Instant Empire is a rock group from Denver that formed nearly eight years ago. Since then, they have released three EPs and a couple LPs, the most recent of which – 'Last of the Lovers' – will be released this August. The five-piece crafted the album with a concept centering around “the relentless march of time … consumed with finding grace and beauty in life’s tiny moments.”
The band's sophomore album is a beautiful listen, with a fairly dark theme complemented by bright and wonderfully contagious melodies. One of many highlights off the release is “Slow to Reveal”, a track with multiple vocal layers rising in intensity over shimmering guitars and an ’80s-tinged polish. The hook that features the lyrics “whispers and sideways glances” is full of intensity and supremely melodic songwriting, a great demonstration of the band’s talents.
“The initial spark for this song came after spending one too many days in Vegas, and all the heat, booze, gluttony and sickness that comes with that town,” vocalist and lyricist Scotty Saunders explains. “But the song eventually took on a larger rumination on how easily we let addiction and darkness into our lives. Depending on the situations you put yourself into, or the people you surround yourself with … evil can sometimes feel tangible. ‘Slow to Reveal’ explores that idea a bit.”
Rare Monk is a Portland, OR based indie rock band. They are gearing up to release their debut full-length album, A Future, in the summer of 2017 -- featuring 10 brand new songs recorded in Portland with Skyler Norwood (Blind Pilot, Horsefeathers, Priory).
In 2015, Rare Monk released their apocalyptic-tinged self-titled EP, produced by Tom McFall (Weezer, Bloc Party, Snow Patrol, R.E.M.). Singles "Warning Pulse" and "California (Will Burn)" received considerable attention form the blogosphere, college radio, and streaming services such as Spotify. This was the follow-up to 2014's widely lauded 7-inch "Splice/Sleep Attack". The boutique record label, B3SCI Records, released both EPs.
In 2016 Rare Monk faced several lineup changes. Their original guitarist and violist left and the once 5-piece became a 4-piece with the addition of lead guitarist and vocalist Hugh Jepson. With the addition of Jepson, Rare Monk started focusing more on writing bigger guitar parts, dueling leads, and beautiful falsetto harmonies. What resulted were ten new songs written and recorded over the course of the last year and a half.
The songs deal with death and agency – our control (both individual and as a species) of how the future will play out. “It’s easy to be deterministic – the world’s a shit show right now and it feels like all we can do is make popcorn – so there’s a lot of grappling and grasping for free will.” The songs are also a lot of fun – big guitar fun – a commitment to giant choruses as a medium to discuss humanity’s doom and how we might prevent it. If there’s a unifying theme to the album, it’s that we have control over the music we make, that band practice is chaos under our control and feedback cures all diseases.
Rare Monk decided to release their debut full-length independently after self producing much of the album, alongside Norwood, having previously worked with him on 2013's "Death By Proxy EP". These tracks represent a sound formed over the course of the last five years, containing some of their most adventurous yet accessible songs to date.
Psychonavigation Records founder, Keith Downey returns with his latest musical offering, Buddha Bowl. Under the guise of No Mask Effect, the prolific Downey has just released his fifth project in under two years through Psychonavigation Records.
The album opens with “Be Good To Us”, a diverse mix of industrial complex beats, electronic and Afro-Caribbean inspired vocal snippets alongside an ear worm of a saxophone groove. On “Siren” the mood shifts with a lush sea of sound drifting from the speakers. A sinister yet tranquil string melody lurks beneath the audio waves, eventually emerging to create a beautiful piece of effortless ambient.
Meanwhile the mysterious bells, chimes and subtle, pulsing rhythm of “Hidden Surprises” takes Downey's long time love of Ambient music to new territory. With chattering electronic beeps and bleeps, celestial vocal samples and an ultrasound inspired bassline that is both intriguing and unexpected.
“Dark Emotion” however, reveals itself to be more enigmatic rather than pessimistic. An eight minute sensatory expedition of obscure samples both organic and electronic, nature sounds, glorious synths spiraling electronic loops are all included in the production. Music for headphones, this track's intricacies can only unfold with repeated listens.
With what is undoubtedly his most accomplished and eclectic collection to date, Buddha Bowl should satisfy long time No Mask Effect fans while exposing his unique sound to many new listeners.
Orellana is a neo-classical/post-rock collective hailing from Bristol, UK. Their new album “52”, released in late December, brought in the new year with it’s explosive and intricate sound. The project’s music transcends genre definitions in order to focus on a broad, diverse concept that is more emotional than tangible. This particular release is full of rich and diverse arrangements, but it is also a powerful exercise in minimalism, one that showcases the strength of very few notes placed in the right spots. The simplicity of the arrangement is actually one of the strongest aspects of this entire release: there’s a palpable stillness created by the long, drone notes in the background, which almost makes you feel like the world is happening in slow motion. When the chords and notes change, it feels quite monumental due to the beautiful contrast between the stillness of the background textures and the expressive sound of the guitar-based melodies.
Davenport Rex is a music project based in Detroit, Michigan. Their sound is diverse and challenging, yet accessible and appealing. The band’s music stands out as a combination of tasteful progressive rock, with shades of various influences, ranging from alternative to symphonic hard rock, just to mention a few.