Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Superficial World

14 song CD

GE5 plays their power pop the old fashioned way, with plenty of big guitars and fist-pumping arena-rock choruses. Take a trip back to the late 70s and early 80s where a rock band was a real rock band, and not afraid to turn up the stack as loud as it would go.

I'm thinking Cheap Trick-meets-The Smithereens, an all out American band without apologies or regrets. The group is at their best when they just let it loose, like on the opening track You May Be Right (no, not the Billy Joel tune), where the band blends cool harmonies with catchy riffs and killer hooks.

MISH MASH Mandate: Rock Of Ages
GE5 Website

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Hour Of The Shipwreck
The Hour Is Upon Us

7 song CD

The world of Hour Of The Shipwreck is dark and misty, reminiscent of a hazy waking dream. Part gothic and part fantasy, with a touch of Radiohead-meets-Pink Floyd thrown in for good measure, the band drifts and meanders through these seven songs like a minstrel vagabond wandering through a literary countryside.

Although the group incorporates a number of instruments, perhaps the most intriguing element is a full vocal choir providing background sounds. This gives the album an unearthly, spiritual feel that moves the disc beyond a mere rock record into something special. Atmospheric and wrapped in darkness, the album is haunting and beautiful at the same time.

MISH MASH Mandate: Witching Hour
Hour Of The Shipwreck Website

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Various Artists
The In-Kraut Vol. 3

Hip Shaking Grooves Made In Germany 1967-1974
Marina Records
20 song CD

Here's another one of those magical compilations that seem to appear out of nowhere, filled from beginning to end with oddities from obscure (at least to us in the US) European bands. This one touches on psychedelic soul-inspired go-go grooves from Germany in the late 60s/early 70s. Cheesy? Oh heck yes, but it's the kind of schmaltz that hipster music lovers can't wait to get their hands on.

Let me just say here and now that the main reason you should seek this one out is for the whacked-out cover of Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love by Dieter Zimmermann, where our dear Dieter uses a funky horn section instead of a vocal track. Also interesting is Katja Ebstein's enticingly sedated version of The Beatle's A Hard Day's Night that has a tripped-out sleepy feel, in direct contrast to the original.

MISH MASH Mandate: Shake Your Moneymaker
Marina Records Website (Germany)
Marina Records (US)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Santa Fe Stalker

11 song CD

Get ready for hi-octane power pop with the slightest touch of 80s-era indie angst. The music of Vancouver-based Dawntreader comes at you unexpectedly, with an effortless force that overcomes you without overwhelming you with excess. It's streamlined rock-and-roll that keeps just enough in the dark shadows of mystery to keep it interesting.

The band relies on jangly, reverberated guitars and a dynamic vocal presence in the form of vocalist/guitarist Matthew Thomas, who sings with a laid-back and understated style that blends well with the lightness of the music. Overall, the tunes are catchy and poppy without being overdone, having that perfect amount of edginess that you might find in The Cure or The Smiths. The standout track for me is Neon Country, where dueling guitar riffs create a cool urgency in the main verse.

MISH MASH Mandate: Neon Pop
Dawntreader Website

Friday, May 16, 2008

Little Lucid Moments

Rune Grammofon
4 song CD
Double vinyl LP

Not being very familiar with the band, and seeing four incredibly long songs with the shortest being 11 minutes long, I steeled myself in expectation of excessively plodding and morose progressive rock. I couldn't have been more wrong.

Motorpsycho lives up to their namesake, pulling out all the stops and laying down some fierce hard rock that seems much more streamline and sleek than the epic song lengths would suggest. There's just a tinge of pop structure to keep it catchy, and the band wraps it up nicely in an expansive progressive rock package that never lets sedation set in.

The album opens up with the title track, a 21 minute long four part suite that rips along with feverish abandon, somehow oddly reminding me of Rush and Black Sabbath at the same time. From there, we move on to Year Zero (A Damage Report), where the band begins with a quiet and meditative stillness, building into a slow-burning wall of sound. This gives way to the most powerful track on the album, She Left On The Sun Ship, where the band rages from one killer guitar riff into the next with crazed dissonance and lots of wonderful noise, only to lead us into a droning psychedelic landscape filled with atmospheric synths. The band wraps it up with The Alchemyst, which revolves around a cool ascending-then-descending guitar line and cool vocal harmonies.

Adventurous would be an understatement, and while it is certainly challenging in some respects, there's enough accessibility here for the average classic rock fan to get into and fully appreciate without feeling overwhelmed by the scope of the project. I have a feeling that once it's cranked up loud, you'll enjoy every epic minute of it.

MISH MASH Mandate: Master Suite
Motorpsycho Website
Rune Grammofon (Norway)
Motorpsycho (Forced Exposure USA)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Victoria White
The Upside

Kalimba Music
11 song CD

Victoria White's voice has a classic, old-school R&B feel to it, one that reminds me of the soul singers of the 60s, while her music has a distinct vibe pulled from the early 80s. White doesn't go overboard on the vocal histrionics and overpowering dance beats of most modern day soul music. Instead, she relies on sweet melodies and smooth electronic drum beats.

That's certainly not to say that she's totally retro or even a throwback, as her music has a timeless quality that doesn't place it in any one time or space. She's managed to make this sound her own, and it has her own unique stamp on it. Perhaps the strongest example of this on the album is Can't Buy Love, a track with a dreamy and supremely catchy groove that could easily be a Top 10 hit from anytime in the past 30 years. Great stuff, and an essential disc for your poolside adventures this summer.

MISH MASH Mandate: Style Council
Kalimba Music Website
Victoria White Website

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Full Measure

Silverado Records
11 song CD

Musical worlds collide in this inspired release from Silveroot, a trio that mixes folk, blues, bluegrass, and rock into a sound that defies the usual categorization. While the three piece relies on a folksy approach with the violin, guitar, and banjo as the main instrumentation, they weave various styles in and out with each instrument complimenting the other.

My favorite tracks happen to be the instrumentals, such as the rolling and driving Perpetual Motion, where they let the music do the talking with all their skills in tow. The album is strong from beginning to end, and it's obvious that they enjoy playing together and creating a sound that is all their own.

MISH MASH Mandate: Dream Weavers
Silverado Records Website

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Billie Holiday
Rare Live Recordings 1934-1959

ESP Disk
5 CD set

In this epic five CD set from ESP-Disk, we get a unique and rare opportunity to follow the live performance career of Billie Holiday from beginning to end, spanning over 125+ tracks. While her personal life was tumultuous and controversial, her musical legacy has stood the test of time, and has put her in the ranks as one of jazz's finest singers almost 50 years after she passed away.

The set is mixed collection of tracks from a wide assortment of sources, and the varying sound quality reflects this. It is good to keep in mind that completion is more important than quality in this set, and many tracks have noise or general lo-fi quality that is inherent in the original sources. In other words, this is the kind of box set custom-built for the fan who wants it warts and all.

Even so, the performances are stunning, even with the hodge-podge of production. The set is a stark reminder of Holiday's talent, and the all-encompassing theme of the collection puts an indelible stamp on this fact.

MISH MASH Mandate: The Whole Holiday
ESP Disk

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Jim Stubblefield
Guitarra Exotica

Natural Elements Records
10 song CD

Jim Stubblefield takes the listener around the world with his Guitarra Exotica, mixing and melding a wide variety of international music styles with an assuredly Latin-flavored rhythmic foundation. With the guitar as his centerpiece, Stubblefield examines the rhumba, the bulerias, the tango, and flamenco, among others, interchanging fluidly from traditional to more modern sounds. His sound is passionate and expressive, always gripping and intricate.

Stubblefield also backs himself with talented musicians, especially the brilliant viola of Novi Novog, which serves as the perfect complimentary instrument for much of the disc. The result is an album that sounds like a true group effort instead of a solo project, adding a depth and breadth that makes for a truly classic piece of work. My favorite tracks include the nouveau-flamenco of Gitana Mora and the epic, driving sounds of Eye Of The Sun, Parts I & II.

MISH MASH Mandate: Sun King
Jim Stubblefield Website

Thursday, May 01, 2008


Decursus Media
11 song CD

Composer/musician Antherius takes a classic approach to his brand of electronica, harkening back to the days of Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Vangelis, and Jan Hammer. While Antherius' music is progressive in nature, he retains a pop sensibility that keeps his work accessible to the average listener.

He refers to his music as "Progressive New Age", and that's probably as accurate a label as you can put on it, although it does not fully do it justice. There is definitely a pop and rock undercurrent that gives everything a certain structure, and it is certainly an important part. Antherius doesn't overload his tunes with extraneous beats and instrumentation, opting for a more simple and sparse texture that has a very open feeling, relying more on melody than a wall of sound.

MISH MASH Mandate: Axel F
Antherius Website