorus that bring to mind the campy spook of “Thriller.” This track is pop-culture paranoid, stocked with references to television and the everyday horrors of being spied on. “Somebody’s Watching Me” dropped in 1984, and its theme of a dystopian state, in which even “normal people” fall under invisible scrutiny, feels ever more prescient today in light of Internet freedom issues and heightened technological development. Plus, “Someone’s Watching Me” has a spooky synth line that sounds like it’s played on a xylophone made of a cartoon rib cage!


6. Walkin’ Through A Cemetery – Claudine Clark

Claudine Clark, whose early single “Party Lights” proved her only song to score high on the charts, experimented with the spooky side of pop in “Walking Through A Cemetery.” Hindsight’s 20/20, but I’m not surprised that after “Party Lights”–which is about trying to convince your mom to let you go to a party–“Walking Through A Cemetery” flatlined. The lyrics took a serious turn in the for-whom-the-bell-tolls direction, after all: “If you’re walking through a cemetery one dark night/ Up jumps a creature and he gives you a fright/ Ain’t no use to turn around and walk the other way/ ‘Cause if he’s for you, baby, he’s gonna get you anyway.” Geez. Pretty serious stuff, for someone whose most popular work to date dealt with the injustice of not being allowed to do the twist, the fish, the watusi, and the mashed potatoes. But no one said Halloween was all fun and games. We’re all destined for the grave, but in this danceable number, Clark sings om bop bop, om bop bop sha doo dee doo dee all the way there.


7. Spooky – Dusty Springfield

Dusty Springfield’s gender-switched cover of the classic “Spooky,” a song that tells the story of a “spooky little girl” who compels and mystifies, and, like a ghost, only seems to show up when no one else is around, is further “spookified” by Springfield’s sly and porcelain-pretty vocals. The performance is ghostly–the woman herself was more complex. Springfield–a lesbian performing at a time when gayness was professional suicide–made a second career of cloaking her identity. The flip side of the doll-like vocals was a person who raged, drank too much, had a problem with pills. And its restraint makes Springfield’s spooky all the eerier.


8. The Whistler – The White Buffalo

Singer/songwriter Jake Smith is a big man, with a big, big voice. Nowhere more so than on “The Whistler,” off the 2013 album Shadows, Greys and Evil Ways. His stage name is apt, and like a large herd animal, Smith’s performances are often remarkable for the gentle giant-ishness. When he roars, though, the earth quakes. “The Whistler” marks the interior battle of a man who knows what the right thing is but chooses its opposite, and revels in his own destruction. The scariest demon of all is the demon inside, kids!


9. God Alone – Altar of Plagues

Out of a host of powerful metal records to come out of 2013, Teethed Glory and Injury–from Altar of Plagues, AKA Irish musician James Kelly–stands out as one of the most precocious and innovative within a genre wreathed with tradition and homage to be paid. “God Alone” stands out as the record’s most violent track, but that violence is achieved through skill and technical manipulation, not blunt force. The rhythms tilt and hang off-kilter; the beats deploy sudden, booming jolts that make you jump out of your seat.

10. Little Fang -Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks

I wouldn’t call “Little Fang”–or the group behind it–scary, but damned if Welcome To The Slasher House, this year’s debut release from Slasher Flicks, isn’t Halloween-ishly kitschy. The group plays shrouded in  a backdrop of glowing skulls, leering in neon green, and plays on dissonance and surreal lyrics. “Little Fang” is less Fright Night, more sticky fingers and sugar rush.

And there you have ’em, folks. Consider this list your musical Trick Or Treat offerings from your friendly neighborhood Femmes. Don’t egg our house, please, but do tell us what we missed! What are your favorite Halloween tunes? Let us know in the comments below!

TRACK REVIEW DOUBLE FEATURE: New Singles from Ty Segall’s Label

Ty Segall God? Records

Ty Segall‘s GOD? Records imprint, on Drag City, is only a little over a year old, but Segall has chased a visceral, DIY aesthetic since the imprint’s very first release. To that end, Segall is bringing out two new 7″s from noise rockers Running and the tech-heavy, growling metal outfit Zath. Stylistically, the two groups have chaos in common–whether zany or doomed, Zath and Running test the limits of listenability with heavy distortion and production thick enough to wade through.

“Totally Fired,” the B side to Running’s Frizzled, opens with a slew of reeling guitar riffs, reveling in the sheer pleasure of making a whole lot of noise. The rest of the track is half blissed out with punk rock naiveté, half sci-fi and surreal. Even though the song’s backdrop tells an old story–a dingy basement show and a sea of moshing blue mohawks, beer cans crushed underfoot–there’s a drone to the guitar work  that occasionally cuts into the forefront with a sound like a space laser.

Zath’s “Black Goat Razor” is more old school, but not a whit less freaky. This is technical, guitar-led, metal, beefed up by growling vocals that seek to dominate–sometimes literally. “Do what you’re told,” the most audible line hisses, the words backed by a rapid and gunshot-crisp drum line. There isn’t anything particularly innovative about this single, but that doesn’t bother me a bit. Remember how Behemoth released The Satanist early this year and even though it didn’t really break new ground for the band, it still ruled so hard your ears started bleeding halfway through? Exactly. Sometimes heavy metal just needs to be heavy. “Black Goat Razor” will land on you with such force that you’ll feel oppressed, in all the right ways.

You can check out both new tracks in the Soundcloud links below. Go here to purchase Frizzled, and here for Black Goat Razor. 

LIVE REVIEW: Banshee Bones @ Bar Sinister

Banshee Bones

Banshee Bones

When I met the Banshee Bones crew my interest was immediately sparked. They looked like 1970s rock stars that had joined a funky motorcycle gang, freshly beamed from a time machine into 2014. So when they invited me to their gig at Bar Sinister I couldn’t refuse, even though I had never heard their music.

I was excited and a little nervous for the show, especially since the locale seemed to be part music venue and part fetish bar. Needless to say I was glad I wore black. The stage was set up on the back patio, already drawing a peculiar crowd of apathetic Goths, old-fashioned punk rockers and possible witch doctors. Banshee Bones’ lead singer Eugene Rice wore a bright white pantsuit (bell bottoms included), in stark contrast with the black clothing and creative makeup of the band’s fans. A fountain of candles glimmered near the red-lit stage, reflected off of the disco ball hanging over the band. It was Banshee Bones second time at Bar Sinister and the cheering of the crowd proved that they were happy to have the band back.

In addition to Rice, Banshee Bones consists of his brother Ryan on drums, Salem Romo on bass and Joe Perez on guitar. The Rice brothers hail from Vermont, and met Joe at Hollywood’s Musicians Institute when Joe complimented Ryan’s Aerosmith tee. Joe, originally from Indiana, began jamming with the pair, and their search for the last member began. As if by an act of fate, Ryan sat next to Salem at a free mastering clinic. They started talking about music, specifically Salem’s interest in playing bass, then ended up going their separate ways, but throughout the next month Ryan continuously bumped into Salem, who’d spent most of his life in the L.A. scene. Eventually, Ryan’s bandmates encouraged him to invite Salem to join the group for a jam session; his playing rounded out the overall sound and the band was at last complete.

Over the last three years Banshee Bones have toured throughout the West in a Coachmen trailer, further proof they came (almost literally) out of a time machine. They’ve also released Life & Limb, a self-produced EP, and their debut album Birds of Prey, with no plans to stop touring or recording. At their shows, they often wear Venetian style “plague doctor” masks, half black and half white, to represent the dualities in personal identity. They believe that every person can choose good or evil but they must know what lies underneath their mask to discover their true nature.

As midnight rolled around the ensemble took the stage. Banshee Bones’ ever-shifting sound and energetic set kept the attention of the audience piqued. Eugene’s serious pipes gave the performance an air of pure rock opera with some metal-style screams mixed in. They moved seamlessly from head-banging rock with haunting undertones to grimy, almost punkish abandon. Billing themselves as “experimental heavy rock,” the band’s style is at times a bit hard to pin down. A more descriptive phrase from their Twitter bio that reads “Rock and Roll married your dark progressive side” goes a little further in accurately assessing their whole vibe. In the grand tradition of hard rock performers, almost all of the band’s members had stripped to just their pants by the middle of the set, but none could seem to truly keep their cool – when their hair wasn’t covering their faces the wide smiles they all wore were obvious to the crowd.

Banshee Bones a scheduled to play a handful of dates in local Los Angeles clubs over the next month. The video below is a few years old but still gives a sense of their showmanship, though you’ll want to catch them live for the full effect; you can keep tabs on Banshee Bones via Facebook.


YEAR END LIST: Notes From The Road – Top 5 Musical Destinations of 2013

I took several road trips this year. At the beginning of 2013, adventure felt overdue—something about going to new places, with no routine or expectations, opens you up to hear music you’d never think to listen to otherwise. Below are the five biggest, best surprises from the road—hopefully, you’ll feel inspired to go looking for some adventure of your own.

5. Layla’s Bluegrass Inn—Nashville: This september I went to Nashville, TN for the first time in my life. Walking down Broadway felt like the scene in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy lands in Oz and suddenly everything is in technicolor. Oh my God, I thought. Everything was lit up with neon! Everyone was wearing cowboy gear and drinking before noon! Every bar sold cheeseburgers! Wafting out of every single venue was the bass line of a country song so infectious that, had I heard it while walking down the street in New York City, I would have dropped whatever I was on my way to doing to go watch whomever was playing it.

Layla’s is a fashionably divey and slightly over-touristed honky tonk, brimming with down-home vibes and energy, and with a band to match: The Jones were on stage, fronted by the energetic and angular Memiss Jones, who looked too small for her upright bass but slapped its wood uproariously on the downbeat anyway. They played originals and covers with equal skill, always trending towards rowdier interpretations of Southern spirituals like “I’ll Fly Away.” They captivated the crowd: a band of what looked to be retirees on a country tour began square dancing on the floor, and behind the table where I was sitting, a misty-eyed cowboy nipped stoically at his drink, lips trembling during ballads.

Memiss Jones plays at Layla’s every Thursday, from “11:30 AM ta 2:00 PM” according to her website. I bought The Jones’ CD,and predictably, it wasn’t as irresistible as the live show had been. Honky tonk music works best in the rough, playful realm of spontaneity, and Memiss Jones worked the stage with an energy that could never be duplicated on recording.

4. Willie’s Locally Known—Lexington: There are better bars in Lexington, Kentucky. Really, there are. This one is located in kind of a strip mall parking lot area, with a dust-caked neon lit-up sign floating in the window and terrible food and bikers who play Bruce Springsteen on the jukebox. One night, wedged amidst “Born In The USA,” in the back room where they keep the football fans trolling for a quiet place to watch games, a bunch of banjos and mandolins lay piled on top of the pool table.

The state of Kentucky, in general, is not hurting for live musicians, but here they seemed to happen almost by accident, coming out of the woodwork without ceremony or audience. Six or seven men sat in a circle and unassumingly began to play. The word hootenanny came to mind. Dating back to the Civil War, when a hootenanny referred to a “meeting of the minds” between strategists. Hootenannies differ from shows in that they’re played for the process—for that complicated, invisible knot that ties people playing improvised music together—more than for the product: a show to entertain an audience. Though the venue also functions as a performance space, that evening did not involve a stage, only a collection of people sitting in chairs. Banjos dominated the impromptu stage plot, with about four for every two mandolins, plus a fiddle and a guitar. The very rough-edgedness of the performance contributed to its special magic, as if music could, under the right conditions, spring fully-formed from the beer-sticky dingy surfaces of a dive downtown, listless in the boredom of a Wednesday night.


3. Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival—Oak Hill: Set at the top of a hill of one of the most gorgeous sections of New York’s already gorgeous Hudson Valley, Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival has been an annual institution since 1976. The atmosphere of the event feels like homecoming—all the performers seem to be friends with each other, and with festival producer Mary Tyler Doub.

While not much of a road trip from New York City—the festival takes place about a two hour drive north of Manhattan—the difference in scenery couldn’t be vaster, with the Catskills looming in the background and cowboy hats rampant in the crowd. Old and young bluegrass fans turned out in equal measure, and to that end, the spectrum of the acts varied widely from traditional bluegrass bands like the Travelin’ McCourys to newer and more hybridized roots outfits. One of these, I Draw Slow, hailed from Ireland and brought a very light Celtic touch to their style, which mostly focused on expressive storytelling without compromising catchiness. Another, a cellist from California by the name of Rushad Eggleston, adopted a stage persona that originated from the made-up planet of Snee, and performed a blend of metal, bluegrass, classical, and frankly unclassifiable cello music. These two bands, while still relatively unknown compared to many of Grey Fox’s acts that weekend, garnered a lot of attention and sizable crowds for each of their performances throughout the duration of the festival.

Though Grey Fox has long represented a kind of home, a family reunion—and this was true for me, too; I used to live in the Hudson Valley—this year, the memorable acts were the ones that no one had heard of before, and who didn’t stick within the grooves of pure bluegrass. While still in keeping with the spirit endemic to the festival, they expanded and improvised on it, providing reassurance to the concertgoers, it seemed to me, that the bluegrass genre is not yet finished evolving.


2. Maryland Deathfest XI—Baltimore: Baltimore, MD, burial site and sometimes-home of Edgar Allan Poe, held up the Poe-ish legacy of the grotesque and absurd, of sublime revelation as discovered through darkness and extremes, with the eleventh iteration of the festival billed as “America’s most extreme annual metal party.” Highlights included acts like Sacred Reich, Sleep, Pentagram and black metal founding fathers Venom. Before their set even began, an audience that stretched backward from the stage about the equivalent of three full New York City blocks had appeared, packed tightly together onto the lawns, streets and parking lots that had been sectioned off as concert grounds for the outdoor festival.

Equally compelling were the concert-goers themselves, who descended upon Baltimore on Memorial Day weekend. On Sunday, the last day of the festival, downtown residents had cleared out, and the run down office buildings, streets and parks served as a veritable playground for metalheads. As I walked around the city, everyone I passed looked terrifying: clad in black and leather, heavy metal t shirts and metal chains, the festival goers seemingly changed Baltimore’s topography altogether. Just before heading into the festival, I saw a rare non-concert-goer—a homeless man, nearly disfiguringly withered and old, with a shopping cart in front of him and long hair that had coagulated into a single massive dreadlock—do a fantastically scandalized double take as an extremely tall and thin man walked by dressed in head to toe leather, combat boots, and extensive facial tattoos.

Venom appeared hulkingly on stage, with shoulders and thighs so huge that they often couldn’t  dance or thrash, and instead just stood still and made menacing faces. Although the theatricality of metal shows has grown tamer since the nineties, the aesthetic of the performance was impressive: strobe lights pulsed, a yawning, doom-heralding bass line shook the framework of the stage, and a deep bass came over the loudspeakers: Ladies and gentlemen, from the depths of hell…VENOM!

Venom spit abuse at the front row and demanded a bigger mosh pit, reverberating—I’m sure—into the rest of Baltimore. One weekend every year, the city turns into Metal Central, so inescapably that walking around downtown feels like being in an episode of The Twilight Zone. The world abruptly became colored in a spectrum of things that were not metal to things that were very, very metal (24 hour Wendy’s, metal; getting lost on the way to the 24 hour Wendy’s, not metal.) Cars booming on the overpass above the road where I parked my car were nothing more than heavy doom bass writ small, and, for about a day, all other rock and roll sounded wimpy—and as if it were playing from about fifty miles away—by comparison.


1. Happy Home Old Regular Baptist Church—Amburgey

Lined-out hymnody, a style of church singing once prevalent in seventeenth-century British churches, gradually lost favor in religious communities once psalm books and greater general literacy became the norm. This a capella style of call-and-response singing, in which a group leader would sing one line which would then be slowly repeated by the rest of the congregation. The singing, which resembles shapenote or Sacred Harp songs, sounds ragged and ploddingly slow, as the singers were often unfamiliar with the tune and the words of the song they sang. But the often-dissonant vocal chorus created a particular kind of singing which today is more or less unique to the rural churches of Appalachia, including, notably, the Old Regular Baptist churches of eastern Kentucky.

I went to one such church this fall, in a small out-of-the-way building about an hour from the Virginia border. The Old Regular Baptists don’t allow music in church, nor do they encourage music in the secular lives of their members. This belief essentially stems from the thought that God cannot be worshipped by man’s hands, and that a pretension to beauty, or godliness, with the aid of a musical instrument disrespects God. I’m not religious, and I told the pastor of Happy Home as much before the service started, but I was interested in the music. It would be just fine for me to come to the service, he assured me. The Old Regulars are a small community, growing ever smaller, and their shrinking singing tradition represents a part of life in the mountains of Appalachia that may soon disappear.

Singing starts every Sunday at nine. Before the service, those who arrive early to church begin a song, usually led by a preacher, and others join in as they enter the church, shaking hands with everyone—and I do mean everyone—already gathered in the building. In good weather, the preacher throws open the windows of the church, casting the sound of the slow, swelling hymns up the mountains and echoing into the small towns of the valleys. Even the preaching in the church had a rhythmic, incantation-like quality to it, as sung as it was spoken, and marked with cadences and crescendos that felt downright bluesy.

Many people living in the area—religious and not—grew up with the sounds of these songs, so particular and evocative that they have a meaning to anyone who hears them. People often say the lined-out singing style sounds mournful. Most of the people who sing it disagree, instead thinking of the style as a joyful expression of praise.


FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Cross-Genre Covers

Glastonbury Festival 2008

In 2005, Ben Folds recorded an indie-rock cover of Dr. Dre’s 1992 gangsta rap song “Bitches Ain’t Shit.” Although the recording was a half-joke, Folds’ introspective take on the gruff, expletive-riddled track was such a massive success that he eventually got tired of playing the song and retired it from his set list, ceremonially performing “Bitches”‘s swan song at Glastonbury Festival in 2008. Interestingly enough, that very same year, Jay Z had originally been turned away by the festival–Glastonbury, its representatives claimed, focused on guitar-based music, and didn’t include hip hop acts in their line up–but wound up performing due to overwhelming demand. Unaccustomed to have festivals turn him down, the rapper retaliated. He began his set with a farcical Oasis cover, holding an electric guitar in his hands, fumbling chords, and butchering the lyrics to “Wonderwall.” When the song was finished, he looked out into the audience with a spectacular poker face. Glastonbury’s booking agents may have felt Jay Z was the wrong performer for the festival; his audience disagreed. An oceanically huge crowd went nuts at the end of the “Oasis” spoof, and screamed even louder as he launched into “99 Problems.”

All of which gets me to thinking about cross-genre covers. Both Glastonbury songs–a hip hop song played as a rock song, and a rock song played as a hip hop song–garnered a massive and positive response and poked fun–to varying extent–at the genre they emulated. They were novelties; that is, when the songs changed genre, they assumed bizarre new meaning, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, and sometimes just for the more hilarious. Without further ado, here are five more bizarre cross-genre covers of songs you’ve heard before, and now may never hear the same way again.

1. “99 Problems” by Hugo: An artist who is himself a cross-genre mash-up of sorts, Hugo Chakrabongse Levy is a half-Thai, half-British bluegrass musician who covered Jay Z’s classic song on his 2011 debut album Old Tyme Religion. Hugo’s vocals on this song sound live, with a very slight Memphis-style slapback-like sound to them, and are accompanied by a strong bass line and knee-slapping percussion and banjo. It works, channeling a slightly more sinister aspect of the song as opposed to Jay Z’s liberated, powerful original.


2. “My Humps” by Alanis Morissette: This song is simply bizarre. The original is bizarre, and the cover is bizarre in an entirely different way. Sorrowful and pretty, closely backed by a piano, Morissette’s clear and unironic enunciation of the lyrics in Black Eyed Peas’ 2005 release makes the song hilarious, even though the vocals and piano melody are quite lovely.


3. “Enter Sandman” by Iron Horse: Here’s my theory as to why bluegrass covers both metal and hip hop so well: though they’re all very different genres instrumentally, all three lend themselves to minor mode and dark thematic matter. Since 2001, Iron Horse has released eleven whole albums full of tribute material, several of which covered Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, and, as here, Metallica.


4.  “Believe” by Dollar Store: As much as I love Cher, “Believe” is not my favorite–all I got out of the 1998 original was that someone in the studio was really excited about using a vocoder that day. What the track really needed was some loud-ass slide guitar. No, seriously: really unabashed, powerhouse country is the genre that “Believe” should have been recorded in all along. It just matches the song so well. There, I said it.


5. “Ghetto Supastar (That Is What You Are)” by Pras featuring Maya & Ol’ Dirty Bastard: Released in 1998, this hip hip cover of Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers’ “Islands In The Stream” replaced the duo’s close-harmony pop verses with rap lyrics and kept the chorus similar to the original rendition. As it happens, though, this song is kind of a super-cover, because although Parton and Rogers recorded the song in 1983 and have since been considered its performers, “Islands” was originally written by the Bee Gees, and was named after an Ernest Hemingway novel by the same name.