Posts Tagged ‘Rock’

Lockets

Sweet Sounds

By Michael Aronovitz

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I have always been a metal-rock guy, as I came to age in the 70’s and always made assessments based on guitar speed and drum tricks. It was a neighborhood hero sort of a deal, where the kid in his garage or basement could sound like the big boys if he got a flying V, plugged into a Marshall, and practiced his scales until he was slick as Skynyrd and his best friend’s kit made thunder like Bonham. From a listening standpoint, it wasn’t about the way the music made us “feel,” but more about making tile. You saw people go down in the forge and practice their asses off so they could play someone’s keg party and be a rocker for the night. It was a blast…a grass-roots spectacle based on manual labor and sweat.

But I also liked the sweet stuff, and I’m not just talking about Gary Wright and Leo Sayer. Queen started out seeming a bit girly and inconsequential, but wound up making the most diverse album in history with A Night at the Opera. Foreigner had pretty backing vocals, but rocked the living shit out of us with “Hot Blooded” and “Long Long Way From Home.” Boston would seem sugary by today’s standards, but no one can deny the crunch and sustain Tom Scholz manufactured with his axe, and even though Kiss helped start metal with Sabbath and the Coop, they did, after all, have a mega-hit with “Beth.”

A lot of popular music gets translated through street poets and rock gods, showboats and master technicians, but another crucial part of the equation is the soul of the listener. Some fans open their hearts by raising their fists and banging their heads, studying the scales and analyzing the breaks, but others want the music to simply consume them. To paint pictures. To make them feel.

I had the opportunity recently to get to know one of the founders of a synth-pop band from Philadelphia called Lockets. His name is Todd Mendelsohn, and he was a student of mine in a continuing education fiction class I teach at The University of the Arts. Todd is a big presence, outgoing, gregarious, and his fiction is bold, atmospheric fantasy horror. When he told me that he had a synth-pop band in which he played all the instruments and programmed the drums, partnering with a female singer (Dani Mari, who by 2015 was replaced by Melissa Ricca, yet to record) I was rather surprised. It didn’t seem to fit. Todd was the life of the party, the guy everyone wanted to sit next to at the bar, the one who told stories in a booming voice that held us spellbound, and the idea that he was the soft-spoken master-magician behind some kind of docile mood music seemed hysterical.

Still, I listened to the Camera Shy album and the Surrender EP, and was astounded, not only by the depth of the production and the breadth of the instrumentation, but also the way it affected me through emotional channels I wasn’t used to acknowledging. I tied to rebel. I tried to analyze the rhythm tracks, the guitar layering, the vocals, the breaks. And while the execution of all of the above would be appreciated on anybody’s stat sheet, the music finally didn’t filter in that way.

It painted pictures. Beautiful ones.

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When I listened to Camera Shy, I was initially reminded of The Cranberries, but that faded by the 3rd track titled “Violet.” The counterpoint of the building guitar and the immediate presence of the harmony vocal merged with the idea that I started seeing myself in my mind’s eye on a beach. There were waves and a sunset, warm breezes and memories. By the time I got to track #6, “Crush,” the beach had gone abstract to colors, and “Winter Light” made me smile.

“He changed the season,” I thought. “Clever.” I suppose a criticism of synth-pop in general might be the idea that the music has a linear construction as opposed to a climactic one, but what Lockets kept consistent in terms of instrumentation, they made sure to broaden with theme. The album has a “spreading” effect if you will, not only growing on you, but growing with you, supplying oils and brushes for your evolving inner mural.

The EP Surrender is brilliant. Concluded with two rather dark (and odd) remixes of the title track, the Lockets version is mesmerizing. It contains a phenomenal arrangement of keys and drums, and the harmonies are simply outstanding. The second track, Girl, is more upbeat, and demonstrates a subtle diversity, especially in the instrumentation and sound effects in the spaces.

Most of all, however, all of the music paints pictures. They don’t hang on walls, and they don’t prance around the stage.

The pictures are in your own head.

And they are aesthetic masterpieces.

 

Link for Vinyl version of Camera Shy / UK

https://beautifulstrange.bandcamp.com/album/camera-shy

Buy link for digital copies

https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/lockets/id548765294

Michael Aronovitz is a horror author who has published three novels, two collections, more than thirty short stories, and a number of horror and metal reviews. His first novel “Alice Walks” will come out in E-book form through Cemetery Dance Publications this summer. His latest novel “Phantom Effect” can be seen on Amazon here: http://tinyurl.com/jcg59wo

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As Paradise Falls

A Call From the Abyss

By Michael Aronovitz

The song “Star Blind,” by Eclipse recording artists As Paradise Falls, is the potent and devastating first cut that appears on the forthcoming album Digital Ritual, worldwide release July 21, 2017. This is a song about death and denial, a terrifying binary that links a desolated finality with our lifelong attempt to dress up the journey leading to it with alternative facts, hip Instagram accounts, and a barrage of metaphorical selfies smiling back at us like circus creatures in an eerie ring of carnival mirrors. As Paradise Falls is Danny Kenneally on guitar, Shaun Coar on vocals, Jon Messer on bass, Jimmy Upson on guitar, Christian Rady on drums, and Glen Barrie on guitar. I mention Glen Barrie here, because they kept his guitar tracks on this album. I mention Glen Barrie here, because he died in 2015.

Not to become a character in my own review, that which would be seen as pretentious (and rightly so), I nevertheless feel it is important in this particular case to discuss my process. I had a choice. I could have talked about As Paradise Falls as if the current five members are the band, that the lifeblood of this project is pumping through a brand new heart in a brave new super-being about to be born. The “ultrasound” is the sneak-peak we get of “Star Blind,” and the glorious birth occurs on July 21, 2017, when Digital Ritual comes out and we get to perceive the band as brand new phenomenon, as if they belong to us, our precious find, something we helped discover from the point of inception.

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            On the other hand, I could have called this album what I might argue it is going to actually become: a memorial for a great one who has fallen, and the song “Star Blind,” among others, a testament to the importance of his life, not only to the other members of this powerful musical project, but to listeners fortunate enough to celebrate his legacy.

Of course, the video for “Star Blind” is grand, almost majestic in its aesthetic representation of stark hopelessness. Visually stunning, the performance footage takes place on a beach with empty desert sand under a bleak or dying sun. Many of vocalist Shaun Coar’s shots are presented in dark profile with the background of storm clouds bleeding the dusk, and in between the close ups of bands members, the more profound clips show the distance between players in what seems hundreds of yards on the crest of this wasteland.

Considering the complexity of the mixed meter verse riff, its heaviness, and absolute razor sharpness, the visuals of vast emptiness almost play the viewer like being beaten into a state of vertigo, especially at the moment the camera is brought straight up looking down as if from a crane five hundred feet high over drummer Christian Rady, showing just how isolated he is from his band mates.

The female model does a nice job in the story shots at the beginning of the video exemplifying the lyrics, those which directly address the latter side of this binary, indicating that we are living virtual lives and losing our sense of self and collective identity. She is looking at her tablet, unhappy with her social media, and then it is indicated that she is being perceived (possibly by herself) as this monster in a mask with goggles, similar to the killer in My Bloody Valentine, (1981). The lyrics back this up with the lines, “When was the last time you saw it for what it is (alternative facts), “We’re all dying from “exposure” yet we never see the sun (we are “exposed” to social media more than being exposed to life), and, “We got blind people screaming at deaf men” (all of us posting and hoping for the likes that our “friends” are only giving in return so we’ll reciprocate the gesture in some sick, incestuous circle).

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            All of this works. The message is clear, the music fits it, and the optics make it real. This song has a phenomenal beat, an outstanding vocal, and a buzz-saw riff that gets you right in the spine. If I wanted to go metaphorical, I could easily raise the point that the sand here seems oceanic, almost like a “sea of life,” and I don’t think there are too many that would disagree that As Paradise Falls could very well be illustrating the idea that when we are cast out into the cold water some of us have a sliver spoon. Others get thrown to the waves in a rusty dinghy, and to make matters worse, we brag that it’s really a clipper ship. In terms of this part of the paradigm, the band nails it. They have made a powerful statement audibly, visually, and emblematically on two levels. What more could one ask?

How about the primary part of the binary?

Fact is…they left some of Glen Barrie’s guitar tracks on the record posthumously. That makes this song more than a song. It makes it more than a hit too, though I will cheer for the band when it becomes one.

Glen Barrie’s guitar tracks are on the record.

Growing up, I was a rocker through and through, and I will admit to you, I never liked New Wave. Still, the band The Police came up with an album name I never forgot: Ghost in the Machine, probably alluding to Arthur Koestler’s novel, The Ghost in the Machine,” 1967. Here, in the case of As Paradise Falls, the concept takes on a whole new relevance. I might word it differently, as I do not consider Glen Barrie a “ghost,” as that has a schlocky, B-horror movie feel to it, and this band is anything but schlocky. I might call this “the spirit in the mechanism,” for Glen Barrie lives in this band, in their fingers and their fiber, and their music has an almost machine-like proficiency. If it stopped there, however, As Paradise Falls would be generic Industrial Metal with a heartache, and I believe it goes further than that.

Listen to the music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yi4zId0ae7w

There is a pristine, unbreakable loyalty embedded in this mechanism, and a glorious phantom working the pistons and the crank shafts in the shadows of the ones who will never forget him. This song is about desolation, but one walks away from it feeling enlightened on a number of complex levels. This is an amazing thing for one song to embody, but the stakes could not have been higher.

This was the one As Paradise Falls defined themselves by.

This one was for Glen.

Michael Aronovitz is a published horror author and a college professor of English. He has a story called “Breath” coming soon in the Hippocampus anthology – Nemesis, and another short story titled “The One Armed Brakeman” to appear in S.T. Joshi’s upcoming anthology Apostles of the Weird. Aronovitz is the author of the novels Alice Walks and Phantom Effect.