Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Toast - The Mad Science

The Mad Science

The Mad Science is the first full length studio album for progressive fusion band Toast. Hailing from El Paso, Toast relocated to Austin in an attempt to expand its fan base and venue prospects. Consisting of James Pate on vocals, guitar and samples, Vincenzo Loechel on vocals and drums, and Russell Dobda on vocals, keyboards, and saxophone, Toast is notable for live improvisational performances. Guest musicians on the album are John Brown on bass and mandolin, Leah Zeger on violin, Tony Alexander on tenor saxophone, and Lea Dobda on trumpet. Appropriately, Toast is very similar and evocative of Los Angeles based jam band Particle.

The album is an experimental journey encompassing a multitude of schizophrenic tempo changes, unbridled improvisations and themes including politics and philosophy. The first track entitled “Twilight Mischief,” is a hushed instrumental jam charged with Afro-beat rhythms and sporadic guitar riffs. The almost seven-minute track allows the listener’s brain to wander through a world of melodic jazz progressions and unsullied rhythm. The third track, “FroSho,” begins with former president George W. Bush stating that the economy is in the “midst of a major financial crisis.” A prevalent theme included on the track points blame on Wall Street for the financial collapse. Impetuous squalls of saxophone, busy percussion, whirling keyboards and vertiginous guitar digressions echo throughout this blame game of a track.

“The Dub,” embraces a world feel with its reggae influenced riffs and ambient guitar which dabbles and drifts into a funnel of drone effects. The track’s foundation is titular to the title of the song in that “dub” is a form of re-mixed reggae music. “The Joker” is a quick paced string ditty that differs from any other tracks on the album exemplifying the fact that Toast embraces a maniac diversity. The Mad Science is a conglomeration of rigorous talent, psychedelic euphoria and jam-tastic funk.

The album’s cover art is a myriad of layered guitars, flowers and trees atop of what appears to be surgeon dressed in a suit holding a martini glass or upside down Erlenmeyer flask. The light colors are almost translucent and create the layered effect. The foldout portion of leaflet includes the lyrics of several of the songs.

The Boxing Lesson-Wild Streaks and Windy Days

The Boxing Lesson
Wild Streaks and Windy Days

Wild Streaks and Windy Days is the first full-length album for Austin experimental rockers The Boxing Lesson. Initially formed in Los Angeles, the band’s frontman, Paul Waclawsky, relocated to Texas, where a new lineup assembled. The trio put out an EP entitled Songs in the Key of C in 2006. A lush psychedelic spaceship of rich synth and echoing guitar, the band consists of Waclawsky on vocals, guitars and triwave picogenerator, Jaylinn Davidson on synthesizers and vocals, and Jake Mitchell on drums and samples. After the completion and release of the album in 2008 Mitchell was sentenced to federal jail for conspiracy to manufacture marijuana. Kevin Sparks currently serves as touring drummer for the band.

The first track, entitled, “Dark Side of the Moog,” commences with a deep melodic guitar interlude that sets a tone of out-of-this world ambience and spiritualized psychedelia. Waclawsky’s vocal tone sounds almost forewarning or intuitive of something bad to come. He advises the listener to “face your fear before you turn out the light, come in darkness, kiss your kids goodnight.” Before the minute long experimental sound outro, Waclawsky wallows in ghostly vibrato vocal, that “on the dark side you can sell your sins, on the dark side you will never win.”

The album’s fourth track, “Hopscotch & Sodapop,” is an awkward, over-poppy, out of character, complete 180 from the other tracks on the album. Apart from that being the only track I’d skip, the only possibility is that Hanson and The Boxing Lesson were being produced with the same computer and the two band’s tracks made an accidental switcharoo. “Hanging with the Wrong Crowd,” begins with a quick drum cymbal tapping and integrates with 8-bit computer game samples before bursting into a heavy rock guitar riff accompanied by harsh accusations towards a “loose girl” hanging with the wrong crowd: “you get around, everyone knows you get around.”

Another track, “The Art of Pushing Me Away,” is a soft stratospheric spacey jam that exudes a melancholy theme of rejection. The concluding track, “Wild Streaks and Windy Days,” which also shares the same title as the album, encompasses a music box sound is reminiscent of something David Bowie performed in the movie Labyrinth.

Wild Streaks and Windy Days is a blissful album perfect as a chill at home companion.

AmpLive-March Murder Sampler 2009

March Murder Sampler 2009

Despite following the typical fashion of reviewing a local or Texas band, I received this cool four track CD sampler at a free SXSW party that the artist AmpLive was playing at. Impressed not only by his modesty and down to earth nature, I noticed that everyone in the room was dancing to his cool mashups and mix-ups. Better known for his Hip Hop project Zion I, the Bay Area DJ and producer has collaborated with Del the Funky Homosapian and remixed tracks by Radiohead and MGMT. The first track titled, “Gary is a Robot,” begins with 8-bit Nintendo beats accompanied by a robot voice declaring that “Gary is a Robot,” who’s got it all in the aspect of money, cars, girls, cloths, looks, and luck. The violin instrumentation at the end of the track sounds hauntingly like the theme of a Final Fantasy videogame. “Get Served,” features clever raps amidst over redundant beats and slow lean tempo “get, get, get served,” lyrics. The song features all sorts of samples and sound effects, which seems to offer a fresh angle every time you hear the song. Saturated with bullhorns and gunshots, “Lose Ya Head,” the sampler’s third track, is an upbeat dance version of a Zion I and Too Short track Amplive used in his remix of Radiohead’s “Nude.” The concluding track, “It’s On,” features female rapper K. Flay-a less street Americanized version of European rapper Lady Sovereign.

While the CD art is bland and came in a clear plastic, the twenty minute sampler is a fun album for rushed pre-gaming activities.

Future Clouds and Radar- Peoria

Future Clouds and Radar

Besides being the name of an Algonquin Indian tribe in the United States and largest city on the Illinois River, Peoria is the title of the Austin indie rockers Future Clouds and Radar’s sophomore album. The band is made of Robert Harrison on vocals and guitar, Darin Murphy on drums and vocals, Hollie Thomas on keys and vocals, Joshua Zarbo on bass and vocals, and Kullen Fuchs on trumpet, keys and vocals. The band formed in 2006.

The first track, entitled, “The Epcot View,” begins with a twangy guitar riff and transforms into a hypnotizing lure into the rest of the album. “Old Edmund Ruffin,” is a soft melody.

At the 54 second mark, the third track, “Feet on Grass,” —a whirlwind of instrumental “synthy” futuristic keys accompanied by upbeat drum beating — sounds like it should be on the Neverending Story soundtrack. “Eighteen Months,” is the album’s most upbeat track saturated with groovy go-go guitar and trumpet. More of a cheesy retro bar theme, Harrison repeats the lyrics “I spent eighteen months buried alive,” over and over throughout the song.

The concluding track, “Follow the Crane,” contains a romantic lounge element with its tap, tap, tap cymbal sounds, melodic drumming and cool jazz piano riffs. Midway through the track a mess of noise effects of sirens, sci-fi sounds, dog barking commences only to be silenced by Harrison’s vocals followed by a solo of eerie piano playing. The melancholy piano notes are accompanied by ghostly “ah ah ah ah” vocals at the posterior of the track. Truly a schizophrenic experimental mess of Oasis vocals, Beatles-esque ambience, and experimental Pink Floyd progressions, Peoria is a cool chill out album.

The album’s cover features three big stripes of an American flag with a large amp in the foreground and the band’s name in uneven lowercase font.