Tag Archives: experimental rock

The Mercy Stone

Interview with THE MERCY STONE

The Mercy Stone is a 12-piece ensemble that is breaking the boundaries between the worlds of rock, jazz, and classical music. Performing all original instrumental compositions, The Mercy Stone’s music possesses all the intricacies of a finely tuned contemporary-classical chamber ensemble and the energy of a high-octane rock band.

Back in September, the ensemble released their debut album titled “Ghettoblaster,” and we talked with guitarist, composer and the man behind The Mercy Stone, Scott Grady.

Alright, first thing is first. Before we dive into all the music stuff, how’s life?

Thanks for asking. Things are great – feeling happy to talk about our music today!

Speaking of new music, you have an album. What can people expect from “Ghettoblaster”?

This album fuses aspects of “classical” music composition with a rock-based aesthetic. I imagine that most of the people engaging with this album would be coming from a listening background that was largely rock/pop oriented with most of their “classical” music experience coming from background music in movies or television. On many tracks, I think that the surface elements of the music would quickly convey a good idea of where we are coming from artistically. My hope is that, without any sort of pretense, the raw elements of the music are compelling enough to draw listeners in for a deeper listen. There are elements in “classical” composition that most popular music doesn’t really deal with, generally. While it is not necessarily important to me that anyone hear the music and correctly identify the octave cannon with augmented rhythmic values (sorry to geek out there for moment), it’s fun to think that they might hear it and just feel the tremendous groove it creates.

Ghettoblaster

What was it like working on the album?

We started recording the album with only a few pieces composed from beginning to end. But once the recording process began, the rest of the material really started to flow. Each individual track and the album as a whole came together very organically in what I could jokingly call a very long drawn out stream of consciousness process. Even though the album was written and recorded over many months, there was still definitely an aspect of just excitedly and blindly seeing where the music would lead without an extremely specific plan.

We were fortunate to work with some very patient engineers/producers who helped immensely in getting the sound of the record into its final form. I think mixing was a big headache for all of us. The instrumentation of the group along with the subtleties of the arrangements presented some pretty daunting challenges in this regard. There were moments along the way where I would feel like the entire project was a failure because we just couldn’t get the mixes right. It’s hard to put into words how great it feels to be on the other side of that process with a finished record that you love.

Are there any touring plans in support to “Ghettoblaster”?

Absolutely. At the moment we are polishing the material from the album, along with some new music, for live performance and will start gigging regionally in southern California in the near future.

While we are on the subject of touring, what countries would you love to tour?

I’m looking forward to taking The Mercy Stone to every corner of the globe where we can reach people with our music. The dream of being able to see the world as a touring musician versus simply a tourist is quite intoxicating.

Who and what inspires you the most?

Authenticity in any form is inspiring to me. Lloyd Rodgers was a composer and a composition professor of mine. He once took a written copy of a piece I was working on and threw it on the ground in disgust because he felt that I wasn’t writing music that was true to what he knew of my musical/artistic inclinations. He was enraged at this thought. Any student of Dr. Rodgers would not be the least surprised by this story. I’m still not sure that I agree with him completely in that instance. But, god, I loved that guy. He recently passed and I’m quite sad that I never got to share the music from this album with him. The piece, Conception, was directly inspired by my time studying counterpoint with him.

What other genres of music do you listen to? Have any of the other genres you listen to had any impact on your playing?

Being a lifelong musical omnivore, there is music from almost every genre I have encountered that has been influential and inspiring. Though this album primarily deals with the synthesis of rock and classical elements in an instrumental setting, I’m still a sucker for a great song. I’m way late in discovering the music of Elliot Smith. His music is just brilliant. There’s a lot of classic rock that has a special place in my heart. I just re-listened to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon for the first time in about 5 years and it filled me as completely as the first time I heard it.

I’m also fortunate enough to have creative people in my life that are of great inspiration to me, musically. My bandmate, Emmanuel Ventura-Cruess, has a band called Emael. He is a cellist, singer, and songwriter who is making some of the coolest rock/pop music that I’ve heard in a while. His first album will be out soon and his music is just fantastic. While I was working on my master’s degree in composition, I met another student named Craig Michael Davis. When we met, he was just beginning to compose. He went on to study with the composer, Michael Gordon, in New York and is making some really beautiful post-minimal music. I think we have both taken great pleasure in being friends and watching each other develop as composers.

I really appreciate you giving us your time today. Is there anything else you would like to tell us and the fans before we wrap things up?

It’s been a blast connecting with people who dig our music since we released the album a few months ago. I hope we can continue to excite and surprise our audience with each new musical endeavor.

Links:

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glory-of-the-supervenient

Album Review: Glory of the Supervenient – S/T

There are times in every music lover’s life where a record’s concept, ambition, and execution is understood and loved immediately. Not just by the heart and how it makes you feel but on an intellectual level as well. These moments are when one truly appreciates an artist’s creation. Glory of the Supervenient has all the essential ingredients to conjure up this feeling in anyone who listens to it with no fluff added.

More focused than the meandering nature of Trioscapes and more immediate than the sometimes glacial pace of TesseracT, Glory of the Supervenient has the project, led by composer and drummer Andrea Bruzzone, striking a balance seldom can attain, much less in the realm of progressive jazz/fusion. The sheer number of ideas as to where to go and what to do with the medium has resulted in many albums either going too far with the wall of noise or holding back too much in fear of doing so. Glory of the Supervenient doesn’t experiment with the plethora of soundscapes and instruments available to those subscribing to the jazz/fusion moniker but instead chooses to hone its more contemporary musicianship to a razor sheen. Every instrument is clearly differentiated and contributes to the different cascades of mood every song portrays. The guitars in particular showcase a perfect mix of distorted riffage and technical fret play which play through and off each other artfully. The noodling all has a clear focus in each song, and never seems to just fill space. In fact, the entirety of the record gives a definite sense of progression, carrying the listener from one section to the next seamlessly and gives off a welcome cohesiveness.

gots

At the heart of Glory of the Supervenient is its concept, which is that of stripping away the superfluous qualities of emotion, situation, and inspiration and leaving behind only its essence. This is the “concept” in terms of following certain vibe and structures, and perfectly describes the band’s direction with the absence of a variety of instruments and the sharp focus of the songs. That is not to say Glory of the Supervenient drags on at any point, in fact the pacing is beautifully crafted. Musically, the record achieves everything it was made to do.

Glory of the Supervenient may be a new kid in the block, but they bestow upon the masses a genre-defining album, displaying a marvellous blend of experimentation, songwriting expertise (not using that word lightly), and the feeling of plain rocking. The strange juxtaposition of using a concept of stripped-down instrumentation, conveying feeling and moods at their most basic level using a framework as frequently ostentatious and gaudy as progressive jazz-fusion is not lost on this reviewer and the fact that it’s pulled off so well by one man only releasing a debut album is quite a feat. Those who want thrills without frills in their music cannot go wrong by giving this a listen.

Links:

http://www.gloryofthesupervenient.com

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Tilted Axes

Review: Tilted Axes – Music for Mobile Electric Guitars

New York-located experimental rock ensemble Tilted Axes released their full-length studio debut in July this year. On Music for Mobile Electric Guitars, this 15-piece expedition (according to album credits) led by guitarist Patrick Grant crafts energetic and tuneful experimental rock numbers that contain interludes of vast variety of different subgenres.

The dynamic rockers that sometimes shift into more vulnerable musings show off a band, or should we call it an orchestra, that can assuredly play a range of musical styles. The up-tempo rocker “Shapes 1” blends the best of the rock and pop genres. It’s an appealing, anthemic tune from start to finish that rolls along with optimistic determination.

Music for Mobile Electric Guitars

“Circulation in G Maybe” shakes with a calmer vibe, dealing with post and indie sides of rock. The jagged guitar line and pushy bass line and drum beat propel the song forward, while guitarists emote in a deeper, darker tone. In a twist on the traditional structure, a dreamier and slower paced ambience floats in briefly near song’s end.

“Theme Variation” could be described as everything opposed to the previous number; it’s far more fast and edgy, but it also dwells through the dreamy aspect. Heavy rock guitars and slamming drums interrupt the reverie, churning in a tumultuous mix. Just as suddenly, another transient lull appears, fades, and is replaced by a burst of alt-rock sonics.

A menacing groove, prominent bass line, and agitated drum beat run through “Techno Tilt.” There is much more than this on Music for Mobile Electric Guitars, which counts 17 tracks in total, and it waits to be discovered. Grab this album if you are all for a new adventures when it comes to music, and it will surely give you a lot to absorb.

Grab this fine piece of music from Bandcamp. Stay in touch with Tilted Axes via the band’s official website and Facebook.

Bangbakc

Interview with Bangbakc

Bangbakc from Portland put out their second album “Lot Lizards” recently, an all-over-the-place release that is a real mindfeck. To understand what it is all about I asked Dylan, Brill and Aaron, and they were very happy to answer some of my questions.

Big thanks to Brill especially for helping me understand what this Portlanders are about.

So, what’s the deal with the band’s name?

Dylan: It’s an inside joke that got out of hand. Sometimes your back hurts if it’s been a while, and sometimes your c’s and k’s get mixed up.

Brill: It refers to gettin down a bit too hard casue its been a while and ya got pent up frustrAtions. Its a great lay but the next day your bakc is a all fukced up.

For such unserious group of people I have to say that Bangbakc’s music sounds very serious. How come?

Dylan: It’s fun to goof around. It is also fun to make ridiculous concept albums that are also musically engaging to play. I mean, our narratives are truly absurd at the core, but there’s a lot of content that is pretty dark on the fundamental level.

Brill: Cause were crazy people just hang out with us for a few bowls you’ll see. Were super serious about nothings that dustract us from somethings. Probably anyone who stumbles across our music has a simalair problem

Aaron: We are a very serious band. We talk about real shit, like a psychopathic genius cannibal that intends on eating a prostitute’s child, and our first album has a highly contrasting reverse-monochrome picture of Henry Kissinger on the front cover. We aim to get at the real issues, the real problems.

Lot Lizards

Who designs album art for Bangbakc, and how the album art extend the visual concept of your music?

Dylan: Michelle (our honorary 4th-bakc) has created art for both albums, and put up with us rambling at length about the ridiculous content of the records. She has managed to capture the flavor of the narratives as well as expand upon them in a visual way. No one knows like she does. A handful of characters were also based off sketches that Aarons made, and convenience stores that we frequent.

Brill: Aaron and his awesome wife Michelle do the art. It seems like Aaron sketches a concept then Michelle sketches something simalair then she paints it. Its lovely to me.

Aaron: Usually I’ll come up with these ideas and rough sketches with help from the band, but then Michelle is able to perfectly interpret what’s in my brain and make something gorgeous out of it. If you need album art done, hit up Michelle Fowler Clark. She is such a talented human!

Describe the sound of “Lot Lizards.” How did the recording of the album go? Was it tough, or funny in a Bangbakc way?

Dylan: It is a musical smorgasbord. The recording process was similar, and it did have some funny moments, but we had all set out to create something. While it certainly got silly at times, we had something that was both collaborative and unified that we wanted to share.

Brill:

‘All of the abrove prizza pie and six pepsis at room remperature with cups and plates for 3. Oh and a spot of tea crumpets, two brekfast burritos. ‘
” can i get your phone number first ma-’
‘ extra pineapple on the kids meal classic with a side of carrots, the ginger ale in a can special, and a small hawain no pineapples no canadia bacon and merica bacon and tomatos i need this is 15 minutes is that cool?”
“Mam your phone number?”

What was the hardest moment during the creation of “Lot Lizards”?

Dylan: We had a fight or two, but knew that we had a task to complete. As it has been in the past, it was difficult for me to balance music with real life, but, luckily, it is possible.

Brill: Second day of recording.

bangbakc

What are the themes you explore in your lyrics?

Dylan: I have a feeling that my band mates will answer this one. It’s a concept album that delves into truck stop culture, franchise television, and a sense of uneasiness with certain aspects of the music industry. It also connects to our last album, thematically, but it’s pretty “prøg”.

Brill: Consciousness being downloaded to a space drive.

What do you guys do except playing with bangbakc?

Dylan: I am largely occupied with activities directly and indirectly related to being Brill’s agent. But I try to make time for the wife and kids. Also: they hate me right now. All of those little baby splashes you are saying, are precious life. I feel like I should be throwing money, or something. All of them little splashes, you wouldn’t believe it unless you could see it.

Aaron: Trying to find some sort of balance between spending time with my wife, work, all of the recording/mixing projects I’ve taken on, solo projects, and then dealing with the anxiety that comes from that with a unhealthy mix of debauchery and punching a heavy bag. Too many things. I think I might be losing my mind right now, objectively speaking.

Brill: Prizza delovery but going to soon become the king of proatland.

What does the future for the band hold?

Dylan: Music, banquets, lyrics, etc. I have high hopes, but I also have a high self. Take from that what you will, but don’t take it too seriously now, you hear? My cat wants attention. In all frankness, we would like to finish the trilogy, and the fourth album, which will be called “bangbakc’s greatest hits”, which has almost nothing to do with the content of this album, or the other one that comes before it or the album after right after this one. It’ll be fun. I’m looking forward to it.

Brill: Music.

What is your favourite beer?

Dylan: We live in Portland, and that is a very hard question. I like hops. I also like beer without hops. Something is terribly wrong, and everything is confusing right now. , to catch them. We have cocoa, and we have still had, so we actually stock the eggs. We normally have a lot of steelhead, but right now we have a lot of coho salmon, it’s full of babies fish, and they are so beautiful. Beautiful. And we thank you today for allowing us to come into the hatchery and see what you do.

Brill: I like beer sometimes.

Aaron: As a member of this band I should answer “Coors Banquet”, but I am personally partial to a local lambic beer brewery called Cascade Barrell House. They make a damn fine kriek and a fist full of other superior, delicious sour ales.

If you are interested to know even more about Bangbakc, follow them on Facebooks.