Deap Valley – Sistrionix

Deap Vally
Sistrionix
Island

Nevermind they met in crochet class. Guttural blues rock duo Deap Vally emotes anything but tender things warm and fuzzy. Envisage Janis Joplin backed by a White Stripes/Zeppelin hybrid, and you begin to scratch at the tip of the voracious musical hybrid that is Lindsey Troy and Julie Edwards. Hot off a stint at Coachella the L.A. natives continue to make molten splashes both here at home and abroad. Keeping busy all over Europe, Deap Vally shares stages with the likes of Mumford & Sons and Iggy Pop, hobnobs with Robert Plant and recently rocked out on the BBC’s ever-popular Later… with Jools Holland. Their debut full-length, Sistrionix, opens with “End of the World” pairing alarm-inducing guitar tones with a pulsating beat that gloriously won’t relent. With this kind of intro, you immediately know what you’re getting into: a distortion-fueled journey of angst, frustration and fuck-all attitude of two very strong and independent women. Fending off sexism with precipitous kickdrum beats and addictive guitar riff, “Gonna Make My Own Money” sees Troy frothing. “You say marry a rich man … Daddy, don’t you understand?/I’m gonna make my own money/Gonna buy my own land.” On the driving “Baby I Call Hell,” they demand with purpose and power: “If you wanna serve me/Show me you deserve me … No you don’t get this if you don’t treat me well.” This brand of no-nonsense lyrics abounds on this record, as do Edward’s red-hot drumming and Troy’s delightfully cathartic vocal purging. “If our mothers only knew the trouble that we get into,” Troy delights on “Bad for My Body.” If the music is any indication, we can’t even begin to imagine.

Originally published by L.A. RECORD

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House Shoes: “Let It Go” album review

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Illustration by Dominique Purdy

Though the new full-length release “Let It Go” from hip hop DJ/producer Michael “House Shoes” Buchanen is the first from the Detroit native, he is by no means new to the scene. An integral part of the Motown resurgence, he spent a decade, starting in 1994, as resident DJ of Motor City’s landmark St. Andrew’s Hall, and in 1997 released the much sought-after collection of rare remixes by the much revered late Jay Dee (J Dilla), titled “Unreleased.” He recently served as tour DJ with Mayer Hawthorne & the County and has moved more than 25,000 units of nearly 10 EP and remix albums under his name, but “Let It Go” marks his first album as executive producer. Set up as a concept album rather than piecemealed individual tracks, the gritty industrial feel of Detroit is omnipresent. Featuring guest emcees from both his hometown and L.A., the record starts off with the instrumental track “Empire/Get Down,” setting things off hard with its hypnotically swaying beat. On “Keep On,” Cali emcee Co$$ balances out the heavy with a fun neo-funk vibe, and “Sweet” switches it up again with Detroit’s Danny Brown destroying the mic with rough and tumble rhymes. The percussive-heavy “Last Breath” sees Virginia composer Noltz trading verses with L.A.’s Oh No and MED, and “Time” is a standout with a thick beat and slick verses from Detroit rapper Big Tone. While overall an intriguing album, things take a weird turn on “Goodfellas,” which uses great samples from the film to start off a dragging beat that doesn’t go anywhere. That said, the overall flow works in a delicate balance of Michigan grime and California sun.

– Linda A. Rapka

Originally published by L.A. RECORD

Dum Dum Girls: He Gets Me High (EP review)

Sweet and hard, like the candies that bear their name, Dum Dum Girls defy homological description. Cutesy goth? They own it. In their world, razor-fanged guitars prey upon bubbly pop in a battlefield of super-compressed beats, Robert Smith frolics hand in hand with Margo Guryan, and lollipops lick sugary people to death. And on the band’s new EP He Gets Me High, unabashed affinities for doo-wop and 60s sunshine pop collide with a devotion to British post-punk. The resulting concoction gets no frothier than on the final track, a supreme take on the Smiths’ “There is a Light That Never Goes Out.” Dee-Dee Penny flirts with irony as she slathers honey vocals all over Morrissey’s evocatively dark lyrics, making the words “To die by your side is such a heavenly way to die” disquietingly agreeable. The other three tracks, original compositions, nod to other influences. “Wrong Feels Right” smiles at Sub Pop label-mates the Vaselines, whose 1989 debut Dum-Dum reveals their place on the influence meter, right alongside Iggy Pop (remember “Dum Dum Boys”?). Add a booming kick drum and “Take Care of My Baby” would be right at home on a record by the Ronnettes, a band they often cover live. Richard Gottehrer, who helped pen “I Want Candy” and produced Blondie and the Go-Gos, returns as producer, but this time shares credits with the Raveonettes’ Sune Rose Wagner. Her penchant for pushing the limits of noise pop meshes with Gottehrer’s artful pop craft, making for a short but sweet EP, dreamy as it is ardent.

– Linda Rapka

Originally published by L.A. Record

Mothers of Gut: “Unking” – album review

As published by L.A. RECORD:

An LSD trip encompasses transitional states between mind and body. The same can be said of Unking, the new record from Riverside natives Mothers of Gut, with the effects of a smiley-faced unicorn tab.

Starting off nice and slow, the ten-minute opening title track confuses, meanders, chugging forward with slow blowing horns and unintelligible lyrics sung from another dimension. It’s really starting to come on, and you settle into the steady groove of “Stalemate”: with string contributions from Tes Elations’ Isaac Takeuchi and Big Whup’s Morgan Gee, its unwavering downtempo beat and crisp guitars convincingly complement Aaron Freeman’s inexplicably earnest vocals. Then there’s a babbling brook, chirping birds, a single set of footfalls rustling softly through a forest: soothing sounds comprise the entirety of “There is a Great Sadness to Your Wisdom,” and as those lonely footfalls become yours, you are aware of the sadness and grow a little uneasy, unsure of just how far along you are in this journey and what is yet to come.

Things gets darker when “Smoke the Master” brings back the alien voice from before but clearer, more sinister, uneasily laden with boingy synths and fuzzed-out flanged guitars. It’s all Pink Floyd Meddle now. With a long ebb of fuzzy noise and a sudden flow of quiet, “Wizard Tree” brings us to an appropriate end.

You arise from your peaceful resting place on the forest floor, brush the twigs and leaves from your hair and wander home wondering where your other shoe went, and is it Thursday or Saturday?

—Linda Rapka

Kenneth Pattengale: “SPEAK!” review

As published by LA Record:

If you subscribe to When You Awake’s RSS feed, you’ll want to get your hands on the new record from Kenneth Pattengale.  Equal parts folk, country & western, swamp music, and blues, Speak! marks the seventh full-length album from this prolific Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter in about as many years.  This time round, traces of Tom Waits, Bob Dylan and Ry Cooder waft amiably amongst Speak!’s songs of sinners, fools, vultures, and lost loves.

“Laredo” kicks things off with some breezy, country-hued twang.  It’s not hard to see how the track ended up featured in the independent film Peach Plum Pear, about a couple of road-weary travelers who end up stuck in the cornhusker state of Nebraska.  But the lazy pace doesn’t last—upbeat fiddling in “Rock & Roll ’Er” makes for a petticoat-swinging hoedown hit!  Borrowing heavily from Bob Dylan, “Big Time” features a provocative duet with renowned singer/songwriter and Grammy-winning producer Joe Henry, who’s long been one of Kenneth’s personal heroes.  The closing track, a sleepy cover of ’80s German outfit Alphaville’s “Forever Young,” is so far removed from the original synth-pop production, your New Wave friend with the keytar would hardly recognize it.

Pattengale has been handing out free copies of Speak! at his live shows all this month. If you missed your chance to get it from him personally, there’s always Santa.

– Linda Rapka