Monday, July 28, 2014

CD Review: Tapebenders' 'Chasing Ghosts'

Tapebenders
Chasing Ghosts
Self-Release

The Milwaukee-based psychedelic rock group, Tapebenders (formerly Elusive Parallelograms), releases an anthology of music previously released on earlier LPs and EPs. The rock music contains a bit of electronica that includes showers of metallic sparks and dreamy sequences that are varied and very deliberate. The concise playing style brings to life the progressive pop side of the music without venturing too far away from psychedelic or rock genres. The gritty "60 MPH" is an instrumental rock gem with vocals resembling Blink 182 and rock riffs not too far away from a punk vein. "Nuclear Man" is another fine electronic tune with big guitars, drums, and keyboards with vocals that are playful and adventurous. The sounds reverberate with spacey electronics and spacious licks. "Absolution" is a rock anthem with fuzzy guitars and psychedelic noises that include a bit of progressive and experimental music that is jingly, memorable, and cinematic. The entire thirteen-track release provides a great picture of what Tapebenders can do. Think of Fractal Cat meets Blink 182 with The Devlins close behind. 5 Stars (out of 5) ~ Matthew Forss

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

CD Review: Susan Cattaneo's 'Haunted Heart'

Susan Cattaneo
Haunted Heart
Jersey Girl Music

With ties to Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Nashville, Susan Cattaneo is at home with the pop-country constructions of melody and rhythm on her latest release, Haunted Heart. Susan's vocals are reminiscent of Sheryl Crow and Shawn Colvin. The singer-songwriter vein is eloquently captured on many of the tunes, including "Lies Between Lovers," "Abide," "Haunted Heart," "John Brown," "Ingenue," and many others. The sweet vocals and drifting melody of "Haunted Heart" is relatively slow, jazzy, and folksy. The song evokes a quieter time of reflection and relaxing set in a 60's or 70's context. "Worth The Whiskey" opens with a steely guitar medley and thick, groovy sound structure that brings out the bluesy, Southern elements of her music. "Done Better" is a piano tune with a ballad-esque set-up and delivery. The drum, bass, and guitar mix is rather folksy overall. The power of lyrics that tell stories and great music to match are very difficult to accomplish, but Susan Cattaneo has no problems creating a fulfilling result. Fifteen tracks round out the album. 5 Stars (out of 5). ~ Matthew Forss

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

CD Review: Nadaka & Gopika's 'Surya'

Nadaka & Gopika
Surya
Raga Mantra

Nadaka & Gopika's newest release, Surya, contains beautiful, contemplative, and aural-friendly vedic mantras with the light and energy of the sun the primary focus here. The instrumental tunes contain some of Gopika's Indian vocals, but Nadaka's raga guitar, guitar synth, and added vocals add an avant-garde and experimental element to the mix. The duo are joined by tabla, violin, percussion, and sampling on most of the tracks. There is a transcendental quality to the sound that creates a sense of deeper calm and new age spiritualism. The South Asian and Sanskirt-soaked album is meditative enough to be wanted by yoga fanatics and world fusion fans everywhere. There are eight total tracks that range from four to nine minutes in length. There are some electronic subtleties that remind us of the modern era; but nothing is too overdone or overt here. Experience inner and outer light with Surya. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Quraishi's 'Mountain Melodies'

Quraishi
Mountain Melodies
Evergreene Music

Quraishi is a New York City-based and Afghan-born rubab player with a penchant for reviving traditional Afghan music with a classical and courtly edge. The entire album is instrumental and contains a minimal mix of traditional instruments comprised of rubab, tabla, and dhol. There is a classical, Hindustani connection with Afghan music and that is evident throughout the album. There are only nine tracks, but the scintillating strings, thumping dhol and tabla, and overall melodies are worthy of repeated listens. The music does not contain electronic effects or guitars. Essentially, this is true Afghan folk music that celebrates Afghanistan's national instrument as the album's chief sound. Fans of traditional Afghan music will love its nostalgic simplicity. Furthermore, anyone with an interest in the music of Central Asia will appreciate the beautiful and serene musical qualities. Great job. ~ Matthew Forss

Thursday, July 3, 2014

CD Review: Leticia Rodriguez Garza's 'Saguita Al Bate'

Leticia Rodriguez Garza
Saguita Al Bate
Self-Release

Growing up in Texas, one is never too far away from the energetic, pulsating, and danceable sounds of Latin America. Saguita Al Bate is a rollicking, four-track album of cumbia, salsa, Latin, jazz, Caribbean, and Afro-Latin elements with some tunes coming from a previous release, La Americana. The lively percussion, driving horns, punchy bass, and rootsy accordion on a few tracks makes the music come alive with a classic vein running throughout the album. The music of Latin America is timeless when jazzy piano, heavy percussion, and soulful vocals are involved. This is especially true on Saguita Al Bate. The music is seemingly out of the 1950's, but it is equally at home in today's era. Anyone with an interest in classic Latin American music will love Leticia Rodriguez Garza. ~ Matthew Forss

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

CD Review: Zebrina's 'Hamidbar Medaber'

Zebrina
Hamidbar Medaber
Tzadik

A Canadian jazz pianist, Jonathan Feldman, is the brainchild behind Zebrina, which is a jazz-centered group with jam band qualities and Klezmer roots. Instead of pulsating brass and horns, Zebrina utilizes some keyboard effects and percussion to astound listeners. The instrumental tunes are edgy, fluid, and diverse. The flowing clarinet, swishy percussion, and avant-garde folk-rock stylings represent a slight new age nod that is very satisfying. There is a bit of down-tempo, funk, roots, and smooth jazz going around here. Eight catchy grooves round out the album in a fun and entertaining manner. All of the tracks are five to eight minutes long, which allows for plenty of variation that doesn't get boring. The electric guitar adds a modern spark to the some of the songs. Overall, Zebrina awakens the Jewish spirit with great jazz lines and contemporary grooves with a slight Klezmer influence. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Jalilah's Raks Sharki's 'Stagecuts'

Jalilah's Raks Sharki
Stagecuts
Piranha

Jalilah's Raks Sharki is part of an oriental dance series in sixteen tracks or 'stagecuts', which highlight the best dance form influenced by Egypt, Lebanon, and Turkey. The instrumental tracks are orchestral, full of percussion, and loads of danceable rhythms in every tempo imaginable. The group is spearheaded by Jalilah (AKA Lorraine Zamora Chamas), Mokhtar Al-Said, Hossam Shaker, and Ihsan Al-Mounzer. There are doumbek solos and tabla showcases, which will blow you away. The incredible musicianship is heartily apparent after the first few sounds on the first track. The entire project contains tracks pulled from six previous albums. Stagecuts does not have lengthy dance tracks, which were something rather commonplace years ago. Instead, the tracks are mostly four to five minutes long. Anyone interested in bellydance, Middle Eastern and African percussion, and Hossam Ramzy will love Stagecuts. ~ Matthew Forss