BLu ACiD – Money

That moment when handmade music makes you groove on the spot, then all of a sudden makes you feel like dancing. The not-so-new track of Mischa den Haring and Jan Mittendorp, better known as BLu ACiD, gets right into your bloodstream.

The two dutch musicians released an album called “HCN” recently which features many of their released singles from 2015 and 2016. Although one of the keyphrases I used for this review is “New tracks”, the track “Money” from BLu ACiD is in fact over a year old, but since I discovered it just today, I thought for all of you reading this the sound IS new.
Being a drummer in a krautrock band, I just have a thing for handmade music. Using electronic elements in tracks creates that signature sound which stucks to your head instantly, and that’s one of the things the guys of BLu ACiD do all day long. While “Money” as an example hasn’t that much electro elements in it, it still has that distinctive groovy style coming along with the sound. The electro elements in the other tracks on their album is just the icing on the cake, so to speak.
“Money” showcases that the two musicians are able to transmit a certain feel with their music. You just can hear that they are living what they are doing there. Groovy slightly distorted guitar tracks combined with deep bass lines and that unique vocals keep you caught in the music for those four and a half minutes. The track itself is mixed a bit too flat for my taste, but this could be a wanted effect, serving the retro feel of the track. There’s that “fattening” missing where other producers tend to double or triple tracks. Still, I’m not sure if keeping the track slim was intentional or not. Besides this, everything is placed where it should be. The voice isn’t too centered to give room for the guitar and backing vocal tracks. And most importantly: the feeling is real – you can’t mix that in.

Most of what BLu ACiD is giving me, I’m feeling it. Whether it makes you move, sing along or thinking “how the hell did they DO that?”, it works to keep you entertained, interested and listening. I strongly recommend listening to the whole album, musicians might learn a thing or two from den Haring and Mittendorp, and the avid listener will just groove along.

HyperGear – Buzz

Music is a thing of beauty. Making expressions available through music is awesome. And preserving that certain raw feeling to your sound is what makes the new track of Milan based HyperGear outstanding.

The synth rock trio states that “Hypergear stands for the overwhelming and unstoppable development of techonology, way too fast for the human being to handle it” which is one of the points of chosing their band name a couple of years ago. Taking a closer look at tracks like today’s pick “Buzz”, but also on faster paced tracks like “I Am The Dead“, I’m feeling their intention. The distorted guitars alongside sometimes desperate sung vocals, and with added piano tracks and kind of outer-space synth effects, they are using electro elements with handmade analogue instruments, making the human/electro struggle feelable.
The mix of “Buzz” isn’t that great, but that is not intended anyway, I think. The raw cut and somewhat harsh recording underlines the seriousness and authenticity of the band’s sound. I guess having a clean mix without the multi-mic recording of the drums for instance would have taken away a ton of credibility of the track. I know, nowadays everybody is expecting a super clean compressed mix with the lastest plugins and brick wall limiting, but listen closely to this arrangement, guys. This mixing work alongside an very unconventional approach to the audience (for example, it stated “don’t listen to this band. you’ve been warned!” in the email sent to us) helps building a specific signature sound and unique look-and-feel. I wonder what those guys do live on stage to keep being unique.

To add things up, although the alternative rock sound of HyperGear might not fit in everybody’s music taste, it’s handmade, it’s unique, and done with passion and the courage to step outta line once in a while, be it with raw mixes, not very harmonic harmonies or sometimes even crazy chiptune ideas or something. Make sure to check out those other tracks available on Soundcloud, you’ll get my point very quickly.

Erin Pellnat – Dream In Color

Imagine an audience, sitting silently at small round tables, with a candle on every table being the only light sources in the room, except one spot on stage where a singer sits and just takes her time to deliver a glimpse of her mindset. See it? Welcome to the stage of “Dream In Color”.

Brooklyn based Erin Pellnat created a very deep tune. It’s a slow track with a great mixture of guitar tracks, held back percussion and soft reverbed synths backing the voice of Pellnat. Her vocal range allows her to sing with a dark, deep base yet her voice has that drive, stating “if needed, I’ll get really loud, so be careful what you wish for”. (I know, I’m not a genius in describing, but you know what I mean, right.)
In these hectic, fast times where you have merely seconds to spare, she forces you to slow down, to reflect and to take your time while doing so. While the song uses almost jazzy elements with a certain played bass and the way Pellnat “fools around” with the backing music (not following static patterns when singing), “Dream in Color” stays within indie rock/pop boundaries. Her other tracks are sometimes scratching the surface of being psychedelic (heard in other tracks of her EP you’ll find on bandcamp). I said it numerous times before, I really like when the songs aren’t strictly following one certain genre but mix up several elements, best of every genre, if you will.
Erin Pellnat isn’t a newbie regarding music. She played in several earlier projects, Glitch Mouth and Jean Fight, while nowadays being a part of Caretaker, a rock band from Brooklyn that – in their own words – “formed from the ashes of several other popular Brooklyn bands”. Makes perfect sense to me, since not many things are meant to last in the industry, and as a musician you’ll find yourself in a constant move to get out what is important to you. While Caretaker delivers more uplifting, energetic songs, the solo project of Erin Pellnat seems more settled and reflective to me. Hearing several tracks of the projects Pellnat is part of, I found out she really is capable of adjusting to her environment, blending into all the projects right from the start.

The song was mixed and produced by Chris Pellnat (some of you might remember him from the recent spotlight we did here) who also did the instruments work of “Dream In Color”. There’s nothing bad to say about the mix whatsoever, there’s an exact balance of music and vocals, with the music being defensive enough to give the vocals some room (eq-wise) while also creating that deep room atmosphere I mentioned before.
Overall, this is a remarkable track of young singer Erin Pellnat. With all her projects at hand, I see nothing more than a bright future for her on stage. Although it’s a mighty struggle to be someone out there as a musician, she brings everything to the table to succeed with what she does. Listen for yourself.

Megan Landry – Screaming Sun

After I heard her last song “Questions (on the Cliff)“, there was no question for me to follow up the works of Canadian singer/songwriter Megan Landry, this time with her last months release “Screaming Sun”. If you wonder if she is delivering like she used to, the question is yes. Oh hell yes.

Once again, she just fires away with her lyrics like an automatic machine gun, and if you actually listen to what she sings, some of her words almost hit you like bullets. She manages to paint pictures in your head, she compares, she is questioning and doubting what is given as facts, and she does all of this with a portion of sarcasm and humor behind it. There are so many facettes of what the track is about that it took me several plays on repeat to get a couple of the points she wants to make. These colorful, almost poetic lyrics alone (without having a closer look on the music) would be enough to keep the listener hanging on her lips.
Speaking of the music, she used a basic setting for this, there are some synths, some reverb effects, and a rushing drum beat that really supports her way of firing away her lyrics. (‘Staccato’ is probably something she eats for breakfast, every other second there’s another curveball she throws at you.) As she did in other titles, she doubled and tripled the vocal tracks for harmonies you won’t hear in your everyday pop song. I love that. Thinking outside the box is one part of her signature sound. I’m not really a fan of what she did with several vocal effect layers though, like chopping and slowing them down for a break. But that’s just me, it doesn’t interrupt the flow of the song nor emphasizes on anything else but the track as a whole. The mix of the track doesn’t need any review, it’s solid as usual.

Megan Landry is still picking up speed with what she does. She has an incredible momentum going there which she earned by herself, creating unique music that makes you think for a change. Heck, even those who don’t want to think are at least entertained by her works. Be it for the deep thoughts behind the music, or be it just for the music itself, Megan Landry is an outstanding artist you should keep in mind. And on your permanent playlist.

Hugh Macdonald – On My Way

This is a song for those moments when it seems hard to even lift your head. Filled with feeling and emotion, “On My Way” eases your mind.

Boston based singer/songwriter Hugh Macdonald did an outstanding job with this track from an EP released in November. He chose to just add a guitar to his vocals, and a couple of reverb effects. And believe me folks, this doesn’t make the task easier for the singer.
But hearing him sing, you realize that he’s not playing a role behind the microphone. He’s living what he’s doing there. What you get from Macdonald is genuine, and even if you’re not listening to the lyrics, the song and melody themselves transmit emotions. I don’t quite get why he decided to leave the intro and outro part unedited (in my opinion, this takes away something from the songs’ feeling), but besides that, the listener’s treated with a soulful track that is leaving you without knowing if to stay down or get up, so to speak. It’s rare when you’re getting hit by a glimpse of what the songwriter wants to tell you on an emotional level. “On My Way” manages to do so. The minimal setting (being backed only by a guitar) supports the feel of the song, if there would have been a full band added, it probably would have killed the intention of the song.

Hugh Macdonald released his solo EP called “MÅNGATA“, but he also has worked on a project with Olivia Barton called “Think of England” where he shows that whatever the setting might be, he just blends in just great with his style and vocal range from “soft” to “you haven’t heard anything yet”. I recommend to check out those available tracks on Soundcloud and Spotify to get what Hugh Macdonald is all about.

Cooler – Metal Moths

This alternative rock track made me feel good. Today I learned there still are these old-school bands which make that retro style songs happen we used to dance to. In an industry where there’s more and more electronic and synthetic influence, there still are those who just pick up their instruments and play, those who just switch on their microphones and sing. Thank you, Cooler.

These days, it’s hard to pick a track of the day to write about. I have to admit, there are several submissions that are rejected simply because there’s so much new material flooding our submissions email. That being said, submissions that are most likely to be featured on our blog are those which are unique in any way, be it with a creative introduction, a signature sound – or in this case, if the song triggers an emotion within one of our writers. And that’s where “Metal Moths” comes into play. Listening to the first seconds made me travel back into the past. Not that many years, but enough to feel what I felt back in the days several years ago when I went to those gigs in the old theater down the road, always having a good time with listening and dancing to good, old honest handmade music.
The four members of Buffalo based band Cooler – Alley, Nathan, Nick and Adam, somehow manage to deliver a ton of honesty with this track. Don’t ask me how they did it, but this is labeled as no-strings-attached for me. They each doing their part to make the track work out the way it should – part alternative, part retro, part melancholic, part vintage. They even have what I like to call the “sing-along element” merged into almost any song of their previously released EP “Phantom Fuzz”. Don’t believe me? Check out “Stimulus”, for example. If you’re not going “ooooh oohhh” along with the song, there’s clearly something wrong with you.
Speaking of mixing and mastering, there’s nothing to complain about. It’s done a bit edgy, but perfect for this genre and grungy feeling the band wants to submit.

I know it’s a lot of work to get heard out there, but Cooler without a doubt is going in the right direction with live gigs and up-to-date recordings. Only negative thing to mention would be that they sometimes sound very much like another artist with their music. (I won’t say which band. Golden rule of kms.) This sometimes leads to this “hey, sounds like…” statement instead of the desired “hey, this one’s from Cooler!” Once they found this last piece of the puzzle, their unique groundbreaking signature sound which cannot be mistaken for someone else’s – there’s absolutely no way of stopping them.

Uma & The Wandering Stars – I Don’t Know

A remarkable voice. Haunting melodies. A huge load of emotion connected to all of it. Uma Starets, who teamed up with Diego Perez Guillermo, Itamar Starets and Pav Stanev to form the band known as “Uma & The Wandering Stars”, recently released the first track from their upcoming EP “Trapped”.

“I Don’t Know” is a perfect mixture of alternative rock and emotion. Uma Starets managed to add this blend of desperation and fragility with her beautiful voice, and the rest of the guys are adding the exact amount of pressure with distorted guitar tracks which seem to play and sort of experiment with the vocals from time to time, a driving bass line, and thoughtful added drumlines. (Being a drummer myself, I know how easy it is to get taken away by a song, overdoing several parts in the process, and making the song too “grunge” as a result. Didn’t happen here at all.)
The catchy vocals walking a line between “I’m lost” and “you’re going down” which in my opinion is the secret ingredient to make this track raise eyebrows everywhere.
The overall mix between the instruments and the vocals is done solid. Maybe the layered guitar tracks sometimes are mixed too close together (during chorus parts they’re sort of “melting” together, taking away eq bandwidth from the vocals), but then again, looking at it from an artistical point of view, that could be a wanted effect, helping to build the drive and emotion.

When it’s done with passion and sense of detail, you just gotta love music like this. And what Uma & The Wandering Stars are bringing to the table is exactly that: a great authentic alternative rock track. One thing’s for sure: these guys have everything it takes to go out there and blow away the audiences. I’m very curious about the other tracks we’ll find on “Trapped”. Watch out, indie rock world. This outstanding band means serious competition.

Town & Ship – Candle Counter

If you ever wondered how handmade chemistry sounds like – here you go, one of the the newest tracks of the uprising duo named Town & Ship.

The alternative pop track “Candle Counter” was done mostly with well sung male vocals and guitars, backed by percussion. This combination brings a certain melancholy to the table which I guess originates from the vocals but also is somehow “glued together” by the other elements. The guitars make your body wave from left to right, feeling this certain element you normally only get when attending a live show.
I read that the guys of Town & Ship are playing gigs live on a regular basis, with a skill set and a setlist of songs like this, no wonder they are rocking stages everywhere. They have what it takes, and add that chemistry to it which gives them their own signature sound.
Talking about the mixing work, in my opinion the vocals are done too crisp there. They are sort of dominating the whole scene, luckily this doesn’t hurt the song a bit because the vocals are sung rock solid. But, listening to the track using headphones with cranked up volume, the placement of the vocal tracks in the upper eq band does disturb the overall feeeling. (okay, giving that maybe I tend to crank the volume up too much sometimes… maybe THAT might be the problem as well.) Besides that, everything is there in the mix, and additional effects are placed right on spot. (The hall effects for the guitar tracks are my favorite. They remind me a lot of the works of another famous musician – and no, due to our kms policy I can’t say who, you’ll figure it out yourself when listening).

With the upcoming release of their self-entitled EP within this year, they’re shaking up the alternative pop world out there, breaking up static genre borders with their unique mixture of world percussion and the usage of not-everyday instruments and arrangements. I really recommend giving those other tracks on their soundcloud account a listen, it’s worth your time! If they are playing anywhere near your place, I order you to be at the gig. That is just mandatory. (That’s right, it’s not a recommendation. It’s an order.)

Reyna – Kill Me

Although the title of the song doesn’t point to this, I think the new song from Wisconsin based band Reyna is a lightweight, lean alternative pop track to enjoy. As if they wanted to tell you “hey, it’s not that bad, right?”

The two sisters Hannah and Victoriah aka Reyna did a great job in delivering feelings there. I really love the fact that you don’t even need to understand the lyrics to get the drift of melancholy which leads to somewhere you don’t know yet. Call it whatever you want, end of the tunnel, light after dark, turning point – these women managed to deliver this feeling through their music. And they made it sound like it was easy to do.
Beautifully produced, the track invites you for more with a held back defensive synth line and a vocal track which is reverbed in an outstanding manner. Backed by a pop beat/percussion, the song evolves into an uplifting tune that sticks to your brain instantly. The vocals are sung with the right amount of fragility, yet there’s always that constant feeling of power behind the whole song setting. Most of the things fall perfectly in line with this song. To name a negative aspect, I get the impression that sometimes the percussion is “flooding” the vocals, fighting over dominance for a second or two with the vocals – but then again, that could also be my studio monitors. I’m pretty sure there’s nothing wrong with the final mix over headphones or proper speakers.

Watch out, world. Here you have two musicians that proved with one single song that they exactly know how to make you feel the music, not just how to listen to it. When talking to a coworker here at kms about that song, she said something like “boy, that tune really makes me sad.” while I had that above mentioned “hey, after the rain there’s sunshine again” feeling. See? Those girls even managed to split feelings with “Kill Me”. That certain friction of feelings is quite rare these days, and I can’t wait for Reyna to unload more of it with new songs.

North Downs – Nothin’

Feels like dreaming about something. With the newest sound of North Downs, you are taken on a trip, as if you were still sleeping, but grooving to the music of your own mind.

There’s a certain vintage feeling coming along this track. The combination of a sub bass along distortion effects of the vocal tracks, brass-like instruments, and those old school recorded guitar phrases helping the track to evolve into something you don’t hear every day. Also, there’s a vinyl crackle sound effect used, giving the track additional old-school feel. Overall, the intended effect on “Nothin'” really was made with very much sense for detail. For me, this dreamy feeling with a bit of unrest works out perfectly. There’s an outstanding balance between “comfort zone” and “what-the-hell”. I’m looking for that sometimes, it’s not your happy synth pop, nore is it your melancholic slow rock, but a mixture of elements from the both of the genres. In todays mostly black and white/yes or no musical landscape it’s refreshing when a group like North Downs tries to bend the rules and steps over boundaries in the process. We need those pioneers who do that to explore new genres and refreshing tunes for our ears.
Too bad that the first shot on the world out there is a cover of a song but not their own work…I’d be very interested in what those guys can do with original ideas they develop. But I’m sure of the fact that if they continue with this kind of outstandingly moody music, they will make a name for themselves very quickly, creating their own signature sound in the process. I’m eagerly waiting for the next track.