Week #13: Spectra – “Octopus”

Introducing this week’s blind date: Octopus by Spectra.

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What does it sound like? I’m about to find out. Listen along HERE.

DATE BREAKDOWN on MONDAY

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DATE BREAKDOWN: Transient Orca – “Squib Prod Qua”

File Under: Alternative Rock

What crawled out of my phone speakers on Tuesday morning was unexpected at best. Transient Orca’s Squib Prod Qua was a chaotic meltdown of ridiculous proportions and to be perfectly honest, I hated it. I remember distinctly asking myself out loud, “Is that a fucking snare drum?” Because, spoiler alert, it sounded like a snare drum and it really didn’t work. Which is funny, because now, 6 days later, I really don’t care if it’s a snare drum or not. I like the Orca’s sound, and I feel rather removed from those initial impressions. My dislike quickly turned from the band to the production, where it has remained since. This doesn’t sound like it was recorded in a studio, but in fact, it was recorded in a studio.

Musically, this is really unique stuff. Farzanrad shifts vocally between talk/sing rock, a soothing croon, a low hum, and a sort of melodic screech in a way that works surprisingly well. Just skip from “But Better” to “My Music” and you’ll probably get a sense of where I’m coming from. The percussion, while ready to present power where necessary, is mostly minimalistic, but carries a distinct ability to highlight the more subtle tonal shifts. The guitar really outshines the bass, but in part that’s where the production flaws start to appear.

I don’t know anything about Moon Sound Studios. Even writing the name right now, I haven’t looked into it for a second. So maybe it’s a great space with some great output. But solely based on what I’m hearing now, it’s a mess. That snare sound I was talking about earlier? It’s not just the drums. Everything feels tinny. Levels aren’t mixed right, and I don’t even have any knowledge on mixing, but I know when something sounds rough. The guitar is often too loud, burying the vocals just enough to leave me with a headache. Intentional tape hiss is one thing, a wall of sound keeping the listener from the lyrics is another. Granted, the sponaneously chaotic spirit of these songs carries a bit of favor with more free-form production, but when my ears start to hurt I think it’s time to clean up a bit. I mean, my ears are the whole point of this. I’m very invested in my ears.

But again, the songs thankfully speak for themselves. There’s enough artistic merit in Farzanrad’s music to overlook the production flaws to some extent. Lyrically, I’m largely at a loss and that’s where the production hurts. I like the sound, I think it’s really inventive and fun. I’ve had portions of “Seaside” stuck in my head for days, that “ha ha ha” is infectiously awesome, but if I can’t make out the words am I limiting my enjoyment? Am I losing the point? I’m definitely limiting my understanding.

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Highlights include: I’m Waiting,” “Seaside,” and “Riders

You can stream Squib Prod Qua here.

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Going on a blind date with Squib Prod Qua:

3/5 stars

Week #12: Transient Orca – “Squib Prod Qua”

I was asked if I liked “live music.” I was handed a business card. The business card was simply the URL to the Bandcamp page for a band called Transient Orca telling me to “DOWNLOAD ALBUM!”

I thought, well heck, that’s nice giving me a free download and all. But turns out it’s not a free download. It’s never a free download. So I said (to myself, hypothetically, okay, you’re right, I didn’t say this), “Ya know what? I’m just gonna stream it. And then I’m gonna review it.” And it was so.

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And so basically (just skip to this part), this week’s blind date is Squib Prod Qua by Transient Orca and you can LISTEN ALONG BY STREAMING IT HERE. Sorry for shouting.

What does it sound like? Hopefully squid who don’t possess the magic gene, but let’s find out for sure, shall we?

Date Breakdown on Monday.

 

DATE BREAKDOWN: ¬†Open Your Eyes – “Truth or Consequence”

File Under: Alt, Emo, Pop/Punk

After a day-late start (no wi-fi, followed by file format confusion) I was greeted by Open Your Eyes’ album Truth or Consequence. It became instantly apparent that this band knows how to play together. It took a bit longer to see how this sense of comfort could potentially down the road lead to stagnancy. 

Truth or Consequence is well produced and full of grandiose rebel sing-alongs. Open Your Eyes knows how to hit their mark and they do it with remarkable consistency. Vocally (two seconds of screaming on “Stay Alive” aside) they know what inflection to put on their words to provide the best shift in mood. The drums punctuate the themes with precision and the choruses are immediately memorable. It’s catchy and almost every track would fit in well on alt radio stations. 

So what do I mean about stagnancy? There are hints here and there of a band on auto-pilot. It never lasts a full song, but on “Poor Jada” for instance, a certain lack of lyrical connectivity stretches across the opening verse. The vocals are in tune, the lyrics are coherent, but ultimately there’s a disconnect leading me to think the band is tired of singing those words. Then the chorus ramps in and everything is back on track. “Sleep It Away” has a few early disconnects itself, but the band hits their marks so well it’s hard to pay it any notice. In fact, it’s still one of my favorite tracks. On “The Cure,” however, the band is on their A-game start-to-finish and there isn’t a misstep to be found. 

Truth or Consequence is widely comprised of powerful get-off-your-ass-and-dance (“Stay Alive”) bursts of energy, with a ballad or two (“2019″) thrown in to provide texture, although many of the tracks fall in both categories (“The Cure,” “Sleep It Away“) depending on the verse. The result is a well crafted 40 minutes capable of grabbing my attention and keeping it the whole way through, give or take “Stay Alive,” which carries just a bit too much whine for my personal taste.

Open Your Eyes have proven themselves more than capable of commandinng a performance and writing well composed bouts of angst. The question then becomes: at what point is a song studio-ready without feeling over-rehearsed?

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Highlights include: “The Cure,” “Sleep It Away,” and “Walls Talk 

You can find Truth or Consequence on Spotify and YouTube.

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Going on a blind date with Truth or Consequence:

4.25/5 stars

DATE BREAKDOWN: Prior Form – “Lost Horizon”

File Under: Synth, Noise, Industrial

My ears knew that it was only matter of time before my eyes eventually stumbled upon something like Prior Form and blindly decided to click ‘download’. If anything, they were surprised this didn’t come sooner as bandcamp is riddled with the whole ambient/synth/electronica genre. Riddled with it. And while I know it would be a disservice to discount the entire genre as a substanceless sound parasite masquerading as art, Prior Form’s Lost Horizon most definitely left me underwhelmed.

One thing Lost Horizon does well, however, is form a mood. Overall, it sounds like the score for a suspense scene in a basement or a lower level parking structure. Without the concrete visual, however, I quickly get bored. Prior Form sets the mood quickly, but then does practically nothing to modify it throughout the entire album. Sure, “Loss and Reclamation” adds a bouncier feel as if the scene suddenly changed to a rave for no reason, but is that justified? Is it any less suspenseful than its predecessors? The latter maybe, but the former I would strongly argue against. He only semi-succeeds with a mood shift on “Outrun,” but given the title and how the theme in the background is the same goddamn thing I’d already listened to in the first two tracks I hardly feel like handing out gold stars. What this 41 minute 6song album comes off as is a guy sitting shirtless with headphones on hitting keys and calling it ‘gnarly’ while staring at the whole process in a mirror. This isn’t music it’s a crime scene.

Look, I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t ‘get’ this type of thing. I knew after the first listen I was going to have to open my mind up more for the purposes of this review. But the more and more I tried, I came to the same conclusion: this is simply a drawn out sequence of possibilities a horror film music supervisor could adapt for a semi-interesting 30 seconds of footage. Turned down in the background with dialogue it could survive even longer. The songs are unbearably long because they’re not meant to be enjoyed, just maximize potential of usage. This plays more like a demo tape of “I can do this kind of thing” and “I can do this and draw it out kinda like this” and “I’m not just into that spooky stuff, like if you’ve got a club scene, I can do that too, so take a listen and let me know if you ever want me to compose some shit for you in the future.” 

If you just want to turn off your brain and go running at night or take a long drive through a tunnel maybe this would work as a sonic adrenaline boost. I could see that, particularly for the end section of “Vanity,” I could definitely see that. But that requires something of you beyond sitting down in your home and hitting play. Good music should work on its own, no assembly required. I’m not going to say there aren’t albums I prefer to run or drive along to more than others, because there definitely are, but I still get a joyful experience sitting in my kitchen with those albums in the stereo. I think Prior Form is more than an issue of personal taste. It comes down to what classifies an album. Lost Horizon lacks an arc. Lost Horizon lacks dimension. Ultimately, Lost Horizon lacks a voice.

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Highlights Include: “Outrun” and “Vanity” 

You can listen to Lost Horizon here.

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Going on a blind date with Lost Horizon:

1.75/5 stars