EP Review: “II”

“II” is the latest EP from Dead Rituals, a band based in Naples, Italy, self-released last October.

While this is not a one-man band, Dead Rituals is centered around its frontman Andrea Caccesse, who also serves as its sole songwriter, producer and engineer, with a cast of collaborators, most notably vocalist Brita Penfold, who is featured in a couple of tracks.

The EP is composed of 3 tracks and an acoustic version of one as an added bonus, the 1st track, “Broken Memories” starts with an anthemic ambience, a driving and punchy drum kicks in, minimalist guitar lines join, and Andrea introduces himself, telling us a story of overcoming a negative and hurtful relation, punctuated by lines such as:

I don’t care if we lose it all.

‘cause after we’re gone, we’ll fade in the dirt.

After such intensity for the first to minutes, the track closes with a minute and a half of a slower, introspective segment, as if he teller is experiencing a brief period looking back in quiet reflection.

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Andrea Caccesse – Dead Rituals

The following track, and IMO the Highlight of the EP, “Slow Down”, is a more mellower tune with in an unusual 5/4 time signature, the mood is a little more upbeat, from the ethereal synths, and the plea for a respite with a sneaky twist between the lines:

I am taking my time Slow down,

slow down and come to me.

I need to lie down

I am already over the edge.

The 3rd track, “When The Lights Are Out” takes a turn into a broody direction, acoustic guitars come to the forefront to add to the melancholy of the tune, the ethereal synths keep lurking in the background but in a more sombre vibe.

The final (bonus) track is an acoustic version of “Slow Down”, not much to add to it, perhaps Andrea wanted the effort to end in a lighter note, who knows?

Each track was created in a different style and mood, at first glance, they appear to be seemingly mismatched, but what keeps it all together is the thematic thread, about the ups and (mostly) downs of being with someone, giving the listener a conceptual feel, and making the effort more cohesive in the process, the musicianship is top-notch, and combined with the decent production skills of its creator, the end result is a highly satisfying record from beginning to end.

EP Review: “Not What You Want It To Be”

“Not What You Want It To Be” is the latest release by Kind of Like Paris, a one man musical project of a musician who goes by the name of Nolan in Lansing, MI.

In a sharp contrast with the individual effort in creating the EP, it was issued by a collaboration of different labels:

The EP was recorded using analog equipment, mainly the legendary TASCAM Portastudio 244, the tape hiss, flat sounding drums and fuzzy guitar sound give the record the aura of an unearthed lo-fi and slowcore relic from the early 90’s.

Musically, the EP is very consistent in its simplicity, each song in introduced by a 1-2-3-4 hit from a closed hi-hat or snare, followed with unassuming guitar lines and chords with not a single solo in sight, setting the stage for Nolan’s songs about alienation, despair and apathy.

The opening track, “Coping” provides us a gloomy glimpse of the writer’s mind:

…Rub some dirt on that wound

It doesn’t help my head

I’ll always be in this mood

A constant state of sad…

My Highlight is the 2nd track, “Pardon”, which portrays the writer’s desperate struggle with love-shyness and loneliness.

…It’s so silly to ask

But I just need to know

I’ve been through so much

I need to be told…

The EP is a stark reminder of the painful times many of us go through in our lives, the main thing that I took from this record is the feeling that no matter how low can our lives get, there’s always someone, anywhere in this world, who will listen, and understand.

“Blue Moon” BY Permanent Vacation (Italy)

Stream or buy the EP on Bandcamp.

Permanent Vacation, the British / American duo based in Rome are back with a self-released EP named “Blue Moon”

The EP is a lo-fi ode to minimalism, minimalist indie-pop songs with minimal instrumentation and production, soft vocals, almost hushed, with their style of incorporating surrounding sounds blending slowly with the music.

The main elements of the songs are acoustic guitar and vocals, recorded with noises and imperfections, warts and all, but these imperfections are what makes their music stand from the crowd, they give an intimate and spontaneous ambience to the whole affair.

The EP seems, lyrically at least, like a low-key concept piece centered around the theme of dreams, the opening track’s title, “Fever Dream” gives little doubt of that, and the following track, “Olive Tree” contains the lines:

…I put down my bags and unlaced my boots by the olive tree

You said close your eyes and I’ll be there when you dream…

The 3rd track (and my Highlight of the EP), “Volcano Song” looks at first glance like a kind of love song to a volcano, which are relatively common in their adopted home of Italy, but piecing it with the preceding songs it can also describe a dream, like the one mentioned in the previous song, in any case, this is the most uplifting song in the record.

The eponymous last track “Blue Moon”, has a vibe of slowly drifting in and out of hypnagogia, with its vocals that sound low on purpose in order to become a part of the textures, the atmospheric synths, and the sounds of the environment at the end, waking up slowly from the experience.

Permanent Vacation provided us with a unique record, defiantly showing us their own special way of creating music, my personal gain is the different perspective I received from their process.

HALLOWEEN SPECIAL: “The Halloween Special” BY Ghost Orange & drmgrl (UK)

Stream or buy the album on Bandcamp.

First, I have to come clean, Halloween is not celebrated around these parts (Israel) so I was a little worried when I was tasked with writing a review for this split EP, but I pressed forward anyway, and was I surprised.

The EP is a common effort between two British musical projects, Ghost Orange, and drmgrl, the basic arrangement is as follows: the former with the tracks 1,2,4,6, and 8, and the latter with tracks 3,5,7,and 9, it’s released today on drmgrl’s own perfect world recordings label.

Usually, when I think of Halloween, I think of tv specials, little kids going door to door, and the like, but this EP is having none of that, the music can be described as a mix between Goth and Folk, all nicely wrapped in a Lo-Fi package.

The whole atmosphere brings forward the darker sides of Halloween, the lyrics range from bleak, through vindictive, to downright existential, with a backing of sparse acoustic guitars playing mostly minor chords, with small parts of piano and keyboards.

The EP starts with an instrumental piece which gives the EP its title, it sets the tone with a lightly distorted synth sound and a ghostly whistle sound, this track and the other instrumental track, “Ghosts Gather Round” are the only ones where the keyboards take center stage.

If the opening track set the tone sonically, the following track “Catacombs” does it lyrically:

I forget I’m not like the sun

I’m more like the bones in the catacombs

This makes it perfectly clear that this is not a holiday record.

In the 3rd track, “I Love you Octobers”, drmgrl make their entrance in a similar fashion:

Why do birds

Sing their love songs to the sky

That we both know

Will turn cold

And let summer flowers die

While listening the EP, I’ve noticed that although the tracks are split, the musical style is quite similar, the most notable difference I could find is in drmgrl’s more whisper-like vocals.

The light point of the EP, if there ever was one, is the 5th track “Charlie”, which serves as a twisted homage of sorts to “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”, it even ends with a sample of Sally’s rant to Linus.

My highlight of the EP is the 8th track, “Pigeon”, a gentle tune with nice harmonies and soft piano flourishes, masking the resentful message at the end:

But of course you don’t know

What you don’t know

You only have pigeon thoughts

Thinking pigeon things

The final result is a fine effort, and the fact that it goes against the festive and commercialized spirit of the holiday makes for a very refreshing approach, which appeals to me even more.

So, er…Happy Halloween everyone?

“.​.​.​because you’re falling, i’m only falling faster” BY mybittersweetheart (USA)

Stream or buy the EP on Songwhip.

I have to admit, in a very shallow way, that the first thing that caught my attention to mybittersweetheart‘s debut EP is the cover, in all its neon Fuchsia glory.

Being a late 80’s kid, the color Fuchsia somehow transports me to the obliviously very happy days of my childhood in Argentina while the country faced impending doom, but I digress…

While impending doom is not the vibe that I get while listening to this EP, the overall mood is different shades of negative.

mybittersweetheart, hiding his identity behind beautiful abstract Fuchsia filtered snaps, gets his soul naked for the whole world to listen to in the form of songs about deep sadness, loneliness, depression, self-hate, unrequited love, and much more, all played in a lo-fi collage of Emo, Synthpop and Post-Punk.

Take it from the artist himself:

‘…because you’re falling, i’m only falling faster’ is everything that i needed out of my system. these songs capture a turbulent haze of everything i hate about myself, as they are sonic caricatures of who i am at my worst and what my mind feels/sounds like in times of distress and despair.

My choice for the highlight of the EP is the opening track: “getting by(e)”

The song, a great synth-pop piece with emo screams popping from the shadows towards the end, showcases the talent of mybittersweetheart, he definitely knows how to write a pop song, and I say it as a big compliment because he has a great ear for catchy melodies, a knack for arrangements, and a well-tuned voice.

Judging from this song, I couldn’t help but think that mybittersweetheart is a side-project of an already established musician.

Save the opening track and the haunting “february”, a song about feelings of loneliness and longing for a lost love slowly turning into a chaotic downward spiral of obsession and paranoia, the rest of the EP is a bit musically uneven and unfocused, but lyrically it does transmit the pain and honesty of the artist, as he states in his page:

 …i really hope for with this EP is for someone somewhere to gain something from my pain—and maybe understand where i’m coming from.

In that case, Mission Accomplished.

If mybittersweetheart is indeed a “sad kid havin fun”, crafting tunes from a bedroom somewhere in Ohio, he can go far with a more focused approach to his music, I’ll definitely keep an eye on him.