Disc Reviews

by Max Ink Staff Writers


Kicksville - The Singles Season 6

Kicksville - The Singles Season 6

Kicksville

Album title: The Singles Season 6
By Sal Serio
Posted: Dec 2015
Label: Dept. Of Records
(2334) Page Views

Kicksville: Madison’s very own avant-prog-weirdo-almost-too-smart-for-their-own-good musical collective. I personally appreciate the unabashed esoterica, but accept that it’s an acquired taste. Thankfully, this time the twisted tunes are balanced by selections nearly approaching accessibility. Nearly!

Immediately following “press play”, Beefheart-type vocalizations mix with suspense-movie-theme-soundtrack stylings. The following cut, “Nameless Jack”, features Andy Ewen’s singing filtered through a warbling effect, over a more bluesy-pop composition complimented by organ and harmonica. But then, on “Bread Knife Bill”, the Beefheart-isms return, tastefully intertwined with Randal Harrison’s violin. I had to wrestle with the impulse to call out, “The blimp! It’s the blimp, Frank, the blimp!”

Since Kicksville are purveyors of multi-media stage presentations, I also felt the desire to experience this CD in other ways besides hearing it. Not that I recommend covering the disc with warming oils and rubbing it all over your body or anything, but visuals were certainly present in this writer’s mind’s eye. Unusual visions, of course, although not altogether unpleasant.  Incidentally, on Kicksville’s bandcamp page you may enjoy artwork created especially for each track on this CD.

One moment that caught me off guard was a fairly straightforward version of the Toots Hibbert classic “Monkey Man”, although it was still “Kicksvilled-up” with a crazed Frisell-type guitar solo and ample liberties taken with the lyrics.

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Deerhunter - Fading Frontier

Deerhunter - Fading Frontier

Deerhunter

Album title: Fading Frontier
By John Noyd
Posted: Nov 2015
Label: 4AD
(1996) Page Views

Groggy crawls down sandpapered bogs, sniper-frightened runways and red-velvet nightmares, “Frontier,” smears scrawny gone-daddy yawns from late-night catcalls with deliberate mischief bewitched by coy scene-stealing chameleons. Secreting seedy graffiti from dauntingly exhaustive minds, the indie-pop stalkers’ seventh album scrawls motley topics on defrocked chalkboards as gruff clubs host ravaged cabaret in subterranean mania. Downing a woozy snoot of hotel-lobby blues with a twist of eclectic intellect, long-lost glam-rock astronauts, Deerhunter ride timid Minotaurs through imaginative labyrinths hosting low-rent rodeos where gritty sins wring fresh texts and novel options from trippy rhythms flipping romantic stanzas; cap-sized dreamboats afloat in frozen hopes and washed in cosmic curiosity. A case of devilish double-features, Deerhunter plays Madison’s Majestic Theater December 15th with Deerhunter’s Brandon Cox’s side-project Atlas Sound opening.

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Joanna Newsom - Divers

Joanna Newsom - Divers

Joanna Newsom

Album title: Divers
By John Noyd
Posted: Nov 2015
Label: Drag City
(1669) Page Views

An orchestral painter of thoughts, ideas and visions, Newsom’s harp-fueled allusions, Chaucer charm and roots-strewn chutzpah spin pixilated poetry over sea-side symphonies. Presenting chamber-folk ensembles inside harbor-town dives while medieval vaudevillians march across rainbow-combed heather, “Divers,” wisely migrates from historical pastorals to metaphorical fantasies conjuring fleeting suites inside sly two-sided lullabies. Five years since her last undertaking, the composer collaborated with several distinct arrangers for a fourth album graced with inquisitive richness and intricate consistency whose puzzle-box pleasantries rouse and rejoice; dainty, saintly cadence stirring tall tales from mythic elixirs bottled in deep thoughts and swimming in exquisite symmetries buried in quizzical bliss. A renaissance sorceress and shape-shifting traditionalist, Ms Newsom plays Madison’s Orpheum Theater December 18th with tentative sensualists Alela Diane and Ryan Francesconi.

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John Mayall - Find A Way To Care

John Mayall - Find A Way To Care

John Mayall

Album title: Find A Way To Care
By Sal Serio
Posted: Nov 2015
Label: Forty Below Records
(1683) Page Views

John Mayall has backed up some of the legendary originators of blues music, and had some of rock’s greatest guitarists back him up. Now, at just shy of 82 years of age, Mayall’s voice still sounds rich and emotive on ‘Find A Way To Care’, the blues man’s recent release, and third album by his current band of Greg Rzab, Rocky Athas, and Jay Davenport.

Each track on this new CD is labeled with the key it’s in, to facilitate jamming along with the band, which seems a reasonable expectation given the feel-good, lets-just-get-in-to-it nature of these twelve songs. The most sincere messages of the blues pour out of this music’s soulful essence… lost love, regret, poverty, unfulfilled desire… all delivered with uncompromised conviction and directed point blank straight in to the heart of the listener.

The current trio working with Mayall shine brightly, such as veteran Texas guitarist Rocky Athas’ scorching lead guitar breaks on “I Want All My Money Back” and “War We Wage”, tastefully complimented by the bandleader’s Hammond organ. Often, Mayall’s piano rhythms showcase a healthy dose of boogie-woogie and perhaps even a bit of Tex-Mex or Cajun flavor. Which, comes as no surprise, given his penchant for Native American and Southwestern culture, design, and fashion. In fact, John Mayall himself has begun to assume the character of the elder shaman of the blues. One who has the wisdom, mojo, magic, and keen vision in to the future of this most American of all musical art forms, the blues. Which is pretty wild for an Englishman!

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Various Artists - Jeffology - A Guitar Chronicle

Various Artists - Jeffology - A Guitar Chronicle

Various Artists

Album title: Jeffology - A Guitar Chronicle
By Sal Serio
Posted: Nov 2015
Label: Cleopatra Records
(1506) Page Views

Just out on the eclectic Cleopatra label is this diverse and inspirational tribute to guitar legend Jeff Beck. Appropriately enough, the players come from a wide cross-section of musical genres: pop, metal, reggae, blues, and funk; and the chosen selections are culled from a broad perspective of Beck’s long career. From as far back as The Yardbirds and Jeff Beck Group, through his inventive jazz fusion years, and on in to his current groundbreaking work.

There are several highlights that jump out here, but among my favorites are Def Leppard’s Phil Collen playing a tight and heartfelt rendition of the emotive instrumental “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers”. Collen’s band mate Vivian Campbell also dips in to the ‘Blow By Blow/Wired’ era catalog, with extended frenetic soloing on the stomp and romp of “Led Boots”.

The later-day Yardbirds single “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago”, performed by Mötley Crüe’s Mick Mars, is perhaps the heaviest track on this collection, with it’s feedbacky and sustained psychedelic guitar fuzz. Another exceptional Yardbirds cover is “Shapes Of Things” as interpreted by funky Native American guitarist Stevie Salas, featuring chunky wah-wah improvisation as a driving force to contend with.

Since Jeff Beck is such an innovative and unique artist, it is only fitting that this tribute runs the gamut as well. There’s a lot to learn in this lesson of “Jeffology”!

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Nik Turner - Space Fusion Odyssey

Nik Turner - Space Fusion Odyssey

Nik Turner

Album title: Space Fusion Odyssey
By Sal Serio
Posted: Nov 2015
Label: Cleopatra Records
(1683) Page Views

I just got a hold of the new all-instrumental record by ex-Hawkwind front-man Nik Turner, which is quite the space rock/jam/jazzy excursion into the outer realms, with the help of legendary musicians such as iconic drummer Billy Cobham, Doors’ guitarist Robby Krieger, Steve Hillage of Gong, and Soft Machine’s John Etheridge. Not quite finding the right words, yet still knowing how this music makes me “feel”, I consulted the Dictionary.

“Levitation [lev-i-tey-shuhn] noun. 1. The raising or rising of a body in air by supernatural means.” Yep, that definitely applies here.

“Ethereal [ih-theer-ee-uhl] adjective. 1. Light, airy, or tenuous: an ethereal world created through the poetic imagination. 2. Extremely delicate or refined: ethereal beauty. 3. Heavenly or celestial. 4. Of or relating to the upper regions of space.” For Pete’s sake, ‘ethereal’ ought to be Nik Turner’s middle name!

“Trippy [tripi] adjective 1. (informal) suggestive of or resembling the effect produced by a hallucinogenic drug.” By all means, this music is unquestionably ‘trippy’!

Last, but certainly not least. “Genius [jeen-yuhs] noun 1. An exceptional natural capacity of intellect, especially as shown in creative and original work in science, art, music, etc. 2. Natural ability or capacity; strong inclination. 3. Either of two mutually opposed spirits, one good and the other evil, supposed to attend a person throughout life.”

Nik Turner plays Shank Hall in Milwaukee, Wednesday, November 18.

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Various Artists - Mesmerized In Madison

Various Artists - Mesmerized In Madison

Various Artists

Album title: Mesmerized In Madison
By Sal Serio
Posted: Nov 2015
Label: Bright As Night
(2011) Page Views

Bright As Night Records have taken on a hell of an undertaking with this quite varied various artists compilation featuring some of the more “fringe” artists in the sprawling Madison, Wisconsin, music scene. This project resulted in a limited run of 100 CDs and 400 vinyl pressings. Since there’s just so much wild stuff on here, much of which almost totally defies conventional description, I decided to go track by track, giving a spontaneous one-to-two sentence spiel of what I felt listening to these compositions.

Side A: SAMANTHA GLASS – “A Traveler’s Price” – percolating transponder beams sent me to the dark side of Tuxedomoon. VANISHING KIDS – “Eyes Of Secrets” – intense film noir-type edgy swamp cabaret… contact David Lynch now! SARDONYX – “Mystic Sister” – a human sacrifice performed inside of a fire hydrant with the aid of a massive effects rack. ZEBRAS – “Books Of Gold” – angry and relentless tortured emotion within a riff-heavy context of brutality and lack of remorse. KLEPTIX – “Electrolysis 2” – like being shaved from head to toe by a living Swiss Army vibrator. THOSE POOR BASTARDS – “Getting Old” – nightmarish carnival themes meet polkaholic bed spins.

Side B: DIATI – “Mourning Dove” – cavernous sci-fi rock odyssey that blasts Tony Iommi’s cryogenically preserved human shell in to the 23rd century. PANTHER – “Diamond Bitch” – staccato machine gun spitfire tiger shark speed metal with a UK DIY punk attitude. DB PEDERSON – “Natural Poppa” – lounge crooning spun backwards while recovering from a near-fatal valium/bourbon overdose. AUSCULTATION – “Leaving” – soundtrack to a cross-country pursuit including dangling from a polar skyway car. RED MUSEUM – “Spellmask” – ‘Blade Runner’ credits slowly rolling by while an ever-increasing close-up pan of Sean Young’s eyes fill the screen. EMERALD DOUGLAS – “Hermes Returns From Egypt” – naked sorcerer dances around his castle turret enclave while ectoplasmic faces rise like vapors from his magik cauldron.

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Keep Shelly in Athens - Now, I’m Ready

Keep Shelly in Athens - Now, I’m Ready

Keep Shelly in Athens

Album title: Now, I’m Ready
By John Noyd
Posted: Oct 2015
Label: Friends of Friends
(1636) Page Views

Synth-pop snake-charmers’ subtly cuddly power anthems, “Ready,” plays a cat and mouse game between flaming impatience and icy anticipation, blowing soul-sister bubbles which float, skim and pop in glistening glitches, sultry flutter and subsonic rumble before transforming buoyant mermaid ballads swathed in crisp electric textures into peacock-rock for phosphorescent ballrooms. Anonymously accommodating, openly dangerous and playfully cool, KSiA’s heady bedroom funk jumps from black widow love-letters into heavenly orchestrated arias, the brazen bait of dubstep traps and chillwave raves; radio-active sci-fi disco wooing beautiful alien dancers with the glossy promise of endless nights filled with exotic thrills pouring heartache from champagne magnums as sensual temptations bob in silver goblets. The Greek duo play Madison’s The Frequency December 2nd with special guest Chicago electro-architect Different Sleep.

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Albert Hammond Jr. - Momentary Masters

Albert Hammond Jr. - Momentary Masters

Albert Hammond Jr.

Album title: Momentary Masters
By John Noyd
Posted: Oct 2015
Label: Vagrant Records
(1661) Page Views

Gritty, fidgety, spooked-out New Wave drizzled in Afropop toppings, shell-shocked indie-rock and fearless lyrics, “Masters,” crashes fashionable passions with tailored dares and debonair savoir faire. Furnished in burnished nervousness, Hammond’s third solo full-length cements suave cosmopolitan carnage, piecing breezy malfeasance to desperate concessions for a lean, focused work whose kinky syncopation lends propulsive muscle to defiant timing. As sharp, startled guitars dart between smarmy harmonies barking nimble incriminations for thrilling rush-hour mania; the compact album stays grounded in agile hooks, sizzling solos and hammered beats. Repurposing curt smirks from catwalk stalkers inside jittery clubhouse juries, the Strokes guitarist marshals edgy pledges from glib fibs, wrenching petulant redemption from ghoulish grooves. Hammond lands in Madison’s High Noon Saloon November 4th with the energetic rock-ensemble Walking Shapes

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Dan Kolesari - Waiting For You

Dan Kolesari - Waiting For You

Dan Kolesari

Album title: Waiting For You
By Donny Stopiak
Posted: Oct 2015
Label: Self Released
(1971) Page Views

The Summer of 2015 brought a flurry of local album releases, but one that stands out is from Milwaukee singer-songwriter Dan Kolesari, aptly titled Waiting For You. While Kolesari is no stranger to the Milwaukee music scene given his decade’s worth of gigs at various local piano bars, this is his first album of original material.

He covers the spectrum of styles on Waiting For You, from the piano melodies of Billy Joel on “Nothings Gonna Let You Down”, while “Rescue Me Please” conjures images of the pop sensibilities of Nick Lowe, The standout track is the fine blues tinged ode to his city of origin on “Milwaukee”.  Throughout the album, the listener can not only sense a strong influence of the classic singer-songwriters of the 1970s, but also a hint of New Orleans-esque flavor. The combination of Kolesari’s soulful vocals and heartfelt lyrics make this an outstanding inaugural debut.

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Sir No Sir - Scavenger

Sir No Sir - Scavenger

Sir No Sir

Album title: Scavenger
By Sal Serio
Posted: Oct 2015
Label: Crustacean Records
(1778) Page Views

Straight out of the gate, on the song “Manic”, drummer Tony Leskinen says “Let’s go!”, and it’s obvious that the Sir No Sir locomotive is in motion, and you either better get the hell off the tracks or get crushed under it’s heaviness. This is the ‘Scavenger’ express, devouring anything in it’s path, and leaving nothing but gleaming bones in it’s ravenous wake.

Of course, I’m referring to the brand new Crustacean Records release, and second CD by Madison power-trio Sir No Sir. Contained within are ten brutal yet melodic compositions that showcase the diversity of this formidable group. The melody is often evident by the numerous intricate bass guitar breaks courtesy of Jeramaya James, who is the driving force behind composing the music on much of this disc. I have to admit to being emphatically drawn to those bass parts, and the superb audio quality of these recordings really bring out the best of all worlds in regard to this wild listening safari. One is first pulled in to the overall aural experience, and then the subtleties such as James’ pulsating bass lines come to the surface.

I was/am a fan of the first Sir No Sir CD, but clearly this band has matured in the two years since that product’s emergence. The lyrics have taken on more cerebral topics, such as the Carl Sagan inspired “Pale Blue Dot”, and the songs show an increased sophistication in their structure and slammy-yet-catchy sensibility. Since both Leskinen and guitarist Nate Onsrud provide vocals, there are subtle but marked variations to the identity of the songs. Though, both men deliver their voice within the context of a guttural growl wrenched from deep in the depths of their bowels and souls.

I have a particular fondness for the cover photo of ‘Scavenger’, depicting the bared, encrusted fangs, and gruesome prickly tongue, of a pink and orange colored hyena! It’s the perfect depiction of the music contained within, which, did I mention, is frickin’ heavy? Like a blended mixture of hardcore punk, power rock, prog metal, and Norwegian polka. Wait! Just kidding about the polka!

My favorite tracks from ‘Scavenger’ include the title track, “Manic”, “Walking Backwards”, and “Switch Quick”. But what I’d really recommend is trying on this CD yourself. Run it up the flagpole and see if you salute it, like I do. And what better way than to check out the SNS ‘Scavenger’ CD Release Party at the Crystal Corner Bar in Madison, on Saturday, October 17? You can hear these tracks performed live with wild unabashed abandon, and take a copy of the ‘Scavenger’ home with you. But wait… there’s more! Also on this killer bill are the first ladies of Madison rock ‘n roll, Venus In Furs, who also have new product to support, their excellent and recently released 12” long-play ‘Just Try It On’, and the evening’s festivities will be capped off by local favorites Droids Attack, who always tow a serious rock and roll party along with them, and I can pretty much guarantee will be featuring new material in their set, since Droids are working on a new CD of their own. In the meantime though, you could complete the trifecta and also grab something from the Droids merch table’s offerings… the possibilities are endless! It’s a good time to be a rock fan in Madison, Wisconsin.

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Wicked Inquisition - Wicked Inquisition

Wicked Inquisition - Wicked Inquisition

Wicked Inquisition

Album title: Wicked Inquisition
By Sal Serio
Posted: Oct 2015
Label: Tridroid Records
(1697) Page Views

Four young warriors from the Minneapolis area have forged an aural battleaxe of heavy metal mysticism and named it Wicked Inquisition. Their self-titled debut long-play CD provides a reminder that rock music fares well on the edge of the precipice, steeped in danger and prophetic intrigue. Illustrating that metal does not necessarily benefit from thrasher speed and/or Malmsteen-style technique.

The Wicked Inquisition sonic perspective updates the ominous classic Birmingham [England] metal sound with melody and memorable refrains, perhaps in the style of Masters Of Reality, or Clutch. Comparisons ultimately fail though, since the overall listening experience here is unique, as bulldozer ramrod rhythms collide with meaty blood drenched riffage in a majestic celebration of heavy rock bravado. That said, obviously, this music will strike a [power] chord with fans of early Trouble, The Obsessed, ‘Paranoid’ era Sabbath, and ‘Sad Wings’ era Judas Priest.

The most amazing aspect of this group is how they’re achieved such a mature and worldly attitude in their songs and stage show, which on first blush seems to contradict their youthful ages. Considering their level of musicianship and sophisticated compositional skills, my greatest and most sincere wish is that they are in this for the long haul, because this is truly a band that shows immense promise.

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