ALBUM REVIEW: Guy Blakeslee “Ophelia Slowly”

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Whether performing with a trio or a quartet or semi-solo, whether in full psychedelic mode or reinterpreting the blues, Guy Blakeslee has a fantastic knack for making music that sounds haunted and doomed. June 10th marks the release of Ophelia Slowly, which, though not Blakeslee’s first solo release, is the first to come out under his real name instead of some permutation of the stage name Entrance. It hasn’t been long since Blakeslee released a record–The Entrance Band’s Face The Sun came out last November–and both that album and Ophelia Slowly chronicle a journey out of darkness and tumult, and into the proverbial light. Blakeslee has a history of substance abuse and was struggling to get clean when he wrote many of the songs on both these albums, so it’s natural that they would share a preoccupation with the material, but Blakeslee manages not to repeat himself at all with the release of Ophelia Slowly. Face The Sun was a rock album, heady and guitar-driven, with watery melody lines and psychedelic wah-wahing that trafficked in symbol and metaphor more than it did straightforward storytelling.

But on Ophelia Slowly, Blakeslee’s voice and lyrics become the focal point of the music. In the interest of holding the spotlight on the story line, Blakeslee keeps the music very simple, and many of the songs–“Smile On” and “Ophelia Brown,” notably–maintain a straight, sing-song-y structure that recalls elements of his early work, back when Entrance was a solo project and Blakeslee liked to reconfigure the blues and give it a psychedelic twist. However, despite the simple rhythms and emphasis on narrative, there’s little on Ophelia Slowly that’s musically reminiscent of the blues–the album’s foundation consists primarily of looped synth lines and an unassuming drum machine track.

Blakeslee has long been fascinated by states of trance. This album–which is, essentially, his version of an introspective, songwriter-y project–concocts swirling, circular guitar parts and a tightly rhyming vocal line that escalates, like a spiral staircase, as it moves from phrase to phrase. For Blakeslee, the music tells a story best once it’s in this hypnotic state. This concept is familiar turf–in the twenty years he’s been making music, Blakeslee has perfected the trick of creating a whirlpool inside a song–but Ophelia Slowly manages to maintain this churning, circular state for almost the full length of the album. That’s not a complaint. Actually, it’s impressive that the record’s repetition never wears out its welcome. “Told Myself” is a great example: with quiet, whining anguish, Blakeslee plays with the phrase “You were true and a liar too,” shifting meaning and replacing a word occasionally as he relentlessly repeats the lyric. “You were clean and a junkie too,” the song finally concludes, in the same stretched-out, high pitched melody, over a strummed acoustic guitar. They’ve got potential for melodrama, but in Blakeslee’s hands, the songs are beautifully ragged. As a collection, Ophelia Slowly is foreboding, not too optimistic, and full of compelling grit and fatigue.

You can check out “Kneel & Pray,” off Ophelia Slowly, below. The full album will be out June 10th.

AudioFemme’s Best of 2013

Best of 2013 Graphic

From elaborate roll-outs to surprise releases, 2013 was a banner year for comebacks, break-outs, break-ups, and overnight sensations.  The fact that the most oblique content could cause rampant controversy to reverberate through the blogosphere turned every song into a story and made every story seem epic.  At the heart of it all are the sounds that defined this particular calendar year, from electronic pop to punk rock  to hip-hop to hardcore and everything in between.

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][fusion_testimonial company=”AudioFemme Staff” author=”Top 50 Albums of 2013″ image=”http://www.audiofemme.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/01MBVmbv-300×298.jpg”]

After much debate, we’re proud of our little list and believe it represents releases that are among the best and most important of the year.  Here are our top 50 LPs in two parts: 50-26 // 25-1

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And check out our Top Albums of 2013 Playlist on Spotify.
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In a given year, thousands of records are released, many of them having upwards of ten tracks apiece.  So it’s actually physically impossible to hear them all, and can be downright daunting to wrangle them into some kind of intelligible countdown.  But we certainly have done our best, here cataloging the tunes we just couldn’t stop playing, and stuck fast in our heads when we finally managed to turn them off.

Here’s our Top Tracks of 2013 Playlist on Spotify.

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Staff Lists:

[/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][fusion_testimonial company=”Lindsey Rhoades” author=”RiotGrrl’s Influence in 2013″ image=”http://www.audiofemme.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/kimkathleen.jpg”]
Not only are we as a culture stepping up to finally examine sexism and exploitation and appropriation within the industry, there are more acts than ever completely unafraid to do their own thing – be it overtly political (see: Priests) or revolutionary in its emotional candidness (looking at you, Waxahatchee).
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[/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][fusion_testimonial company=”Carena Liptak” author=”Best Album Art” image=”http://www.audiofemme.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/sunbather.jpg”]
Let’s all just agree to agree that hip hop as a genre won the album cover contest this year, okay?
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[/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][fusion_testimonial company=”Rebecca Kunin” author=”2013’s Best Soundtracks” image=”http://www.audiofemme.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Soundtrack.jpg”]
Music has the ability to make or break a cinematic moment.  Would Jaws be as scary if it weren’t for the theme song? Or would we cry as hard when Leo Dicaprio sunk to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean if Celine Dion didn’t belt “My Heart Will Go On” every five minutes? Probably not.
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[/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][fusion_testimonial company=”Lindsey Rhoades” author=”2013: The Year in Music Controversies” image=”http://www.audiofemme.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/musicthoughts.jpg”]In the age of the ubiquitous think-piece, here’s another, and this time, it’s about think-pieces.  In 2013 what think-pieces mean is that no one is about to get away with anything.[/fusion_testimonial]

[/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][fusion_testimonial company=”Kelly Tunney” author=”Top 10 Unexplainable Kanye Moments” image=”http://www.audiofemme.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Kanye.jpg”]
Mr. West has built up quite a reputation for himself. His musical talent has remained impressive throughout his 6-album career (Yeezus easily made several of this year’s “best of” lists, including our own) but Kanye’s persona has been the subject of parody and scandal for a long time now. This year, though, held several moments of Kanye-crazy that stood out among the plethora of examples from his memorable past.
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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.
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Between the exciting festival rumors and anticipated album releases, 2014 is already shaping up to be a pretty amazing year (at least musically speaking).
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VIDEO OF THE WEEK 12/10: “No Needs”

entranceband2013A few weeks back The Entrance Band premiered its video for “Spider,” off Face The Sun, and we here at AudioFemme were awed and enchanted by its surreal intricacies and enigmatic, unsettling imagery. Then, yesterday, Entrance Band bassist and director of the”Spider” video, Paz Lenchantin, announced that she’ll be touring with Pixies this summer, and today, the band released its second video directed by Lenchantin, a collaboration between London fashion brand Sister Jane and photographer Amanda Charchian, for “No Needs,” also from Face The Sun. It’s been a good few months for The Entrance Band, and the new video is possibly even cooler than the “Spider” music video that came out early last month.

Dream imagery and an undertow of violence characterizes the beginning of the video. The silent, cinematic opening brings us to a dark thicket, sporadically lit by flashing floodlight, with lyrics from “No Needs” scratched across the screen–“Dear one, the time has come to face the sun…”

A psychedelic array of colors, painted on the faces and monotone dresses of a robot-faced parade of models, dominates the video’s aesthetic. It’s simple theme and variation, with colors that cross-hatch, kaleidoscope or blow into each other as the story line progresses. Like “Spider,” this video evokes a spooky strangeness emphasized by flashed lighting and sped-up frames. Images warp or refract, models arrange themselves and scatter. What we’ve come to recognize as Lenchantin’s signature blend of creepy and pretty is in operation here in full force, complete with a choreographed ring-around-the-rosie in front of a yellow UFO. With added insight from Charchian and Sister Jane, the images come barreling, frame after frame, in this video.

You can watch the music video for The Entrance Band’s “No Needs” below, and the entire Face The Sun album is available for purchase here!

No Needs from The Entrance Band on Vimeo.

ALBUM REVIEW: “Face The Sun”

Entrance-Band-1024x994The three members of The Entrance Band—frontman Guy Blakeslee, Paz Lenchantin on bass and drummer Derek James–have expressed displeasure with the stoner rock classification often used to describe their music, and indeed, the November 2013 LP Face The Sun is too tricky to fall into one just one category: channeling elements of psychedelic trance, trippy garage rock, the grungier end of metal and a touch of rockabilly, the new record melds various eras and evocations in service to the ideas it expresses. Themes run expansive on Face The Sun; lyrics like “Blood, sweat, sugar and spice, light and dark, fire and ice/shedding tears of sacrifice at the gates of paradise” set up the collection as an exploration of extremes and a journey from one end of the spectrum to another.

Face The Sun isn’t a straight shot from darkness to light, though, nor is it a story of transformation exactly. The music’s intensity focuses more closely on playing with the tensions between those extremes, with noodling vocal lines that shift from major to minor mode or float heroically over distorted, spellbinding instrumentals. If there’s a redemption story here, it’s an incomplete and messy one.

The reaper does come calling on this album, without a doubt. “Spider,” the best and most diabolically infectious track on Face The Sun, contains all the sunburnt misery and grim determination of Alice In Chains’ early nineties track, “Rooster.”  Frontloaded in “Medicine,” “Spider” and “The Crave” (tracks two, three and four), the rhyme-driven narrative focus creates an angst that’s catchy and extremely compelling. In “The Cave”, the line “When I’m in my grave, no more good times will I crave” quotes verbatim Elizabeth Cotten’s early twentieth-century standard “Freight Train.” The recollection, itself embroiled in hard times and an escape from darkness, tinges Entrance with weighty folk, recalling Blakeslee’s past lives as a hard rock and blues musician.

The end of the LP, like its beginnings with “Fine Flow”, conjures spacey, surreal ambiance. But whereas the first track opens urgently, the final song, “Night Cat,” evokes a sleepy moodiness. The band forgoes straight trajectory in favor of a non-linear album-long line that weaves between extremes of light and darkness, and the downside to this complexity comes when, at the end, “Night Cat” shows little progression beyond “Fine Flow,” and a marked decline in momentum. Both tracks trend psychedelic and repetitive, and both could stand to be much shorter. The meat of the album lies in the middle, where each track features a traversal of big themes and big evolution unto itself. The first and last track of the album feel redundant by comparison, bookending an already complete project with a beginning and ending.

Listen to “Fire Eyes,” off Face The Sun Here, via Soundcloud:

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TRACK REVIEW: “Spider”

Entrance Band and Growlers at Tropics 112One man band turned trio- The Entrance Band shows us a thing or two about mixing sexy with morbid love hopelessness…

Guy Blakeslee‘s voice is far from scared or submissive. However, The Entrance Band’s new single, “Spider”, proves otherwise. Blakelee seems to be captivated-unsure if willingly- by a Ms. Spider. “Use your silk, tie my hand…your wish is my command.” The song has many elements, but all comes together with an awesome riff, in a trippy-fantasy web. Alongside Paz Lenchantin and Derek James, this song delivers. There aren’t many bands that still have their MySpace up and with a post more current than three years old. I can see why this trio has a solid fan base. Their album Face The Sun (Beyond Beyond is Beyond) is scheduled to drop November 19th. In the meantime, check out “Spider”, and get entangled in its web, just like we have here at audiofemme.

Listen to “Spider” here via Soundcloud: