DATE BREAKDOWN: The Media – “Skewed EP”

File Under: Avant-Garde, Experimental, Alt

Last week, The Media courted my ears with the Skewed EP. Never knowing quite what to make of the whole experimental avant-garde genre, I knew I was going to be out of my element. In my limited exposure I’ve seen the sound go two different ways: there’s the godawful Avant-Abstact or whatever they called themselves from Todd Barry’s Crowd Work Tour, and then there’s the stellar Crush Kill Destroy from the now defunct Makoto Recordings. Thankfully, The Media leans closer to the latter, although more rowdy and less polished.

The Skewed EP implements a lot of repetition and more speaking than singing, but within its confines there are clear bursts of creativity. Opener “Electricity” is solid, and provides a good idea of what to expect in the next three songs. The guitar-work at the end of the track is one of my favorite moments on the EP and leads rather well into “Living Things,” which in my opinion is the EP’s strongest song. 

“Notion” feels like what should be the standout track, but after listening to it for a week+, I see it as more of a misstep than success. It’s certainly the most interesting and dynamic of the four songs, but the vocals just aren’t working for me. Vocally, the entire EP has a dose of exaggerated attitude, but it’s contained enough to work. “Notion” pushes the intentionally emotive nature a bit far, at least for the first minute, because once “pie-in-the-sky notion” comes in I’m pretty much back on board.

Closer “Waiting, Buzzing” puts a stronger emphasis on the instrumentation, which leads to a great payoff. It’s the second strongest song, and completely washes out any bad taste that “Notion” left behind. The amount of creativity that exudes from the band’s own repetitive confines on this track is remarkable.

What The Media does exceptionally well is overlap contrasting sounds that feel like they should completely clash and make ears bleed, but instead leave behind an overall pleasant experience. It’s like a magic trick, and I’m not staying it’s perfectly executed, but it’s certainly enjoyable. 

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Highlights include: Living Things and “Waiting, Buzzing

Listen to Skewed EP here.

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Going on a blind date with Skewed EP:

3/5 stars

´╗┐DATE BREAKDOWN: Cesar Wayar – “Tarde”

File Under: Pop, Psychedelic Rock

Last Tuesday, my ears were told “Hello, and welcome,” and then abruptly thrown into an unknown language. Well, it was easy to deduce I was hearing Spanish. However, in school I took about 7 years of French and 0 minutes of Spanish. So while I knew it was Spanish, I don’t know Spanish. Or French for that matter, but I pin that on the American foreign-language programs and their inability to teach anything other than how to order food. Wait, did I say how to order? I just meant food. I just meant food. But I do know that good music transcends the ability to understand a language, and thankfully that is proven with Cesar Wayar and the Tarde EP. Corazon means “heart!” I know one of these words! Thanks Rancid!

Look, I don’t know what instruments I’m hearing, but there are for sure some horns. I don’t know any of these words other than “heart” and I don’t know how to explain what this really sounds like. But it’s good. I know it’s experimental pop/pyshedelia, kind of in the vein of Os Mutantes, but I don’t wanna pigeon hole them. This shit is tight. It’s only 11 minutes long. Just listen to it. Oh, fuck! Drums and guitar! I know those instruments too! There’s for sure drums and guitar on this! But there are other instruments too that are either like chimes or a xylophone or some shit. If I figure it out I’ll fix this Gary Busey of a review. Shit. Please in no way confuse or compare Cesar Wayar to Gary Busey. Well…maybe they share his unpredictability. Yeah! Let’s go with that!

In closing, Tarde is fun and groovy and you can dance to it if you want. The singer sounds happy, and that makes me happy. So listen to Cesar Wayar and get happy!

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Highlights include: there are 3 songs.  Just listen to the whole thing

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Going on a blind date with Tarde:

4.25/5 stars




DATE BREAKDOWN: Spectra – “Octopus”

File Under: Alternative

Last Monday night I did my usual search method on Bandcamp to secure the next album to go on a blind date with my ears. I scrolled through locations and clicked on Canada, followed by Newest Arrivals. Then I scrolled until I came across the cover art for Spectra’s Octopus: a rather cool drawing of, well, an octopus. I named my price, downloaded the album and went to bed. Tuesday afternoon I hit play and the week began.

I was immediately immersed in “Cracked, Broken and Lost,” a lovely, calming song with a strong contrast lyrically. Ava’s voice is superb, and while I could have sworn to have heard some pitch issues on my first listen, they appear to have disapparated ever since. I had a good feeling I knew what the rest of the album would sound like after hearing this first song. I was wrong.

What I soon learned about Octopus was that it is an album of collaboration, each song featuring a different guest musician. What I soon learned about Spectra was that he is an 11 year old boy with autism and a strong interest in alternative music. I suddenly had a whole new level of appreciation for what I was hearing. Spectra has an array of previous releases on bandcamp, which is amazing, because when I was 11 I was struggling to figure out basic scales on the alto sax. But this is about Octopus, and that is where my focus remains.

Closer and Closer,” has a really cool dark, echoey grunge vibe. From what I can tell,  Spectra provides his voice as breathy whispers until the second half, and the contrast between his tone and (guest musician) Matthew’s works rather well. “Crawling Around” takes a more in-your-face approach, but the breathiness is back along with some robotic-feedback vocal filter. (I dunno, I don’t know technical terms, I’m just spitballing here. I can barely play the alto sax.)

Far Away” is a loud and angry burst of energy, complete with shouted lyrics and punctuated drum hits. Some minor pitch issues, but nothing too distracting to lose my interest. “Gold Shoes,” however, while containing solid framework and potential, struggles to deliver the same result. I can see what they’re going for, but the final product feels much more like a demo than anything that precedes it. “Make My Way” is an appreciated turn, with Ava (or Eva?) on vocals, the song is a tight, catchy number that flies right by.

The presumably Spectra-helmed “My Bass Guitar” works quite well with Matthew in charge of guitar and some one resting shifts in tempo. Again, minor pitch issues aside, this is a fun song about customizing a bass guitar (a lyric that took me this whole week to finally decipher). It might lack some of the polished feeling that exists on “Cracked, Broken and Lost” and “Far Away,” but I still enjoy it each time through.

Outrage” is the only song with pitch issues strong enough to deter my enjoyment of the song. It’s a quick number, and much like “Gold Shoes,” I see the potential, it’s just not there yet. I hope they keep working on it, because the layout is solid and I think in time it could be a blast.

Keep on Looking,” is a strong number to end on. Returning Spectra to the forefront, it shows strong diversity in style and tempo, and it’s a definite standout. Morgan and Spectra’s Dad provide the keyboards and guitar respectively, working as an effective rhythm section. 

Octopus has strong direction and an array of talent, all worked into a 17-minute 9-song album. The ground covered in that short time-span is impressive, and the fact that Spectra is only 11 makes it all the more impressive. However, there is definite room to grow, and with his whole life ahead of him I truly think he’ll get there.

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Highlights include: Cracked, Broken and Lost,” “Make My Way,” and “Keep on Looking

You can listen to Octopus here.

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Going on a blind date with Octopus

3/5 stars