screams, whispers and songs from planet earth

Category: Band Profiles Page 1 of 7

Mangum & Company *Shouts* the Lord’s Praises

Mangum & Company - photo by J. Stoller

Mangum & Company – photo by J. Stoller

In Psalm 150 of the Bible, it says “Praise him with the sound of the trumpet.” Gospel brass shout band Mangum & Company, led by trombonist Cedric Mangum, does exactly that, and not just with a trumpet but a full-on honkin’ brass band. The musicians represent many of Charlotte, North Carolina’s United House of Prayer congregations.

These “trombone choirs” are a sacred musical tradition, and it’s truly a joyful noise that they create. The church was founded by Cape Verde spiritual leader Marcelino Manoel da Graça (a.k.a. Daddy Grace) in Wareham, Massachusetts in 1919, focused on the ecstatic experience in worship. Their all-day, all-night services were propelled by the jazz instrumentation of the time, set to traditional gospel hymns. Trombones lead the way with a central melody, with others going off on roof-raising solos. This tradition continues in more than 130 United House of Prayer congregations across the U.S.

The shout band was first introduced in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1926 and huge parades with marching bands became commonplace in the religious and cultural life of the city. There are currently almost 20 shout band ensembles statewide. Cedric Mangum began playing music early and learned all the instruments before becoming lead trombonist. At age 13, he was already leading his band, the Charlotte Mother House’s legendary Bailey Clouds of Heaven, which he still helms today. As he explains, “Our music feeds the soul,” he says. “It’s designed for the soul, and that’s what draws the people.”

Trombone Shout Band, Charlotte, NC – by HistorySouth

united house of prayer for all people | national folk festival

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Introducing… Transistor Girl

Here’s something sweet and serene for you to begin your Monday with. Transistor Girl, musically speaking, is tender on the ears — acoustic guitar, soft percussion and silky smooth vocals with gentle harmonies. It’s when you start listening to the lyrics that you discover something deeper and more melancholy. It’s mild-mannered, but don’t mistake this for “easy listening.” This is thoughtful, introspective music with well-crafted lyrics that seems just right for a rainy day or a dark night with candles glowing.

This lovely duo (Christopher Drew and Christophe Bugnon) are from Geneva, Switzerland and they’ve only been around since 2013. Being so new, they only have two EPs released — Treading On Flames from January of 2014 and their latest, Glorious, released that November. This most recent one was recorded with Alberto Malo (Sophie Hunger) on drums and Mauro Maur (Ennio Morricone) on trumpet. They’re currently working on their debut full-length album, due for release early next year.

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Meet The Bulls

Anna Bulbrook (The Airborne Toxic Event, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros) and Marc Sallis (The Duke Spirit) explore promising new horizons with The Bulls.

Read the abridged version of this article on Ryan’s Smashing Life

photo by Juan Azulay

photo by Juan Azulay

There’s a galloping new duo in town. Multi-instrumentalist Anna Bulbrook and guitarist/bassist Marc Sallis have joined forces to form The Bulls, and they’re set to release their debut EP, Small Problems, on August 28 (on Diet Pink Records).

Bulls have a rich symbolism dating back to ancient times. A bull epitomizes power and strength, both physically and spiritually. Other bullish traits include confidence, unpredictability, perseverance, fertility and of course, aggression. While their music is not aggressive in the traditional sense (actually, it’s quite dreamy), it is a bold direction for Bulbrook and Sallis, being quite different in style and sound from their primary bands (though inevitably informed by both). Reverb-infused guitar fury, synthesizers, percussion and soaring strings swirl around Anna’s haunting vocals. Think dream pop and new wave with a little goth and a touch of grunge in the form of Marc’s dirty/pretty lead guitar. They creatively roam far beyond their previous roles to explore exciting new breeding grounds.

The two first met during various criss-crossings of their respective bands’ tours (New York City, London, Paris). They bonded over a love of ’80s and ’90s shoegaze and dream pop artists like Bauhaus, The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Jesus and Mary Chain and Nico. Finally, while out in the Mohave Desert of Indio, California, they decided to hook up and hit the studio.

Since their debut song “Come Unwound” was released last November, accompanied by its hypnotic kinbaku video, The Bulls have bolted out of the gate (so to speak), collecting praise from The Los Angeles Times, Consequence of Sound, LA Weekly and Diffuser. They were Alt 98.7’s featured “Artist in Residence” in March and have been featured on KROQ’s Locals Only show. KROQ is currently sponsoring their Monday night August residency at The Satellite in Los Angeles, which they’ve dubbed #GIRLSCHOOL, as it’s the club’s first-ever 100% female-fronted residency.

Their Small Problems EP begins with the title track and the directive, “you’ve got to change your heart.” It’s a cool assessment of a selfish and detached lover (“Heart, untried, city of one, beating for none”) that’s countered by driving percussion and passionate guitar. Starting quietly, it builds into a fury and drops back down beautifully to where it began. “Rumors” has an irresistible new wave feel with fuzzy guitars, while “Truly,” a stunning stand-out track with brightly ringing guitars and sweeping strings, uses repetitive lyrics to entrancing effect —

“So come and take it from me, from me, from me
I will tell you truly, truly, truly
I don’t care what’s coming, coming, coming
I’m gonna stay alone.”

“Come Unwound” was the duo’s shocker of a first single. I say shocking, because this solemn beauty comes riding in as a pair of noble white horses (trust me, I see it) and slowly unfurls into a breathtaking orchestral masterpiece (“Don’t make me turn this car around / Hope’s not lost, it’s just unfound”). If comparisons are made to Arcade Fire, this is obviously the song that brought that about.

The EP closes with an interesting and unique remix of “Come Unwound” by Morgan Kibby (M83 / White Sea). One’s take on this remix will depend upon one’s electro-percussive sensibilities, but there’s no denying the beauty of the vocal harmonies.

As Anna said in her Consequence of Sound interview regarding the music’s subject matter —

“I suppose you could say that the EP looks at the life-cycle of love — potential love, self-love (or lack of it), conflicted love, loneliness, the end of love. Everything except for the ‘happily ever after’ part.”

Oh well, maybe we can have our happy ending when their full-length album comes along. Here’s hoping.

You can pre-order The Bulls’ debut EP Small Problems on iTunes and instantly download “Come Unwound” and “Small Problems.”

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Introducing… Modern Time Machines

Here, why don’t you listen to this nice mind-melting offering from Silver Lake band, Modern Time Machines, while I work on the third installment of my “Lost and Found”… This marvelous band blends driving melodies and screaming guitars with dreamy outer space strings and ethereal voice atmospherics. We move from gentle floating to beautifully layered cacophony. The vocal harmonies of Ben Golomb and Chelsea Jean Speer-Guzman drift around and through each other, and a particular favorite is “Lucky Lady” with a frantic and then soaring, screeching violin. Gorgeous. They’ve performed at SXSW, recently appeared at the 2013 Make Music Pasadena Festival and were featured in the Silver Lake music scene documentary “Pass the Music” along with The Happy Hollows, The Henry Clay People and The Airborne Toxic Event. Listen below to their debut full-length, Continuity Girl, which was released last year. They’re finishing work on a new single entitled “Loveletters,” which will be acommpanied by a music video and an EP in the coming months. Stay tuned. For now, if you’re in the Los Angeles area, they will be performing at The Viper Room on September 16th (tomorrow night) with Seasons and Tequila Slam. On the 22nd, they’ll be at the Satellite.

web | ReverbNation | facebook | twitter | YouTube | bandcamp

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Introducing… Broadheds (catch ’em while you can)

Hey all. Here’s a scrappy and charming little outfit from California called Broadheds who released their debut (and only?) album back in April. It’s all about nervous energy and angst, from a distinguished group of gentlemen giving full rein to their “inner teenage boy.” On guitar and vocals is Peter Walker, formerly of The Eulogies and also co-founder of that highly esteemed Eastside L.A. label Dangerbird Records, which I’ve been meaning to profile for years and will be doing so shortly. Along with Walker, Broadheds boasts an all-star lineup — drummer Denny Weston, Jr. (The Kooks, Earlimart), bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen (M83, Beck, Nine Inch Nails) and sax player James King (Fitz and the Tantrums). The fifth member of the band is visual artist Mark Todd, whose artwork is featured in a 64-page book that accompanies their album. Mark’s artistic vision was also an important part of the recording process.

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They’ve only intended to perform a handful of live shows, so if you’re in or around San Francisco on July 10 and you like what you hear, you’d best get yourself to Cafe du Nord while you’ve got the chance! Walker is apparently already writing again and thinking about his next project.

“Nothing is easy, nothing that I care about.” Indeed.

web | facebook | twitter | soundcloud | youtube | dangerbird records

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Introducing… Rice Cultivation Society

Hello everyone, I recently discovered something very beautiful. Since 2005, Rice Cultivation Society has been one guy (Derek Smith) living in Long Island, putting out lo-fi DIY home recordings. On his latest album released back in January, Sky Burial, he decided to bring a few friends in. The result is this gorgeous extended daydream that begins with some truly lovely John Fahey style acoustic guitar strumming and layered vocals, and then goes off into a multicolored guitar, percussion and strings-driven kaleidoscope. Folk, experimental, space music, orchestral—whatever the hell it is, it’s beautiful. Oh, and there’s some achingly lovely fragile vocals (as on the closing “Fading Stars”) that brings to mind Elliot Smith. Bejeebers, this is good.

As for their/his band name, apparently it’s a reference to a Tibetan tradition of allowing predatory birds to eat a corpse, as opposed to the more traditional burial or cremation practices. Even better. Sky Burial itself is an examination of the mystery of death, inspired by the myth of Icarus.

As fate would have it, this had been sitting in my inbox for a few months and I finally got around to listening tonight. Lo and behold, they’ve just announced a tour! Sadly, oh so sadly, they (so far) aren’t coming to Boston, but I’ll let you know where they are going. Definitely check them out if you can. And run right over to their bandcamp page and scoop this up.

Midwest/East Coast Shows

Fri 3/22 Buffalo, NY – Nietzsche’s
Sat 3/23 Columbus, OH – The Summit
Sun 3/24 Chicago, IL – Underground Wonder Bar
Mon 3/25 Chicago, IL – Wise Fool’s Pub
Tues 3/26 Bloomington, IN – Rachael’s Cafe
Wed 3/27 Gambier, OH – Village Inn
Thurs 3/28 Pittsburgh, PA – Howlers
Fri 3/29 Philadelphia, PA – Church of the Advocate
Sat 3/30 Babylon, NY – Twisted Shamrock

facebook | bandcamp | mecca lecca

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Introducing…. Many Embers

Two days ago, I wrote about Haunted Summer. It was about something beautiful coming out of a painful break-up. Two break-ups, in fact. Out of endings come new beginnings, and the results can be quite lovely. Today, I’ve been completely captivated by a new project called Many Embers. As with Haunted Summer, Many Embers was born out of sadness. After about 6 years of recording and performing, Eastside L.A. band Death To Anders called it a day. But instead of finding a a sensible day job, lead singer and guitarist Rob Danson, along with George Glass guitarist Nick Ceglio, embarked on an experiment. With no particular goal in mind, they started recording together.

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Introducing… Gospel Claws (and their sophomore album, Put your Sunshine Away)

photo by Susan Jordan Anderson

photo by Susan Jordan Anderson

I was already impressed with Gospel Claws at their debut album back in 2010, C-L-A-W-S (I remember being somewhat mystified by this title; turns out some early reviewers would misspell their name “Gospel Clause”). At once, I was swept away with their ’50s style, surf and doo-wop influenced music, set off with dark lyrics, Joel Marquard’s crooning vocals, and a touch of, well, gospel. On their latest album, Put Your Sunshine Away (released last November), there’s still that delightful vintage vibe, though it’s a fuller sound which at times (as on the soaring “Pale Horse Dry Cleaning”) becomes a full-on orchestral production with Marquard belting it out. “Hambone,” though curiosly titled, is a wildly romantic moonlit dance. “Looming Darkness” is also dreamy and romantic, though with a melancholy underbelly (“I’m feeling lonesome and I’ve got no one to blame / I can’t seem to break out of my 20-something cage.”). For this second album, released on Common Wall Media, the band had a very successful Kickstarter campaign which partially funded the project. As with the first, it was recorded by Bob Hoag at Flying Blanket Recording.

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Introducing… Kodaline

I like a band that says, “Music should have a purpose, you know. Our purpose is honesty.” You really don’t hear that too often. I stumbled upon Dublin-based quartet Kodaline when I first saw their video for “All I Want” (see below). It’s a beautifully touching song and crazy romantic video—proud, unashamed and yes, honest. If I was a television viewer, I might have already been familiar with this gorgeous song, as it was featured in the season 9 episode of Grey’s Anatomy, “Remember the Time.”

In digging deeper, I’m discovering some beautifully literate and emotional music. They’ve actually been around since 2005 as 21 Demands, but since 2011, they’ve been Kodaline. This is pretty wistful, poetic and introspective stuff for such young guys. As lead singer Steve Garrigan says, “For Kodaline, music isn’t just music. It’s therapy.” Indeed. And I can’t help but feel like I’m sitting in on his private session. It feels that personal. Their debut, The Kodaline EP, was released back in September. On March 18, they’ll be releasing The High Hopes EP (which includes a cover of LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends”). Their debut album, In A Perfect World, comes out on March 25. They’re currently touring in the UK and Scotland.

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Introducing… The Rebel Light

The Rebel Light released their debut self-titled EP back in November. Now based in L.A., the band is comprised of two brothers from Montauk, New York and their “long lost cousin” from Yucaipa, California. In true DIY spirit, the EP was recorded and mixed by the band themselves, with the vocals captured in the bathroom and the drums tracked in a wood shed. They’ve got an exuberant and celebratory sound with lots going on in this 3 song EP (plus radio edit). There’s the pop balladry of “Goodbye Serenade,” the fully orchestrated production of “Wake Up Your Mind,” and somewhere between those two with the Beatlesque “My Heroes Are Dead.”

Have a listen below, and if you like what you hear, give the band a little tip when you download it. You can grab it from bandcamp or noisetrade.

“Goodbye Serenade,” is especially strong, anthemic in its chorus and horn revelry. It achieves a special poignancy when experienced along with their video, which combines brief clips of band members interspersed with a cultural collage of our world’s history, our best and worst moments. I’m not certain of the intention, but it takes a song about a personal relationship to a completely different place with its refrain, “strange days going in circles…” Definitely a band to watch.

web | facebook | twitter | bandcamp | youtube | noisetrade

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