Disc Reviews

by Max Ink Staff Writers


Half-handed Cloud - Gathered Out of Thin Air

Half-handed Cloud - Gathered Out of Thin Air

Half-handed Cloud

Album title: Gathered Out of Thin Air
By John Noyd
Posted: Nov 2019
Label: Asthmatic Kitty
(398) Page Views

Sixty newly-mastered, non-LP singles from the band’s second decade, including compositions commissioned for a London printmaking event that had cloud-master John Ringhofer leading group sing-a-longs from a giant spinning plywood record player, “Thin Air,” disburse harmonic mirth with invigorating play, inventing colorful exemptions to overturn conventions while willfully lobbing lyrical hobgoblins. There are songs written to benefit breast cancer research and songs wrestling with 16th century exploration, Christmas songs and songs intended as devotionals for walking.  Logic defied and imaginations indulged, Half-Handed Cloud lives life singing through every moment as the mundane is blessed in wonder, his observational conversations slipping between insistent whimsy and gleeful upheaval; twisted pixie fictions dipped in dizzying divinity, delivered with wind-up toy melodies spouting doubtful mouthfuls and uttering supple mumbles.

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{review_band_full} - Gathered Out of Thin Air

{review_band_full} - Gathered Out of Thin Air

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Album title: Gathered Out of Thin Air
By {review_writers_name}
Posted: Nov 2019
Label: {review_record_label}
(413) Page Views

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Vagabon - Vagabon

Vagabon - Vagabon

Vagabon

Album title: Vagabon
By John Noyd
Posted: Oct 2019
Label: Nonesuch
(285) Page Views

A wonderful step forward in musical emancipation, the self in Vagabon’s self-titled release sounds refreshed and confident. Redefining her indie roots, the Cameroon singer-songwriter happenstance wanders throughout the album in pursuit of vibrant ideas and new settings for recurring questions. Flushed in hushed colors, “Vagabon,” spawns exhilarating tranquility and congenial critiques; an uncaged song-bird sweetening smart beats and carving lusty harmonies from Afro-pop perches basking under soul-folk skies, tweaking close-cropped philosophy dusted in day-glo R&B. Strong, sauntering melodies coalesce into dreamy getaways as tribal choirs and soft, translucent electronics spill over hip bass and quivering rhythms while important words and casual phrases turn serious moments intimate and vital. Do not miss Vagabon opening up for the exquisite Angel Olsen November 13th at Madison’s The Sylvee.

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Abram Shook - The Neon Machine

Abram Shook - The Neon Machine

Abram Shook

Album title: The Neon Machine
By John Noyd
Posted: Sep 2019
Label: Western Vinyl
(695) Page Views

Between catwalk catechism swimming in champagne confessions and mystical mathematics bringing sizzling calisthenics into slinky, mincing funk, Shook’s direct yet slippery dance-floor metaphors exert flirtatious glam-rock struts over carnivorous mischief lit in glow-stick falsettos and velvet grinds that is both savage in its slap-downs and pretty in its delivery. Dosed with flipped synth-pop squiggles and buzzing rock-guitar rebuttals, “The Neon Machine,” pushes all the right buttons, heating apocalyptic fevers inside midnight jive greasing double-dare teases with electric menace for super-pumped satin-sheet seductions. Barely breaking a sweat, the non-stop onslaught breaks down and holds back only to rise again as the album’s cat and mouse playhouse keeps the smarmy, party moving, cruising and begging for more. Catch the Texas wonder Oct 16th at Milwaukee’s Cactus Club.

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The Police - “Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out”

The Police - “Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out”

The Police

Album title: “Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out”
By Michael Sherer
Posted: Sep 2019
Label:
(535) Page Views

Stewart Copeland, drummer and founding member of The Police, bought a Super 8 film camera in 1978. Then 26, The Police, formed only a year earlier in London England, were beginning to gain real momentum, having been signed to A & M Records and releasing their debut record “Outlandos d’Amour” in 1978. It was while on tour for this release that Copeland began filming extensively with his new camera. This continued throughout their career, which ended in 1986 with The Police being one of the biggest groups in the world, if not the biggest.

This documentary type DVD film was initially released in 2006, a year before The Police reformed for a very successful 2007 - 2008 tour, marking their 30th anniversary of formation. In the summer of this year 2019, it was released in Blue Ray.

Made entirely by Copeland, it consists of the footage (with audio) he filmed, still photos taken by photographers, with a continual narration/story line provided by Copeland. It’s essentially a running commentary filled with insightful and thoughtful musings of a paradox and scenario all hugely successful groups/solo artists face: How does one deal with being so intensely in the public eye whilst being in your own bubble year after year while churning out a new record and then tour over and over and over again? Copeland alludes to how it became increasingly isolating and difficult to endure certain aspects of it, with the initial “all for one one for all” spirit becoming increasingly more about Sting, their front man, singer/bassist and chief songwriter, presenting the band with essentially finished songs with little or no room for the others’ input as they used to have. On the other hand, Copeland notes that it was, of course, nice to travel in much comfort and not in a cramped van as they started with.

It was a family affair with The Police, with Copland’s older brothers, Miles and Ian, as their manager and booking agent, respectively. We see plenty of them in action, within the very decent footage of the band performing throughout the world, all the members talking and their activities, the dizzying fan outcry, scenery of their extensive travels, them in the studio and a lot of funny horsing around between the three band mates. This last part became less and less as the demands of being in an increasingly big time juggernaut sapped their energy and time.

The footage and film ends in 1984, with them literally and metaphorically handcuffed to a railing at a hotel in France while on tour for their most last and most successful record “Synchronicity.”  (It that had their huge and biggest hit by far “Every Breathe You Take.”) Although cuffed as a goof and play on their band name, it was poignantly symbolic for being trapped by their own major success in many respects.

An alternative title for this fun, introspective, personal and footage rich documentary could be “Copeland coping.” A must see for any Police fan. Go to eagle-rock.com for it and many more.

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Vibrationland - Private Bits

Vibrationland - Private Bits

Vibrationland

Album title: Private Bits
By John Noyd
Posted: Jan 2019
Label: self-release
(2702) Page Views

Despair flares and restless questions pester as woozy blues slip through psychedelic grooves to cruise into stereoscopic honky-tonk stained in uncurbed reverb and slightly toasted overdrive, Vibrationland’s latest rubber-band rock concoction oozes in organic banter well-versed in preposterous philosophies; roots-rocked fantasies blazed in fuzz-phased delays and merry prankster strangeness, grandstanding anthems born from narcoleptic revelations embracing zany mental-vacation getaways lined in fearless hall-of-mirror launch-pads and plush, carpeted landing-strips. A psychotic collection of conventional instruments melted into fun, unconventional arrangements, “Private,” ranges from opulent to ominous, hosting tympanis and banjos, harpsichords and brass, for monumental love-matches between eerie and cheery, spiked in riled off-course spirals and dizzy indie mysteries. Assembling unparalleled carousels of dreamy cohesiveness and informal non-conformity, Vibrationland leads brave, persuasive parades down exploratory detours.

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Cold Black River - Tales Of Death And The Devil

Cold Black River - Tales Of Death And The Devil

Cold Black River

Album title: Tales Of Death And The Devil
By Sal Serio
Posted: Nov 2018
Label: Cold Black River
(6001) Page Views

Today we discuss the 3rd album from Madison’s resident purveyors of doom metal, Cold Black River. In a nutshell, the formula remains the same but the songcraft continues to improve. Generally speaking, “doom” compositions have a tendency to bog down with plodding riffs that take forever to reward with thrills and audience payoff, kind of like a porno that never reaches the climax. Fortunately this CBR release includes all the money shots in the final edit, which is to say thank goodness there truly IS a happy ending here!

A rock trio is like the opposite of a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. It’s only got three components. Four, if you count the vocals. Every one of the ingredients has to be of the highest quality, and all have to pull their own weight. Most importantly, each one must compliment each other and complete the big picture. I feel like CBR understands that, and with each successive visit to the studio they’ve executed a more impressive “painting”.

I’d like to see this progression continue on to the next CBR project. Since the doom genre can be so predictable and formulaic, I think this group can continue to set themselves apart from the pack with this trend toward increased creativity in their song structure, proving there really is room for “artistic vision” within the context of hard rock music.

Recommended tracks: “Keep Rollin’”, “Among The Stars”, “Anywhere Ya Wanna”.

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Rocket Paloma - Mother Mountain

Rocket Paloma - Mother Mountain

Rocket Paloma

Album title: Mother Mountain
By John Noyd
Posted: Sep 2018
Label: Rocket Paloma
(6477) Page Views

Compatible collaborations rattle well-staged rampages raising unrestrained purple haze alongside brawling blues-rock blazes and crazy red-hot moxie; breaking through the clouds, “Mother Mountain,” conquers in slinky kicks and roaring riffs. Rolling around in run-away swamp-pomp, incendiary rockabilly and wild-heart honky-tonk, the Milwaukee quartet flourishes in action-packed patchwork, peppering buzz-saw indie-rock collages with gypsy-kissed folk while coaxing toasty teases from lusty bell-bottom ballads tricked out in whammy bars and wah-wah pedals. Fronting frontier jangle inside spider-web solos, Rocket Paloma’s meandering melodies, walking bass and hip-swinging rhythms swim in box-canyon avalanches of extended send-offs, climatic sass and rousing, empowered crowd-pleasers. A rouge rock ‘n roll rodeo greased in raucous talk and smokin’ woke adventures, “Mother,” snakes its way shedding sinful skins with playful hints and sizzling mischief.

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Pink Fairies - Resident Reptiles

Pink Fairies - Resident Reptiles

Pink Fairies

Album title: Resident Reptiles
By Sal Serio
Posted: Aug 2018
Label: Purple Pyramid
(6361) Page Views

Pink Fairies, the English proto-punk psychedelic biker-rock band, formed in 1970. Paul Rudolph was the founding guitarist/vocalist and subsequent line-ups included members of The Pretty Things, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Hawkwind, and The Move. Reunions of various personnel occurred throughout the 2000s and 2010s, but now the Pink Fairies are back with an all-star band consisting of Rudolph, ex-Hawkwind bassist Alan Davey, and original Motörhead drummer Lucas Fox!

The electroshock energy of this collaboration pops a white-hot spark out of the speakers from the very first power-chord and the intensity continues to build as these 8 songs progress. This trio communicates their gritty intent like a familiar group of old hooligans that have a strong desire to take care of unfinished business.

The bottom line is that if you gravitate toward the heavy pre-punk UK bands of the early-to-mid 1970s, and wish there was a 2018 release with the same reckless and relentless attitude – straight out of the garage and the pubs and smack full-frontal in to your face - then this is exactly what you’ve been waiting for. Vinyl LP aficionados will be pleased to note the presence of pink vinyl pressings, as well as the CD and digital-file formats.

Recommended tracks: “Mirage”, “Lone Wolf”, “Whipping Boy”, “Monkey Chatter”

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Stimuli - They Are We

Stimuli - They Are We

Stimuli

Album title: They Are We
By Sal Serio
Posted: Aug 2018
Label: Stimuli Music
(6518) Page Views

Stimuli is an appropriate name for these new Bay-area hard rockers, because this music covers so many emotions, textures, and cultural styles. These are compelling sounds, it inspires and it rocks, and also offers pause for contemplation.

‘They Are We’ is the debut release by this trio, and if you hear a Native American influence, it is no accident. Band leaders Jimmy Tomahawk and Tai Hake spice up their heavy electrified sound with traditional Native American flute and acoustic guitar, along with less traditional Theremin, synthesizers, and sitar. The end result is a pulsating intense groove not unlike the best of the more intelligent 90s-era hard rock bands, if they were also infused with a significant indigenous cultural connection.

At the end of the day it’s Tomahawk’s voice and guitar that really drives these songs, and without question there is some radio friendly material here. I only hope these guys keep their chins up,  stick out the rigors of the road, and keep plugging away at self promotion. If they can secure the right support and backing Stimuli could eventually be the next big thing.

Recommended tracks: “The New Dream”, “Sandstorm”, “Fire In Disguise”, and “Pill For The Pill”.

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Brittany Shane - Brittany Shane

Brittany Shane - Brittany Shane

Brittany Shane

Album title: Brittany Shane
By John Noyd
Posted: Aug 2018
Label: Painted Lady Records
(6595) Page Views

Supported by an able-bodied posse of seasoned players, steady, centered Baraboo native and Austin transplant Brittany Shane keeps a level-head, if just this side of a second wind, on her crackling new mini-album. A pleasant collection upon first listen and a rewarding restorative after many more, Brittany’s brave-face grace and double-down directness connects the half-dozen tracks into a rich song-cycle orbiting love’s push and pull. A singer-songwriter, dancer and Mom; all parts of Shane’s personality come together in this self-titled work with poise, discipline and affection apparent in every line. A beacon projecting calm resolve and soft-spoken strength, Shane’s patience reins in the crashing guitars, restless rhythms and runaway twang to make her sixth album a testament to taming wild hearts and reaping life’s treasures.

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Martin Turner - The Beauty Of Chaos: Live At The Citadel

Martin Turner - The Beauty Of Chaos: Live At The Citadel

Martin Turner

Album title: The Beauty Of Chaos: Live At The Citadel
By Sal Serio
Posted: Jun 2018
Label: Cherry Red / Dirty Dog Discs
(5913) Page Views

Classic rock fans undoubtedly know the name Martin Turner as a founding member of Wishbone Ash, and Turner certainly doesn’t deny his role in that band’s seminal 1970s catalog. In fact, Turner’s current release, the 2-CD / DVD live set ‘The Beauty Of Chaos’ is a brilliant document of Turner’s band performing their most recent studio album ‘Written In The Stars’ in it’s entirety, along with a heap of supplemental material, all culled from the Wishbone Ash initial decade, 1970-1980 (which Turner joking refers to as “old hippie music”).

It should not be understated how excellent the vocal harmonies are in this live concert, with Turner’s lead being supplemented by guitarist Danny Willson (ex-Showaddywaddy) and drummer Tim Brown. This quartet is extremely competent, especially evident in the sinewy guitar interplay between Willson and Misha Nikolic. The tone of the guitars is like fine crystal, pure and pristine, with Turner’s melodic bass parts acting at times like a third guitar in the extended instrumental passages. Historians may be interested that Turner’s white Gibson Thunderbird bass guitar was purchased from the late musician Pete Overend Watts of Mott The Hoople fame.

The featured new material is quite enjoyable contemporary-sounding hard rock, however the rubber really hits the road when the performance travels in to Wishbone Ash territory, as the quiet intro portion of “The Pilgrim” segues in to polyrhythmic prog rock of the highest degree. The DVD, which includes the entire concert as well as band interview, is highlighted by inventive multi-camera videography and spectacular surround sound audio.

Recommended tracks: “The Beauty Of Chaos”, “Written In The Stars”, “The Pilgrim”, “The King Will Come”, “Sometime World”, “F.U.B.B.”, “You See Red”, and “Doctor”.

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