Monday, August 19, 2019

Ooberfuse “Call My Name”

Shades of post-punk surrealism are met with hypnotic, somewhat ambient textures as the bassline in “The Noise” remix of “Call My Name” thrusts back and forth, pulverizing the distant percussion with its unimaginable weight. Regardless of where the volume knob sits on your stereo, you aren’t going to stop the physicality of the bass that draws up a foundation for this mix of ooberfuse’s latest composition. Singer Cherrie Anderson’s voice is the only light in this dark, gloomy environment where tonality plays a villainous role in creating as much tension as would be possible within a three minute club song. As intimidating a listen as it can be, it’s got a magnetizing quality that seems to be a bit of a theme among all of the Call My Name remixes that I’ve heard, from the chiming “Hal St John Radio Edit” to the rather muted “Paul Kennedy Radio Edit” and its fiercely indie music video. Ooberfuse have made one heck of a summer melody here, and in these different versions of it we get to see just how talented the British twosome of Anderson and St John really are.

There’s more of an alternative/punk influence in the construction of the “Hal St John Radio Edit,” “Patrik Kambo Radio Edit” and “Push The Frequency Festival Mix” than there is in “The Noise” and “Paul Kennedy Radio Edit,” which lean more exclusively on the electronic tones in ooberfuse’s sound. The mashup of styles doesn’t create any sort of disfluency in the harmonies as we go from one track to the next, but instead makes the entire record feel like a picture window into the band’s history, and more explicitly, the roots of their music.

There’s a little bit of The Cure in the St John remix, perhaps a touch of Kraftwerk in “The Noise,” a dash of strange, Massive Attack-like eccentrics in the “Push The Frequency Festival Mix,” and even a brutish, Ministry-esque industrialism to Kambo’s radio edit (spare the vocal track, that is). I listen to Call My Name and I can’t help but hear bits and pieces of the European underground spanning well over the last four decades, and that’s not something that I see very often as a critic, if ever at all.

Aside from a few minor speedbumps on the soundboard side of the glass, Call My Name is an excellent collection of masterfully made remixes from ooberfuse and their collaborators, Paul Kennedy and Patrik Kambo. These tracks are more than experimental enough to keep the eclectic electropop and ambient fans happy over the summer season while still boasting a streamlined production quality that, I believe, will get a few of them some time on the radio in both the UK and the United States this year. Call My Name is full of richly evocative, heterogeneous harmonies that are anything but easy to come by in 2019, and even if it doesn’t tell us anything that we didn’t already know about ooberfuse, it essentially confirms everything that their biggest fans in the media were already well aware of.

Heather Savage

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Ronnue’s Introduction 2 Retro-Funk is wrecking ball

The American underground has been producing hit after hit this summer, and one of its most profound stars comes to us out of the Northwest R&B circuit in the form of Ronnue’s Introduction 2 Retro-Funk, a wrecking ball of an LP that can get anyone grooving inside of its twelve deeply melodic funk tracks. Ronnue is no stranger to the spotlight up in Seattle, where he’s been building a cult reputation for his one of a kind flow and adherence to classic funk rhythms, but in Introduction 2 Retro-Funk, he brings a caliber of content to the studio that tops anything he’s issued in the past by a mile.

Both “17 Days (The Hood Mix)” and “Do It (The Remix) [feat. Roc Phizzle, Soultry]” show this skillful songwriter giving up a huge share of the spotlight to the instrumental swagger that drives the music behind him in what I would call a rare act of selflessness in modern R&B. Ronnue is really good about balancing out every batch of lyrics that he lays out here with a powerful harmony in the backing track, and while he’s always the most commanding presence in any given composition, he never sounds like just another talented artist with an ego the size of Alaska.

“Be Your Freak,” “If We Stayed 2gether,” “Something About U (The Retro-Funk Mix)” and “I’m a Lesbian” use a lot of callous bass tones to get our attention, but it’s the vibrant dispatch of verses that keeps our focus trained on the vocalist in these tracks. As a lyricist, Ronnue has only grown more capable with every release he’s stamped his name on, and if this game really is all about creative development, then I would name him as one of the only Seattle players near the forefront of the “New West Coast” sound at the moment.

Some songs here, like “Why,” “Be Your Freak” and “You Tried Me (The Man’s Anthem)” sound more structured than others, like “In Love,” “I’m a Lesbian” and “Do It (The Remix),” which all feature a more freeform, improvisational feel. Everything on Introduction 2 Retro-Funk is rooted in professional-quality precision, but it’s important to draw a distinction between the loose, easygoing vocal style of Ronnue and some of the duller mainstream poets that he’s challenging for dominance in 2019. This guy doesn’t want to fit in – he’s a rebel, and honestly, this genre needs his kind of attitude now more than ever.

Ronnue’s talent isn’t any news to those of us who have heard his music before, but to the listeners who are finding out about his abstruse but always accessible brand of funk for the first time, Introduction 2 Retro-Funk is the best means of getting into his head. The harmonies are off the chain, the beats never tiresome nor timid, and the lyrical content is consistently more positive than the garbage that major labels have been tasking us with sorting through across FM stations around the country this year. He’s got the Emerald City in the palm of his hands right now, and if this record catches fire on the opposite coast, soon he’ll have the rest of the country as well.

Scottie Carlito

The music of RONNUE has been heard all over the world due to the radio plugging services offered by Musik and Film Records. Learn more -

Monday, August 12, 2019

Robert Miller’s Project Grand Slam release new album PGS7

Marching to the charged beat of an unmatched percussive section, Robert Miller’s Project Grand Slam dive into “Get Out!,” one of the staple songs of their new album PGS7, intent on getting everyone listening stomping to the rhythm of this electrified protest anthem by the time we hit the ten-second mark in the track. Much like the jazzier “Take Me,” “Get Out!” is structured as to place its captivating grooves at the center of our attentions from beginning to end. There’s no holding Project Grand Slam back on this record – from the absolutely erotic fashion in which they adapt “The ‘In’ Crowd” into their own stylish brand of fusion to the dazzling display of jazz-influenced virtuosities that they unleash in songs like the soulful “Yeah Yeah,” they operate with an efficient (though constantly relentless) intensity that is unparalleled in the American underground today. PGS7 feels like a supersized Band of Gypsys; there’s an improvisational feel to all of its material, and yet the organic passion that the players contribute to every song ensures that they’re never out of sync with each other.

In “Tree of Life,” Project Grand Slam - and specifically singer Ziarra Washington - produce one of the most emotional performances that they’ve ever included on an LP. The breathtakingly melodic vocal from Washington aside, the lyrical content is utterly haunting (especially in the wake of recent events in the news). On the flipside of this song’s brutally honest pleas, we find the band in much higher spirits in tracks like the groove-driven funk jam “Python,” punky “I Don’t Know Why” and retro rock n’ roller “No One’s Fool,” but no matter the tempo or topic covered by our singer’s artful poeticisms, there’s never an instance where the music lacks the sort of raw power synonymous with legends. “At Midnight” sees Project Grand Slam manipulating a relaxed beat into a straight-up jazz juggernaut, while the calculatedly progressive “Torpedo of Love” incorporates a higher caliber of conceptualism than I had previously realized this band capable of experimenting with. Even simpler songs like “With You” and the swaggering “Funk Latino” command a lot of attention, and though PGS7’s hit single “Redemption Road” has been garnering the most praise out of any track on this LP, it’s no more a spellbinder than any of the songs that it sits beside in this flawless tracklist are.

Project Grand Slam were already creating a lot of AOTY buzz with the release of Greetings from Serbia earlier on in 2019, but after dropping this most recent treat, it should be obvious to anyone who follows independent music that they are collectively the undisputed royal family of alternative fusion this year. Robert Miller’s work has never left me feeling dissatisfied, but what he and his players have done with PGS7 is beyond a slam dunk. Whether you’re a diehard jazz enthusiast, a fan of eclectic music or just interested in something that goes against the sonic grain, this is an album that deserves all of the attention it has received and more this August.

Gavin Shaughnessy

The music of PROJECT GRAND SLAM has been heard all over the world due to the promotional services offered by Danie Cortese Entertainment & Publicity. Learn more here -

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Integriti Reeves - Eu Vim Da Bahia (single)

I confess I am a novice regarding Latin influenced jazz. This doesn’t mean I haven’t heard bands and musicians engaging this style – just that my knowledge of the form is undoubtedly shallow compared to others more engrossed by its sound. This isn’t a slight; there are only so many hours in a given day. Having said that, I am impressed by what Washington D.C. based Integriti Reeves has managed to do with this recording. The single “Eu Vim Da Bahia” from her first recording Stairway to the Stars is possibly the marquee attraction included on her debut EP and its genre and culture crossing appeal is evident from the beginning. Great care, among other factors, distinguishes this performance from weaker run of the mill or cookie cutter efforts – the production captures every nuance of the instrumental and vocal presentation.

The guitar and violin playing are musical high points in the recording. “Eu Vim Da Bahia” includes some of the best and cleanest guitar playing I’ve heard in recent memory – it sounds like it is cut live rather than overly rehearsed and there isn’t a single detectable misstep through the song’s three minutes. The violin work only takes up a small amount of space in the song, particularly when compared to the guitar presence, but its effect on the song cannot be denied. It is akin to including contributions from a second voice that, nevertheless, never obscures Reeves’ effect on the performance.

Her effect is pronounced. She does not enter the song with an assertive or physical tone – instead, she almost slides into the arrangement and brings her voice in lockstep with the instruments. She weaves and wraps her singing around the soft percussion and guitar while knowing to cede ground to the violin during its spotlighted turn in the arrangement.

Concision is an important part of the song’s appeal as well. Like the Gilberto Gil original, Reeves never belabors listeners’ attention and studious avoidance of any self-indulgence reinforces the song’s core strengths. Integriti Reeves maintains an even vocal stance through the song, raising the emotion when needed, and creating a performance her audience will enjoy while it illuminates their mood and spirit. Keeping the focus narrow and on point helps this happen from the first.

It all adds up to one of the best performances in this musical vein I’ve heard in some time. Integriti Reeves’ “Eu Vim Da Bahia” is such a good performance it can headline a full length release as ably as shorter forms and doesn’t take any shortcuts or pander to any low common denominators. Shorn of gimmicks or production tricks, we are treated instead to music as pure as driven snow that lights us up and sticks in your consciousness. It is far from the last thing we will hear from this vocalist; Reeves is possessed with the spirit of song, obvious intelligence, and one gets the feeling she would never stop singing even if she never recorded another note. Her passion is seductive and real.

Troy Johnson

Saturday, May 11, 2019

The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina - Little King and the Salamander (demos)

What Fools We Can Be,” the second song in the 14-track collection of buzzing ballads and righteously rhythmic rockers that is The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina’s new album Little King and the Salamander (demos), isn’t the only slow song that we’ll hear in this retro-style indie fantasy, but its lightly overdriven guitar grooves will make it one of the more memorable along with the chilling “Fade into the Night,” which sets us up for the closing jazz wails of “I Have Always Been Here” better than any other tune could have. In songs like these, as well as the contrition-soaked crooning of “Slip Away (Dreamin’ Again),” the Gallagher brothers-esque “She’ll Do Anything,” and the midcentury melancholy of “I’ll Be (Kisses at Your Door),” we get to experience the acoustic prowess of The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina in a way that I never would have imagined finding on an album allegedly comprised of demo tracks exclusively. The balladic harmonies that these recordings offer us are unlike any other that you’re going to hear this season, and confirm what most critics (myself included) already knew about this deeply talented group of musicians.

The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina doesn’t fail to cut loose just enough to satisfy fans of their edgier stuff in Little King and the Salamander (demos), and ascribe themselves to the experimental rock category in songs like “White Light and Lullabies,” “Particle Craze,” “Definitely Not My Underwear,” the eponymous “The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina” (ironically the one song that I found to be the least cohesive with this entire set) and the agitated “Jeepers Creepers,” which is one of my favorite songs of theirs to date. They got off the rails-eccentric in a couple of instances, but to be perfectly frank, I think that this band wears the crazy look in alternative rock better than almost anyone else in their scene does. A lot of artists have been trying to “go old school” in the past 15 years – from garish indie acts like Wolfmother to more erudite crews like Dead Meadow – but I don’t think I’ve ever heard another band that exploits the framework of tradition with the same honest gusto that these guys do every time they get into the studio. If these really are demos, I can’t imagine how potent a performance The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina could put on if they had an unlimited budget to record with.

Whether it’s their hot harmonies or their ice cold groovers, Little King and the Salamander (demos) has got fans of The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina covered this year with 14 songs that you aren’t soon to forget. There’s a ton of good music scheduled to make delivery in both the underground and the mainstream this spring, but I plan on keeping this staple of 2018 spinning on my stereo well into the summer. There are very few bands that evoke the vivid imagery that these cats can just by laying into a righteously vintage riff, and for what I look for in a modern alternative unit, they meet pretty much every expectation I could have as both a critic and a fan.

Benjamin Gross

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Victor PEDRO’s “Call Me, I Miss Ya!”

Within the thick, resonating grasp of a sultry bassline, Victor PEDRO’s voice elegantly penetrates the pristine instrumental backdrop of his new single “Call Me, I Miss Ya!,” a track that is quickly becoming one of the most discussed among underground releases this spring. PEDRO will stop at nothing in his quest to make us feel every ounce of the emotion occupying his heart in this song, and while the beats are inarguably the most spellbinding element in the track, they’re hardly the only reason to give this single a really close look this season, regardless of your familiarity with the artist’s work.

The reggae influences in PEDRO’s sound are only subtly referenced in “Call Me, I Miss Ya!,” but they play enough of a role in the construction of the song’s core aesthetic that they’re highly noticeable to both the expert music critic and the untrained ear alike. The vocal is smooth, sexy and riddled with a Caribbean swing that adds to the texture of the lyrics tremendously. The bass is as big and bad as they come, but it’s not so cool as to reject a little old school Dancehall flavor in its strut. PEDRO has a lot of different elements working in synchronicity here, but it never feels like he’s dealing with an overly ambitious setup.

Percussion is always a key component in getting people’s hips swaying, and “Call Me, I Miss Ya!” isn’t devoid of a devastatingly handsome beat, driven by nothing short of a blustery, well-defined drum set. The grooves are larger than life, but they don’t steal the attention away from the vocal track at all. The mix is careful to share the spotlight amongst all of the individual parts in the song, and even when there’s one element grabbing you over another, it’s never long before it’s joined by a litany of other textures originating from other places in the track.

There’s little adrenaline in this single – if any at all – but I wouldn’t say that the rhythm of the song is the least bit pendulous. The grooves are really lively and rich with organic vitality, but from start to finish, PEDRO’s relaxed attitude influences the pace of the music more than anything else does. His verses are spot-on as far as timing goes, but there’s not a doubt in my mind that this is his most confident and sleekly arranged material so far.

It’s been six years since Victor PEDRO made his debut, and he’s not showing any signs of slowing down at all in his most recent release, which should be considered one of his best yet. There’s not a lot demanded of us in “Call Me, I Miss Ya!” other than a sliver of our attention, and in exchange for this, PEDRO rewards his audience with a cultured hip-hop experience that is far and away more engaging than virtually anything that his American counterparts and closest rivals in the Old World are producing at the moment. He’s still got a ways to go before he can break out of the underground, but this is definitely a step in the right direction.

Levi Campbell

Monday, April 15, 2019

Francine Honey releases To Be Continued…

Francine Honey is far from a newcomer to the music world and her Canadian upbringing has proven to be no impediment for her discovering success on wider United States stages. Her third album To Be Continued… features the best eleven songs she’s committed to a full length recording and her songwriting acumen has advanced far since 2014’s Re-Drawn. She is investing much more of herself than ever before in these new songs and fills the album with extensive variety few of her contemporaries can readily match. Honey has found an ideal manifestation of the sound she hears in her head with the release of To Be Continued… and it will open countless new vistas for her art moving forward from here.

“Snowflakes on My Eyelashes” is one of the finest poetic moments included on the release. The sensitivity Honey exhibits as a vocalist elevates already exceptional lyrics to the level of performed poetry and the nuanced musical backing further reinforces the composition’s clear strengths. It is a note perfect introduction to the album – both musically and lyrically. Another delicate moment on the release arrives with its title track. “To Be Continued” underlines Honey’s storytelling talents without ever becoming maudlin – I feel it is a song you can only relate to past your thirtieth birthday and, with each passing year, its reflections will only gain resonance. The haunted musical arrangement is well suited for such ruminations. The bridge is particularly affecting
“Honey” takes To Be Continued… in a tasty bluesy direction without ever succumbing to the same tired blues clichés often weighing down such efforts. Much of this can be attributed to the inherent playfulness of her vocal; she owns this lyric with irrepressible personality and, of course, a wealth of talent. The musicians acquit themselves quite well and provide gritty, yet tempered, accompaniment.

There’s palpable pathos in the single “Shacked Up Sweetie”, understated, but plenty of the aforementioned playfulness as well. The song’s video underlines the playfulness without ever dragging the song into outright comedy and reminds me of the top shelf promotional fare often attached to some of the best country singles from the dawn of the genre’s video age in the late 80’s-early 90’s with its celebratory air. It has a light honkytonk sound, again understated but present, and the band keeps things on point while Honey leads the way with her powerful voice.

“Mamas Take Bad Dreams Away” reminds me of the carefully wrought emotional landscape laid out in the opener and title song. It’s a deceptively simple song insofar as it depicts a scene familiar to many, but the well-chosen language and vocal artistry she brings to phrasing the lyrics comes together for one of the album’s most satisfying efforts. The track “Marilyn” is another of the album’s fine points and packs quite an emotional wallop. The writing powering this tune, especially lyrically, has some of the deepest nuance you will hear on To Be Continued… and the band, specifically the acoustic guitar work, frames everything in a compelling manner for Honey’s vocal. Francine Honey should be very proud of this album. It risks cliché, but there is something here for everyone; fun, deadly seriousness, and an abundance of emotion marking every musical and lyrical turn. To Be Continued… is her first studio album in a while, but it is undoubtedly worth the wait.

Trace Whittaker