album review:Sithu Aye – Invent the Universe

listen here.
Hopefully by now you’ve realized I don’t review current material.  Through the magic of spotify I’m able to find material I missed when it was first released, check it out and pass it along.  I have a constant love and need to explore the new music that’s available, as well the stuff that I might have missed when it first came out.  I’m always looking and am interesting in hearing bands you like in the comments or drumnmiker (at) gmail DOT com.

They’re a Djent style band, with progressive metal, instrumental and even electronica as their subcategories.  To borrow from Wikipedia, “Djent /ˈɛnt/[1] is a style of heavy metal music that developed as a spin-off of traditional progressive metal.[2][3] The word “djent” is an onomatopoeia for the distinctive high-gain, distorted palm-muted, low pitch guitar sound most notably employed by bands like Meshuggah and Sikth.” If that’s not your thing, move along.

Being a student of punk rock before metal I’m more prone to like music with blemishes, but that’s just my affinity for punk.  This release sounds almost too perfect with no out of place notes or hits.  The release starts with a dramatic, electronic build into the opening real snare hit, where the band kicks in and the rock begins. They play around with electronics later in the song and touch on it later in the album, but electronics are by no means the main focus, just something to punctuate the breakdowns.  The entire album is full of shredding solos, double bass drumming and crazy fills. Although this is metal and the music is certainly heavy, it’s definitely on the cleaner side of metal.  This is to progressive metal as Chon is to progressive rock.  The lack of vocals keep this music cleaner while still keeping it heavy.  They never go into the faster side of metal, staying mostly in the mid tempo range but typically upbeat. They even veer off into dance for a bit.

This is a solid album with cool musicianship. It’s a cohesive piece of music that ebbs and flows and has some differing moods, whilst still remaining heavy. If you’re looking for something a little less aggressive but still on the heavy side check it out.

album review: Chon – Grow

listen here.
my buddy Nate, a musician and former band mate, current chef and good dude, turned me onto this band when he saw them open for Circa Survive a few months back.

I’m somewhat conflicted by this band.  I’m a big fan of progressive style music where almost all the playing is one giant solo, but the tones they use are different than what you’d expect.  These guys to me sound like a smooth jazz version of Save us From the Archon, a band who’s album will be reviewed soon.  The majority of the songs are instrumental and the 2 vocal songs almost sound out of place.  They work, but the band calms down on these tracks and makes the songs a little easier to digest for most folks. The album was promoted via Red Bull so I’ll assume they wanted something more easily digestible.  Or I’m cynical.

It’s an enjoyable release through it’s entirety. It could pass as an album on a chilled playlist, but could also pass on a more upbeat playlist.  The 2nd vocal song, Echo, sounds fairly similar to a R&B song.  You can probably put this on your girlfriend/wife’s playlist as a song that she may like to try and get her into other music. I can’t quite place what song it sounds like so if anyone knows please post a spotify or youtube clip.

One of my favorite things about bands like this is actually watching them perform the music, and the tightness that’s required to fully bring it. I’ve never seen them live so if anyone has any insight I’d be curious to hear about it.

**After doing additional reading about these fellas it looks like a couple of these songs are re-recorded from their EP’s and 2 tracks feature Matt Garstka from Animals as Leaders. I’m not offended when bands re-record songs that they put on an EP because typically those release don’t get as much attention.  If they felt they could rework them better I’m happy to see them take a stab at them.  Also Matt rules.

This was their first official full length, although they’ve released a few EP’s since 2008.  As with Between the Buried & Me, I’m excited to hear their progression through the years.  Follow them on their FB page for updates.

album review: Stanton Moore – Conversations

listen here.
My first exposure to Stanton was on a Drumeo free lesson, in which the man showed his chops and clearly had a wonderful time playing the drums.  The picture of him smiling on this cover isn’t an act: this dude is happy playing the drums.  To see this much joy come from someone doing something almost makes me feel uneasy, but it should be something to aspire to.

He jokes about this in the Drumeo video but this guy has probably one of the loosest snare drums ever recorded.  Artistic choice, why not do it. He also grew up in Louisiana, which helps put the style of jazz on this release into perspective (new orleans/ragtime).

Now I have a hard time listening to ‘newer’ jazz and blues, not because I don’t think it’s good, but I just have such an affection towards Charlie Parker, Max Roach, Art Blakey, etc that I feel like the pinnacle of jazz was hit some 60 years ago, and now we’re all trying to play catch up to what they’ve done, but all in the spirit of respecting what they’ve done. This just puts me in an odd perspective when wanting to enjoy the music, because most times when I’ll listen to newer jazz I hear those older musicians in their music and would rather listen to that stuff. There’s probably no way to write this paragraph and not sound pompous, but I poured a lot of time into the original masters and their music really hit home with me.

But that being said, this is a solid effort.  This music pays respect to those musicians with the style, but takes on a ragtime, more melodic style, instead of the typical scale and improvisation back and forth.  The also leave Mr Moore a lot of room to breathe and create rhythms that aren’t similar to the typical drum patterns and styles from the 50’s, etc.  In this regard the album is strongest. The majority of the songs have space for a drum solo and that remains the constant throughout the release.  I mean, what would you expect when the album is named after the drummer?  Most songs are upbeat and Stanton easily carries the tunes, with the piano and bass complimenting his playing. The drum solo breakdowns are all different showing off his versatility in playing.

This album is strongest with the drummer crowds, but the piano playing is reminiscent of old saloon and ragtime style, with compliments from the bass.  This can fit in easily with other straight forward jazz artists (Louis Armstrong, etc) and if you know how to do the Charleston this could work as dance music, too.  You can find more of his work at his website.

album review:Between the Buried and Me – The Parallax II: Future Sequence

"The Parallax II Future Sequence - Between the Buried and Me" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia - listen here.
Typically any ‘metal’ band that has a name longer than 1 or 2 words isn’t typically just a metal band.  Progressive Metal is probably the best description, although the music veers to technical death metal, progressive rock, and acoustic with pretty vocals. This album also has them incorporating non-typical instrumentation, such as strings .  The heavy parts bring it to spazz style death metal with extremely aggressive guttural yells, quickly switching to slower more melodic breakdowns showing off the singing prowess of Tommy Giles Rogers.

The album can only be called epic, with this being a strong example for bands to see that the more releases you put out the tighter you’ll all become and the stronger your vision as a band becomes.  Sometimes bands are able to achieve that within their first few albums, but there’s nothing wrong with continuing to hone your vision until you produce your masterpiece.

As to be expected of a band switching so smoothly between different genres some of the parts can come off as strange and sometimes too out there.  Every time I listen to Bloom I can’t help but be recalled of the Flight of Bumblebee, whether intentional or not.  Maybe I’m even missing out on a joke. It then jumps to a 60’s doo wop style before jumping to a Mr Bungle style breakdown.

Five of the twelve songs on the album are nearing if not over 10 minutes long, producing creating a 74 minute epic.  The longer songs do a great job creating different movements and producing “mini-symphonies”, as stated by

All of the musicians are very talented at what they do.  Being a drummer I have to give a special shout out to Blake Richardson and the insanity he creates behind the kit. He’s great at capturing how to play metal, but also adds textures to the non-metal riffs, effectively using ghost notes, cymbals as sounds instead of bashing the heck out of them and all together cohesiveness.

They’ll be releasing a new album July 7th called Coma Ecliptic. With the growth they’ve shown through the years it’ll be interesting to hear what boundaries they’ll push with the new release.

album review: This is Cinema – Cycle

This is Cinema  listen here.
“The group took shape when songwriter Ben Babbitt invited engineer Theo Karon to move his recording studio into the basement of Hotel Earth, a Chicago coach house shared by a number of musicians and artists. The musician/engineer relationship quickly turned into a full-on collaborative songwriting and recording effort, frequently joined by an ever-evolving circle of contributors.” from the Whistler website.

Similar to the boy on the cover his at peace, yet unnerving look on his face sets the tone for this release.  The album takes a straight forward, yet creepy feel getting it’s point across, focusing on monotonous yet driving drum rhythms with a constant build and layering of instruments and sounds.  Let’s not forget reverb. The vocals in this album are used like an instrument instead of creating an ‘obvious’ melody or hook.  They’re ambient and elongated with background vocals added to provide extra depth. One of my favorite tracks, Hands Can Grow, turns into an almost industrial-african electronic percussive drum loop, climaxing the album.

The last song is a great resolution, ending with strings and delayed ambiance for an unnerving settling to the album.  It’s a shame there was only one release as it would have been interesting to hear the growth of the collaboration. Even as a one off it’s a solid effort if you’re looking for something to be challenged with and still chill to. LP’s can be purchased via.

album review: Ulver – Messe I.X -VI.X

listen here.

The cover of this album perfectly sums up the music: an eerily, ambient, black metal classical album.

Ulver is a Norwegian band as the main project of vocalist Kristoffer Rygg.  Ulver is typically known for their black metal style, but have a knack through the years exploring different genres (industrial, gothic metal, sythn rock, psychedelic rockacoustic, ambient).  Messe I.X – VI.X was released in collaboration with the Tromsø Chamber Orchestra.   It’s an epic ambient electronic masterpiece that sounds like a black metal band took the themes they’ve been perfecting and recorded the album with strings and electronics.  The music could easily be used in a horror movie soundtrack.

Messe has a natural arch, climaxing at Son of Man with vocals taking center stage to lead the song.  The rest of album resolves into a mellow resolution, bringing back the ambiance in a type of closure to the work.

Admittedly my first exposure to them was Messe I.X – VI.X and so coming in with a clean slate I enjoy what they accomplished.  If I were a long time fan I could see the changing of genres as a typically frustrating experience, unaware of which band would show up on the next album.  However  the only constant is change, and for an artist to put out 21 albums it could be monotonous to release the same piece over and over again. Props to the dude for continually challenging himself.

3-31-12 arbogast with beak

I’ll be drumming with arbogast this Saturday at the Ultra Lounge in Chicago for the Beak record release show. Check them out & us out if you’re not in the know.

10-9-11 chicago marathon

if anyone asks that wasn’t me running shirtless with my cargo shorts at michigan ave & 13th today (yesterday) around 4:25 on the clock.

I signed up for the marathon back in february, so i gave them their money.  Shortly after my feet developed a case of plantar fascia.  If you’ve never had it, try to stay away from it.  The first 10 minutes after waking up are an absolute joy, if you have a thing for pain.  i don’t mind it, but it’s not my first feeling to have after waking up.  maybe a b….
so I stopped running.  i’d bike or lift weights or go swimming, but no running.  when i’d slip on my shoes there would be a sharp pain on the left of my left foot, right of my right foot, and both of my heels.
xrays didn’t show anything broken, so i went to a podiatrist.  he told me to stay off weight bearing activities until the swelling goes down.  i even take ibuprofen 600mg 3 times a day.  i stopped taking my pain pills 3 or 4 days after my hernia surgery.  pills just aren’t my thing.  no offense to modern science or anything, they’re just not.  usually.
the ibuprofen the doctor suggested i take didn’t help, it was just another $50 to visit him, have him put a sliver of pad on the bottom of my shoe, then have me schedule to come back in 2 weeks, $50 later.  After 3 weeks i told him I was done.
i wasn’t wearing my number, but i jumped in just before mile 17 to help jen along.  if memory serves me correctly from last year, those were gruesome, boring, difficult miles to run.  you’re in the sun.  there’s no shade.  you’re on mile 17+ and there’s hardly anyone there to cheer you on.  just the roar of cars driving 65 mph over your head.  trying to eat the banana is more of a dry heave than anything pleasant, but since we’re all afraid of bonking and hitting the wall, we ate that banana and almost puked in the process.
jen was doing really well today.  we paused to walk for a minute around 23 and we continued.  i was planning to jump out around 24 but it seemed like staying with her might be more supportive.  i made it to just past mile 25, where they advertised 800 m left.  i jumped to the right, only to find myself stuck.  i walked around and couldn’t cross, so i walked back 3 blocks at which point i was shirtless, holding up my belt loosened cargo shorts to run 3 blocks to cut over to the left so i could make it to the finish line.  it took about 20 minutes (or so it seemed) for me to walk near the finish line, then realize it was fenced off, to walk back around another fence to make it to the red line to just meet them at rock bottom.
i’m waiting for the old lady to get home and then she’s going to watch me pop the blister under my 2nd toe on the right, and the blister just under my big toe.  2″ diameter.  i wonder how jen is feeling?

and that’s my bitch out story of why i didn’t run the full marathon.