Kiki Sire: “Rutina” – exciting rhythms and smooth vocals
Kiki Sire is a Singer/Songwriter, Musician, Composer and graduate of the Matanzas School of Musica in Cuba where he studied alongside many great Cuban musicians by day and performing salsa music in the festivals and clubs of Havana, Varadero and Mantanzas by night. Kiki who has performed with many great musicians, has made regular appearances on TV and Radio and won many awards and talent contests for his singing. “Rutina” is a salsa album composed, performed and produced by Kiki Sire containing 8 original compositions. Kiki Sire is undoubtedly well versed in the art of musical conversation, as he is
Owl Company: “Horizon” carves out blistering rhythms
Owl Company is a band from São Paulo, Brazil that combines hard rock inﬂuences from the 70s to the 90s with modern rage and brutality, creating a sound that is fresh, aggressive, and engaging. Launched in 2015 the band has built a strong presence in São Paulo, playing all the premier venues in town. Their first single “Condescend,” quickly grabbed attention locally and now the band is setting its sights on crashing international borders. Owl Company’s chosen vehicle to get them where they need to be going is their full-length debut album “Horizon”, set to drop July 14th 2017. The
Harmony Drive: “Be There” – fresh, upbeat and vibrant music!
Most times you can gauge the potential quality of a creative project just by gazing through its credits. In this case, the single by Norwegian band Harmony Drive – “Be There”, was recorded in Denver, Colorado. With help of production duo Glenn Sawyer & Rich Veltrop (Tom Petty, Ozzy Osbourne, Macy Gray), and Dave Elitch (Mars Volta, Killer be killed) on drums. The music video, filmed in Norway and the Philippines, features the multi-talented Supermodel, TV-host, and Surfer Mona Lisa Neuboeck. Of course for the potential quality to transform into effective quality you need a stunning song and band. Lars
Delta Station: “An Unexpected Turn of Events” – the experience is more epic and cinematic
The little 14 year old Australian genius who goes by the moniker of Delta Station, has a new album out. And, somewhat predictably, it’s another utter and perfect treat. Before you listen to Delta Station’s latest album you really should leave all preconceptions at the door. Despite the connotations of the album’s title, “An Unexpected Turn of Events” is a joyous affair. It is an album that is warm, exhilarating, and incredibly uplifting and it is his greatest piece of work to date. Delta Station has only been in the production craft since June 2016, but has already released two EPs, previous to this album.
The Valium: “Amazing Breakdowns” – walking the high-wire intersections of visceral punk-rock expression and high art perfection
The Valium hooked me as soon as I heard the first track “Too Many Dreams Of Rock N Roll” from freshly released album, entitled “Amazing Breakdowns”. This was an album that hit me in the gut and instantly dragged me along for the ride. After listening to it, I must say that this is one of the most unique, interesting and high-energy bands I have ever heard in the alternative rock scene of late. Though taken from a myriad of influences, their sound is completely their own and every song sounds unique to their band. I can’t really imagine some
Newborn: “Honey Trap” – something of a perfect alchemy
The Coney Island, Brooklyn-based band Newborn was formed by high school friends Allen James (vocals/guitar) and Eric Weglicki (guitar/bass/vocals) and a love of rock spanning from Metallica, Nirvana, to Muse. After many years of jamming together they decided to form a band. Newborn played their first show December 2014 which was followed by the release their debut EP “Broken Virgo”. The band has since evolved musically, adding drummer Dave Goldenberg, and going from strength to strength, culminating in the release of their latest single, entitled “Honey Trap”. The song features Newborn’s most diverse lyrical palette to date. The result is a cohesive,
Gloom Influx: “First LP” – looping the listener into a nostalgic yet futuristic world
Montréal-based musician Luc Leclerc, aka Gloom Influx, delivers a unique and powerful blend of metal and synthwave, influenced by 80’s movies and video game soundtracks, heavy metal, and contemporary artists like Justice, and Carpenter Brut. Sometimes you need to listen to music that makes you feel like you are in the future in outer space and somehow the 80s never ended. And sometimes you want to add elements of robots, monsters and fear. When you want those things, there are few better than Gloom Influx . Whether you come at this album from the perspective of someone into synthwave, darkwave
Jigsaw Man: ‘No Home’ – a self-produced EP with strong stoner overtones
The 4 track ‘No Home’ EP is the debut release from Jigsaw Man, the moniker under which singer-songwriter Steven Faulkner is releasing original material. “It’s nice doing things under a pseudonym because you can be more personal about the lyrics, and because you have that separation,” said Faulkner, continuing: “In my head the lyrics belong to Jigsaw Man, so I can be more honest and personal. I can write far more honestly and I’ve certainly done that on this EP. In the past I’ve always looked for metaphor or simile but this EP is very honest.” Playing since he was a
Corlioni: “Destiny” has a genuinely refreshing effect!
In case you’re not down with the nomenclature being thrown around the EDM community currently, on his latest track, “Destiny”, electronic producer Corlioni, comfortably slides into the trend-setting genre called ‘Tropical house’. Though, it would be correct to say that the masked British producer is not really confined to that specific genre at all. Tropical house is a more relaxing yet uplifting form inside the EDM craze, a response to the grimy, dark sounds of the dubstep craze which has been losing steam for the last several years. Rather than deep bass growls that sound like a broken inkjet printer,
Fast forward a quarter of a century and the phrase ‘Deep House’ has become to mean something completely different from its first incarnation during the halcyon days of house. It’s hard to move in the overpopulated market of all things ‘deep’ these days, but in amongst the monotony of the same old EDM samples and generic preset bass lines are a number of artists that really are able to tickle your fancy. One such EDM producer that we believe has kept it deep, down and dirty so far in 2017, with the release of his single “SometimeZ”, is Charlie Desi aka DJ
NYC Lower East Side Indie Veteran Kenn Rowell Finds That Solo Life Begins After 40. Time is a fickle mistress. One minute you’re the new guy in town, anxious to get “up to speed” with whichever ‘scene’ you’ve opted to become a part of – the next, you’re remembering the “good old days” and wondering where the time went.
Back in the early 1990’s, New York City’s The Baghdaddios were the new kids on the block………or more apropos, the new punkers on The Bowery. Playing their third-ever show at hallowed punk birthplace C.B.G.B., they carved out a slight but meaningful niche in the Big Apple’s indie community, playing nearly anywhere at anytime for anything, be it a paying gig, the door, pass the hat, free drinks or even just for “the hell of it”, as front man and founding member Kenn Rowell recalled the other day during a break from shooting his latest music video. The group released a couple of CDs, a “whole mess”of videos and internet singles, played – in Rowell’s estimate – “thousands” of shows, did hundreds of interviews and trekking to countless cities in various locales across the U.S., Canada and the UK. Every now and then they’d get word that their music was airing either here or overseas and on a few occasions their songs would end up finding exposure on a national TV network in any one of those aforementioned places. They’ve frequently received fan mail from random corners of the globe. And, yes, along the way, they started their own Benefit to help NYC’s homeless – a Benefit which has spread to several metropolitan areas in America and abroad over the last two decades – called Blank-Fest.
“Yeah, it’s been a fun journey”, Rowell smiled as the videographer downloaded the latest files from the shoot to his laptop. “I can’t believe the band is coming up on it’s 25th Anniversary, in November! I mean, I don’t feel old………”
True, he doesn’t impress one as an “old man”, although he does come across as someone who’s ‘been there and done that’. Still, after a quarter century he appears to have that boundless enthusiasm that earmarks most of the YouTube videos in circulation from past Baghdaddios performances over the years. Early in 2017 the group released a grainy-but-still-must-see performance from that storied third-show-ever at CB’s, where they eviscerated the time-honored Beatles classic “Hey Jude” to conclude the evening’s proceedings. If anything, a boyish Kenn actually comes across a little tentative, almost apologetic – certainly not the whirlwind we would see in later performances at the same venue within a couple of years. When asked about the ongoing evolution of the group’s sound and image, Rowell just sighs and then admits “I was a bit out of my mind at the time – might even still be”. Refusing to give his age (other than saying “over 40” or “buzz off, man”) he appears naturally younger (we’re guessing mid-to-late 40s) and only addresses the subject once, when asked if the new album’s style change had anything to do with him getting older.
“I never thought I’d be doing this, at this age. Actually I never really thought I’d make it past my 40th birthday. You know, when I was younger, I thought of 40 as being so old – but now that I’m well past it, it’s not that bad. I mean, I still feel the same as I’ve always felt. The same things still piss me off. The same things still float my boat. If anything, the shift in style isn’t a reflection of my getting older as much as it’s just that I wanted to do something different for a change. I’ve been angry and full of attitude since I was in high school – but how many times can you yell F-bombs into a live mic? So THAT part of me hasn’t changed a bit, that yearning to do something different. Besides, I always said that I like to keep ’em guessing.”
As the years peeled off the calendar and various members of the group quit – some coming back and then leaving again – he’s been the one constant in the band’s timeline. So when word reached us of the imminent release of his first solo album (ironically titled “Instant Solo Album” because, as Kenn puts it, it took almost a full decade to put out) we had to ask one question.
If anything, he seemed to bristle when we brought up the subject. “Yeah, yeah, I know the whole rep”, Kenn explains: “I’m the guy writing the songs and doing the singing and talking to the crowd all through the history of The Baghdaddios – so what makes this new album a ‘solo’? I guess it’s two-fold, the reason I slapped my name and mug on the front of this one. First, the whole style of the material has a completely different feel from anything The Baghdaddios usually do. Oh, sure we have slower tunes like “Let It Shine” (which gets the acoustic treatment on this release) and “Abbie Hoffman”, which to me always sounded like a 60s-era anthem. But we’ve always described The Baghdaddios style as “three chords and punt” – we just couldn’t help ourselves from playing everything bigger, and faster and louder”.
True, past reviews on AllMusic.com compared the band to one of their biggest influences, The Ramones; while a quick listen of Instant Solo Album belies a decided acoustic folk and classic rock feel. Just hearing the opening guitar strums on the collection’s first number, “Good To Be Back”, one can’t help but picture a group of college students sitting around a dorm room, singing along between sips of grain alcohol punch on a Friday night. Furthering the feel for this mood is the harmonica solo – done flawlessly by Rowell – augmented by a strong cello underpinning, before both cello and harmonica take the listener with them as the song fades out (no Baghdaddios song – to date – has ever faded out). The follow-up to this sounds almost like an outtake from a 1970’s Neil Young session in the form of another Rowell original, “I Guess I’ll Never Fall In Love”. Mind you, this is the same “I Guess I’ll Never Fall In Love” that consistently pushed the V.U. meters into the red from the band’s 2006 release, Autopsy-Turvy – but all the grunge vitriol and punk swagger has been stripped away. If anything, Rowell’s solo version chugs along almost joyously. In fact, it’s so airy that the listener doesn’t even notice that it clocks in a little shy of 5 minutes in length!
There are 18 songs on the album and yet it’s like a visit from a long, lost friend who leaves before you get the chance to fully catch up. I found myself going back and playing several of the tunes multiple times; for me it was over way too soon and it felt like I didn’t want to let go. Part of the appeal of this offering is the eclectic mix, not only of song styles and instrumentation but even in production particulars. Numbers veer from slick, crystal-clear digitally recorded tracks to performances that sound like glorified demos – a celebration of the lo-fi aesthetic that KR confesses to having a soft spot for. (It should then come as no surprise that one of the many respected industry pros consulted for the production end of this effort was none other than Guided By Voices producer Todd Tobias – credited as a pioneering architect of the Lo-Fi sound, championed by “Voices” front man Robert Pollard – and was thus rewarded with a co-producer credit as a result.) When queried about the changes in recording ambience for the album, Rowell further confesses that said changes weren’t necessarily by choice – and exist for obvious reasons.
“When I started on this I had a few studio recordings which explored my more acoustic side. I had some of these songs in my head since I was 17 years old but I never got them out because they didn’t have that Baghdaddios-like feel to them. To me they sounded like I was doing Dylan or Johnny Cash or even The Beatles. It certainly wasn’t punk. And I had only recorded them because I got a good deal on studio time and thought it would be fun to actually sing the tunes, rather than scream ’em. Along the same time I met a filmmaker who wanted to do a music video for my band – but this was right before we were leaving for England. Between preparing for the trip and playing last-minute shows we just didn’t have the time to do a vid. I didn’t want to lose the opportunity to work with this guy so I handed him a cassette copy of a 6-year-old acoustic demo that I had recorded in my apartment. We just decided to do a quick production for that as a sort of solo number – the video came out so well that I started to think about cleaning up the sound on the recording and maybe putting out a 6 or 7-song EP of original acoustic tunes. Then I found another old cassette of a song I had written and recorded when I was in high school and then another one from my college days and it sort of took off from there. I found it liberating because I had all these old songs that I would occasionally play for friends but since they were never formally released I didn’t feel right springing them on some poor unsuspecting paying crowd. Well, when you have songs recorded on various systems, spread out over a 20 or 25-year period there are going to be a LOT of differences. Now try getting all that to sound like it all belongs on the same album. THAT’S why it took so damned long to finish it all off!
Over the last 10 years Rowell estimates he stopped and restarted work on this project, in earnest, about a half-dozen times. “Each time we’d get close to releasing it I’d go back and listen to the whole thing on headphones and I’d go ‘I can’t release this uneven pile of crap’ – I mean, some of the songs had all this “hiss” on them – others sounded muddy. There was one song that I absolutely loved – I’ve actually broken it out at some shows even though no one’s ever heard it before. It was something I wrote when I was in college and it always reminded me of The Beatles Rubber Soul album.”
The only problem was that it was recorded on an old 4-track reel-to-reel machine, the original tape long since lost. The only existing copy of that recording was discovered on an old “normal bias” cassette in a pile of stuff in the corner of Rowell’s parents’ basement about 8 years ago. “The first studio guy I brought it to said that it was impossible to restore. He got me to re-record it on Pro-Tools and even though I played along with the tape through headphones and tried to make it sound as close to the original as possible, I hated it. The ‘magic’ or whatever it was, was missing. It took several years and several engineers working on it and it still wasn’t exactly where I wanted it to be.”
Enter Michael Jung of Alice Donut fame. Kenn met Michael at a Baghdaddios show on the Lower East Side a few years ago and had stayed in touch via social media. It was he who suggested Kenn bring the track to him. There by the grace of Alice and the EQ gods goeth “When Will I Learn”, the ninth song on the album. “No, it’ll never be a testament to modern recording techniques but the hiss is gone, you can hear the vocals clearly and all the emotion of a 19-year-old in agony over being in love comes through loud and clear. I would have put the song on the album even if Michael hadn’t cleaned it up so well – but now I don’t feel like I have to apologize for it being there. It belongs with all the rest of them and I’m forever grateful for that!”
The rest of the album runs the gamut from the pop-hooked “All About Me” with it’s catchy ‘me-me-me’ refrain to “Henry”, which strikes one as an homage to White Album-era Beatles. “Antonio”, which laments the passing of an infant rides a lush four-stringed quartet to an emotional finish and “This Old Soul” is showcased in two different incarnations: one complete with banjo and fiddle accompaniment and sounding as upbeat as the second performance of the same song sounds melancholy, where Rowell adopts a lower register to purr the plaintive lyrics in a rendering very reminiscent of those famously Rick Rubin-produced Johnny Cash outings, toward the end of The Man In Black’s life. It’s only fitting that this second version was dubbed parenthetically as “Confessional”. “Dreams” could easily pass as an Irish folk hymn and, yes kids, there’s even the ol’ proverbial hidden track which serves to remind us that Mr. Rowell – when all is said and done – is still, first and foremost, an unrepentant punk-rocker at heart.
Having been released on April 27 – a date Rowell chose on purpose because it was his parents’ wedding anniversary (“I’m a sentimental Dude, what can I say?”) – the release is already garnering a good buzz amongst friends and fellow industry professionals. Many of the songs already have music videos done for them with more on the way. Sales have gone surprisingly well. With all this good will in evidence, the question was raised regarding any plans to tour. I was alittle surprised when Rowell didn’t even miss a beat before flatly saying “No”.
“Nah, man – I mean, look, I’d love to but there’s just so much on my plate right now – to be honest, I didn’t even think of it. It had taken so long to get this done that my feeling today is ‘get it out and move on’. In fact, at the end of last year I made a list of outstanding projects that I wanted to finish up and get ‘out there’; this album was at the top of the list. I think I counted something like 23 of these individual projects. Besides finishing off a bunch of music videos for myself and The Baghdaddios I have enough full electric material already recorded for a Baghdaddios double album. I’m in the middle of recording 15 new band songs for release at the end of the year. There’s a short film that I shot in 2014 which I seriously need to find the time to edit and get released. I have a collection of demos that I did for the band – all done on nylon string acoustic guitar – that I thought would make a great follow-up solo album (working title: “Nylon Raw”) and we’re celebrating Blank-Fest’s 20th Anniversary show in December. In fact, I haven’t even set a date for that yet and it’s only 8 months away! I really need to promote this album but going out on the road is not really an option at present. Oh and then there’s all the Yvonne stuff.”
The Yvonne that he is referring to is his “Mrs”: celebrated Lower East Side bilingual poet Yvonne Sotomayor. Kenn has been playing music behind her spoken word pieces, recording and producing them – along with producing all her “poetry videos” (“Think: music video for spoken word, man!”) since right after they got together in 2012. Having performed in 8 states, two countries and all throughout their native NYC, Ms. Sotomayor scored her biggest coup last summer when she appeared – with Kenn in tow – at the Iowa State Fair (on the same stage, later graced that night by Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Famers Cheap Trick!). “Performing with Yvonne is yet another side of me that I love. We do everything together as it is – I’ve gotten her up to do ‘her thang’ at Baghdaddios shows all the time – so for us it’s effortless. She has a six-piece EP coming out later this year and I keep telling her to get the book she’s in the middle of putting together issued at the same time. We just bought a hand-held 16mm movie camera and we’re dying to shoot her next video on film. Believe me, between recording with The Baghdaddios, Blank-Fest and the poetry shows, I barely have time to sleep, let alone do a solo tour!”
For someone who’s been in the business for as long as Rowell, he seems pretty unfazed by all the recent news. When asked about it, he seemed fairly resolved to maintain an even keel.
“What would you say was a highlight of your career?”
“When I got the email, informing me of my solo album’s first sale.”
“What was the first thing you did when you found out?”
“I kissed my wife and went to work.”
At this point we both noticed the video director pacing in the background. “Well, break time’s over – we want to get this shoot done while we still have daylight”, Rowell blurts out, signaling an end to Q & A time. Of course it was at that moment that it occurred to me that he had only given one reason for doing a solo album, as opposed to integrating these newly-released tunes as part of some future band compilation. When I reminded him of this, he smiled and left me with this parting bit of insight: “A few years back I was handing out blankets to the homeless on Christmas Eve. These were the same blankets that we collected at our annual Blank-Fest show………a friend had picked them up at the venue and had brought them to a club in the Village where we would later meet up. When I stopped in the club’s lobby to grab some blankets to take out in my rental car one of the bouncers grabbed me, like I was ripping the place off and said ‘HEY, those blankets are from The Baghdaddios, for the homeless!’. It suddenly dawned on me that after almost 20 years of being in the middle of the whole Baghdaddios thing that I had done a piss-poor job of letting people know who I am. Look, it’s insulting to the rest of the group to say that I’m the whole band. The Baghdaddios were and always will be a collective effort. I couldn’t imagine doing those songs in the studio without either Neil (Richter) or Paul (Zlotucha) on the drums, or John (Sidoti) or Phil (McAughk) on bass. Their contributions were more covert but they shaped our sound just as surely as my songwriting and onstage histrionics did. So a solo album was a chance for me to step out and say ‘No, THIS is all me’. Most of the songs are just myself on a guitar, doing a vocal. With many of them I overdubbed the harmonies and backing vocals. If I used a full band on any of them it was guys I grew up with or had known most of my life like my best friend from college, Paul on lead guitar or my cousin, Rye on drums. So, besides the styles being different than a straight-up, old-school punk band, it was more of a chance to say ‘you know that guy you see screaming on stage? Well, he’s got a few more surprises for you.” And then he smiled one last time, made a quick jazz-hands gesture and howled “SURPRISE”!
It was a good moment to leave. Just like a good, old-fashioned Baghdaddios show: once the music stops, it’s pretty much been all said. For now.