Music reviews • articles • blogs
I'm sure if I asked Chris Kelly what it is he's done, in regards to the band Gallus that he fronts, he would emit a diabolical cackle, and then kick over a chair or something appropriately rowdy. This may be off-track to his actual character, but if you know him and you've heard Gallus you're aware of the creative ground the band is breaking with its upcoming album "The Sparta Tapes" and that it warrants some kind of off-the-hook reaction.
I had the good fortune of catching them play at Carmody's Irish Pub this Friday where they were giving away free promotional EP's of their new album. Fuck yes.
I stepped in during a brief interlude of pissing and drinking, otherwise known as a set break, and was able to chat with Kelly. He greets me with a wide grin and I tell him this is my first time seeing Gallus play. He introduces me to Mr. Mahoney, the band's newest addition to the lineup, a brilliant and enthusiastic saxophonist and I lean back while the two engage in an excited conversation about possible covers. Their excitement is understandable, having a saxophonist and a vocalist like Kelly opens up a lot of territory. They begin with a song off their new album, titled "Back on the line", a grungy folk-rock anthem with long lyrical drawls that strain Kelly's voice adding a characteristic vulnerability to the otherwise hard-edged tunes produced by Gallus. The album material consists of a lot of songs that linger on about growing up in the Duluth/Cloquet area, and evoke the blue-collar sensibilities of the area's favorite artists.
During their best moments imagine if Dave Matthews and Dylan got together, fucked, produced a baby, cryogenically froze the rest of the DMB, and if that baby grew up and then took over fronting the now-cryogenically-unfrozen DMB. Gallus creates an eclectic blend of some of Duluth's favorite folk-rock flavors; Duluth, why aren't you listening to Gallus!? When the band plays songs like "Trash can love" the floor ignites, women in the front row become mysteriously pregnant, and even the most coldblooded audience members manage a contented hipster head nod. Trash can love is easily one of the best songs on the new album, and contains a frenetic level of energy. The blend and interplay of Mahoney's Saxophone and the sonic harmonies of Zach Kerola's guitar leads creates a sonic spaceship on course with planet Roxxor. As in Roxxor your fucking Soxxors. The song pulses with something dynamic that Duluth has been craving. More please.
The band's sensibilities are notable and covers like Sting and the Police's "Walking on the moon" play on the band's unique strengths that altogether sound like a folk-rock odyssey to Neptune and back. Gallus will be playing the upcoming Homegrown Festival, and there's no doubt they'll be bringing the fire.
Tepetricy was originally conceived in Duluth and holds to a manifesto of "standing together, united, in a state of aggressive euphoria." Great. So I decided to check them out while they were playing up in the rafters this last Thursday. The show was free as is the usual at LNK events and I needed a serious break from finals.
In Tandem opened and I was able to catch the last of an awesome set. The most notable thing about In Tandem is the fact that the band lineup is comprised entirely of babies, with the more senior members being easily classifiable as toddlers. That was a mean joke, but seriously, these guys are high school seniors with some serious talent that inspired a little bit of envy in my jaded calloused heart. We would like to see more of them, yes.
Tepetricy has an amazing lineup, and the frontman is a skilled showman. At the onset of the show there was what many observers would describe as a "black hole" in front of the stage. Frontman Steven Fremling identified the large mass of psychological casualties hovering at the back of the rafters like a petrified zombie horde and quickly took action to remedy the situation. "I can't see anyone out here. Come on you guys, " He motions forward with a gently compelling motion for us all to step forward "You guys can come up here, we won't bite." And like a noble sheep dog he shepherds the flock to the front of the stage. "That's better." mmmm..warm feelings of safety abound.
The best thing about this band is that the energy levels are really nonstop. The whole group has fun onstage, and it's evidenced by the antics they pull onstage. That coupled with the fact that they managed to actually unthaw a crowd at UMD amidst finals madness speaks volumes to their showmanship.
Aaron Peterson knows how to shred a guitar, and earns rockstar praises from the crowd on multiple occasions. The dynamic between him and frontman Steven Fremling is not unlike the kind of chemistry seen between acts like U2's Bono and Edge. But again, everyone has fun onstage. Robin Rapsys eyes light up at the beginning of every song, and his enthusiasm is infectious. The beats are pretty sick too. Victor Quade runs a haunting set of synths. He and Bassist William Campbell work to keep the crowd alive by passing a stuffed foam football around the stage and at the audience. At one point the football makes its way into my hands and I sheepishly punt it back at them, but only because I don't want to hurt anyone.
In general the entire show warranted that I kept a steady pace of head banging and jumping up and down, but that's not to say that Tepetricy doesn't have some really haunting ballads. Of note was "Emotional Constitution", a melodic and dark ballad reminiscent of disturbed. Fremling doesn't fuck around, engaging the emotional core of the song by popping a squat at the edge of the stage and setting a somber tone.
I personally gave an awkward "you guys fucking rock." to the drummer at the end of the show who loaded me up with some free merch, stickers and such, and was generally cool, much like I would imagine the jolly green giant to be if he were a person who played drums. My neck was sore the next day. Check them out sometime, and yours will be too.
The evening starts with a question for the audience "what do you want me to play?" Zoe Keating lists off three songs from her usual line-up, clearly aware of how to engage her audience with candor. The audience expresses their choice with uproars of clapping and hooting. The clear winner was "Tetris head", an eight minute masterpiece that begins with some crisp spiccato and layers in warm tones built resulting in something that builds a strange association in my mind to anime pop, and generally evoking Japanese culture. This probably has more to do with the fact that she's wearing a kimono than anything else, but the association plays to her favor.
With her usual red dreadlocks tied up high into a knot she resembles a samurai warrior, armed with a trusty cello and her music takes on a transcendental presence full of powerful emotional impulses channeled through a cello, macbook, and an array of different "bits" and wires.
Immediately it becomes painfully clear that I've been missing out on something when symphonic sounds come blasting from out of her cello, otherwise known as a rocket propelled rock-the-fuck-out-of-it launcher. Just imagine, if you will, what it would sound like if a cyberpunk, cello-wielding cherubim vigorously and lovingly made out with your ear-hole. You'd like it.
I've listened to all of her albums, and it's a delight for her to change things up when she declares that "Frozen angels" has become mostly an improvisational piece, and that the only thing which remains of the original recording in her live performances is the theme. In between a song she expresses her constant struggle to find better recording gear or means of transmitting what she hears on the stage to the audience when she jokingly relates "I had this idea I would transmit what came into my earpiece up here to you guys. Everyone would just wear headphones with transmitters. Just imagine what kind of disconcerting concert experience that would be."
Beyond the rich timbre of her cello and the obvious differences between the recordings and the live sound, I was pleasantly surprised by the appearance of nuances in the songs I had never noticed due to the limited recording capabilities of the digital recordings. So now I have to go home and listen to them all over again, and I hope I'll be able to catch those subtle refractions of sound and harmonics that get lost in the recording process.
Zoe left the stage after a second standing ovation and a generous encore of Beethoven's 2nd symphony. Yeah, that's right. Fucking Beethoven. If you haven't seen Zoe Keating play before your initial reaction might be, "But you can't do that with one cellist!". But she can. She will. And you'll be amazed if you see her perform, using her intriguingly cool array of loop pedals and effects to play multiple parts simultaneously. This is what puts the avant in Avant Cello. We were also privy to some material from her latest recording sessions currently titled "Across the Street". The piece was unfinished, so there was some noticeable moments where you could feel she was still working through the creative process and allowing the song to mature. It was much more ethereal than her other works in that it wasn't grounded with spicatto or sharp rhythmic parts but drifted notes in long drawn cadences of musical thought leaving haunting melodies to reflect over. Overall a phenomenal performance that left me enthralled with her existing library of rich avant cello compositions and eager for her new material.
"I want my music to sound like throwing yourself out of a tree, or falling off a tall building, or as if you're being sucked down into the ocean and you can't breathe," says Florence Welch. "It's something overwhelming and all-encompassing that fills you up, and you're either going to explode with it, or you're just going to disappear." Florence writes her best songs when she's drunk or has a hangover, because that's when the freedom, the feral music comes, creating itself wildly from the fragments gathered in her notebooks and in her head. "You're lucid," she explains, "but you're not really there. You're floating through your own thoughts, and you can pick out what you need. I like those weird connections in the universe. I feel that life's like a consistent acid trip, those times when things keep coming back." Unfortunately, in reference to Florence + the Machine's most recent LP Ceremonials, while Florence was drunk this time, she didn't just FALL out of a tree, or the aforementioned tall building; if you listen to many of the lyrics of the first half of the album… Flo and the Machine DROWNED… 'in the ocean'…and with 'stones in pocket.'
Ceremonials was quite the ride through a goth girls' notebook, and sung with the style and verve of Tori Amos/Annie Lennox/PJ Harvey's imaginary love-child. Florence has the ability to weave a rich tapestry with her voice-- and like any good manic-depressive school girl, nay siren, she'll let you rise and fall along with her. Each lyric is a line in a storybook, each chorus turns a gilded page, and you're happy to follow her anywhere she chooses to lead you… 'til you have a chance to absorb what's being said. With every utterance she seems to bleed from her very soul. Proof positive found in their first release: "Shake it out"-- a lyrically dark tale of relations past, or perhaps haunted conscience, exclaiming loudly that she's "…ready to suffer, and I'm ready to hope; it's a shot in the dark, and right at my throat." And for the next two songs, while she's attempting to "shake the devil from her back" we are transported to the welcoming embrace by suicide via water.
Both "What the Water Gave Me" and "Never Let Me Go, are perhaps chapters two and three to the saga that unfolds in "Shake it Out", as she eventually gives in, and (unfortunately) gives up. Lining her pockets hopelessly (in "What the Water Gave Me"); with a chorus behind her, she hauntingly voices: "Lay me down, Let the only sound be the overflow, pockets full of stones…" We can hear her woeful betrayal and sheer exhaustion with every line. But redemption is eventually found as she is held and caressed by the waves of the ocean, as she realizes her decision (via the song aforementioned), when she explains piteously: "And it's over, and I'm going under, but I'm not giving up, I'm just giving in." She lets us into her drama-filled world with several songs to follow, covering everything from an affair with an invisible man, and the pure exhaustion that flows from a relationship at its end… and there, kiddies, THAT tale ends.
We enter the second portion of the album seemingly written completely with Hollywood in mind. Beginning with songs like "Seven Devils" composed almost PURELY for an action film stand-off (or any of the cookie-cutter Vampire flicks in a pinch). Enter Bruce Willis (or the newest, readably available heart-throb) at a pivotal moment…and we hear the intense music of the Machine, with Florence to set the scene: "Seven Devils all around you, Seven Devils in your house, see I was dead when I woke up this morning, I'll be dead before the day is done, before the day is done…" and we are carried through act after act of clichéd scenario thereafter, vying for the attentions of any number of producers, directors, or miscellaneous hacks and lackeys, with songs like: "All This and Heaven Too", written purely for a mellow-drama, wherein our hero and heroine come together at the emotional pique…embracing…(cue the rain shower)the music swelling in the background: "…and I will give all this and heaven too, I would give it all…if only for a moment…". Or perhaps "Remain Nameless" where we meet the 'Seductress', to name another; and Florence + the Machine creates a vivid vision… Built entirely for the pole: "Call me when you need me, Call me anything you want, But darling believe me, Nothing I haven't done before." The air of the accompanying music almost calls you to the bedroom and between the sheets. The point being: is that Ceremonials is a ride. Not necessarily the ride of your life, but a ride. As you 'fall from that building', 'out of that tree', or perhaps down that rabbit-hole; the baroque arrangements and riveting choir performance does give off that 'Ceremonial'-sensation.
The beautiful fairy-tale they seem to be attempting to tell becomes somewhat fractured in the middle, as they've (evidently) come to realize that commercialism sells (after the wide-spread commercialized success of "Two Lungs"). Florence Welch's powerful voice creates a beauteous portrait, and powerful sound, nonetheless… constant, flowing, complete with harp and organ. But, unfortunately, (much like the fall down the rabbit-hole; or the 3 a.m. drunken scrawlings of that depressed gothic school-girl) the OVER-ALL message has become a bit muddled and broken (despite its initial OVER-ALL splendor). ***Good Listen, if taken in pieces*** (3 of 5 stars)
Pandemonium is the palace satan and his fallen angel brethren built in hell after being cast out from heaven. It's from Milton's epic work "Paradise Lost". Read a book. Christ.
But no, Pandemonium is a webcomic about famous artists, writers and occasionally celebrities making poop jokes...
Edgar Allen Poe, William Shakespeare, Vincent Van Gogh, Olivia Wilde (as Shakespeare's girlfriend), and Lewis Carrol.
Daivid Bowie, and Satan.
Mitchell Bercier is a Native American Graphic Novelist and designer living in Duluth, Minnesota. He is a recipient of a fiscal year 2013 Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota state Arts Board.
Tearing out of from amidst rain and fog and night and smoke and ink, and hell and flame and ash and insanity and lies and love; Rending apart walls and spheres and eyes and psyches made of brains stolen From martyrs left for dead; Bursting from the sky in a rain of powder and black feathers that Rain down on your head and rattle as they turn from shadow to bone; With no reason or memory as to why like a lost angel he is laughing, laughing, laughing at the sky...