New Music: Friday Roll Out! With Sadistik, Bells Atlas, Cage The Elephant, Sad Planets

I’ve always thought Cody Foster, best known by his stage name Sadistik – who is talented emcee – is an anomaly. The long locks he sports, with arms covered in art, isn’t even a concern of any sort, but it’s the music he’s created throughout the years that has made him difficult to define. But what is art, if not something that many are able to interpret in varying ways or dimensions? I digress though.

Musically, Altars, Sadistik’s 2017 full-length release was frightening, with lyricism that sometimes leaves you battling yourself. But the album was accentuated by the amazing “Free Spirits,” which is a track I always refer back to. One thing interesting to note is the album was bookended by two E.P.’s, Salo Sessions and Salo Sessions II, two amazing releases sharing similar artwork and aesthetic. Fast forward to present day and today sees the release of Sadistik’s Haunted Gardens (Clockwork Grey Music), a release that quite possibly sees a much more vulnerable side of him.

While Altars’ forceful hand beat me into submission, Haunted Gardens seems to take a much more delicate approach, with Sadistik’s somber deliveries from track to track. “Daisies” deliver lyrics wrapped around death so vibrantly, it’s a juxtaposition almost in timbre here. We may all not be so in tune or clued into his emotions while recording these tracks but even the instrumental interludes like the two minutes plus “Alcoves” shares the same emotional tug as the vocal sample here is descriptive on attempts of getting away with falsifying death and returning. It’s insanity but done creepily well. “All My Poisons Sit In Frames” and “Koi” are possibly the best representation here of the melancholy found throughout the album as aged staticky wax samples resonate with an eeriness of death, but Sadistik isn’t above or beyond using his words to reflect about relationships in the somber, “From The Gossamer,” where solace is found within emotions. It’s cleverly worked here.

I’ve never been sure if the world has ever been ready for Sadistik in any form he may deliver with his releases but now with Haunted Gardens, the masses might be accepting of all he has to give because this is sure go down in history as one of the best albums the year had to offer. – Eddie Ugarte

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Sometimes there’s that moment that we’re all aware of. It’s that venerable “WTF” moment because you’re hit with something you have no idea how it even came into fruition. This time though, that’s all Bells Atlas, the Psych R&B band from Oakland. Stranger things have happened, but this is one that’s probably unexpected. Actually, I’m sure stranger things happen all the time.

Bells Atlas drops a new album today in the form of The Mystic (Tender Loving Empire) and it floats through the space-time continuum effortlessly, without meandering with no purpose because if it’s a purpose the group has, it’s to haunt souls with an R&B bounce that are infectious and catch everyone off guard. The band opens with an ethereal motion on “Hazelwood” but you’ll be left confused if you’re supposed to sway back and forth like a morning love child or move your body within Chicago House culture.  Bells Atlas blends multiple genres here alone to create something quite unique and captivating. I’ll be damned if I can’t stop moving! They experiment through “Rogue Dream” with vivacious sounds emanating throughout that it becomes difficult to even decipher what some instruments might be. But that doesn’t matter does it? No. It’s bizarrely captivating. Then you get “The Khamsa,” which is derivative unto itself. Sure there are elements and ideas others may have capitalized on but the group takes this somewhere else, a place where only they exist. Guitars are beautifully plucked and picked as the sensuality of the rhythm takes hold, as does frontwoman Sandra Lawson-Ndu’s vocal display.

We can go on and on about the creative onslaught The Mystic offers up. The more upbeat “Belly” changes things up dramatically as the chorus explodes and the band cultivates new ground with its blips and beeps around the hypnotizing rhythm. Truth be told, this album is completely bananas as the group has found explosively creative spirits among one another to create such an eclectic and challenging sound. No two songs are the same yet they all fill the aesthetic they create here as a seamless unit. Just when you thought nothing new could be done within a musical playground, here comes Bells Atlas to prove you wrong because what they do is completely mind altering. – Eddie Ugarte

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When you like something, someone, anything, you’re liable to follow any related projects that would arise from previous endeavors and that’s pretty much what you’re stuck with. But it’s ok because you’re aware that at some point, if not all the time, you’re going to be confronted with something that gets you excited and your needs will be fulfilled.

I’ve followed John Petkovic (Cobra Verde) through the inception of a number of projects. The Ohio player has always associated himself with a pedigree of musicianship to deliver music different from his previous releases. This time around, he gets down with Black Keys skins man Patrick Carney for yet another side and look. Sad Planets is the moniker the two recorded Akron, Ohio under and while there may be some similarities, simply by association, but here, it differs quite a bit.  The opening “Just Landed,” features some of those loud guitars fans of any previous Carney or Petkovic projects but they’re more subdued, and also notable is the shift of loud/soft dynamics. It’s not handled like any punk outfits would but much more gentlemanly (think Bowie, Ferry, etc.). The song drifts along gently across soft waters as guitar effects keep the song in check while Petkovic sings with unbridled passion. Keyboard notes are placed effectively throughout the track itself as well. But they bring back the rawk with “Yesterday Girls” without relinquishing the harmonies or melody of the song, as it frolics and rocks with ease. The duo takes a different route with “City Ghosts,” as they walk through dark alleyways, spookily covered in grime and scum.

But it’s the melody-infused tracks I’m drawn to and “Want You To Want You” is the pinnacle of what they can accomplish here. The killer harmonies on the chorus is compelling and just downright irresistible. Layered underneath it all are eerie Theremin-sounding keyboard work that eventually drift off but damn it if I don’t hit that repeat button. It’s just that good. These planetary members throw me off though with “Falling In the Arms Of A) Refugee,” an almost balladesque-type number. A beautiful guitar driven track that draws on the members’ strengths and utilizes their own weaknesses.

I may be a bit biased here but that’s ok, I’m allowed. Knowing where these guys come from musically gives them the opportunity to try something different. Good or bad, I’m sure they would have been happy to challenge themselves. Me? I’m just glad Akron, Ohio is all good. – Eddie Ugarte

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Let me preface this review by saying that I’ve been on the Cage The Elephant bandwagon since the beginning. I had become enamored by the full freedom that they showcased onstage. They pushed forward a sound that was anything but safe, which compelled many like myself to become hungrier for more.

The band went on to go about tapping into different influences and sounds with the follow-ups to their self-titled debut; Thank You, Happy Birthday felt as if it was a continuation of the appearance to the more psychedelic / garage feel on Tell Me I’m Pretty. (Disclaimer: Tell Me I’m Pretty is by one of the best albums I’ve heard in a handful of years.

Cage’s new opus Social Cues centers on lead singer Matt Shultz’s most recent relationship dissolving. To help make sense of what was happening to him, he dove into his psyche for guidance. What came out on the other side were characters living within him that could show the full picture. It truly comes off with each of the songs on Social Cues. Tracks like the lead single “Ready To Let Go” offer a frustrated vibe even though instrumentally it’s classic Cage. “House of Glass” offers a speedy, schizophrenic offering that is hypnotic and just downright rad. The finale of Social Cues “Goodbye” is so fitting; you get the sense that Shultz comes to grips with the new world he’s found himself in these days. “I want to scream, I want to laugh, I want to close my eyes/I want to hide somewhere that’s hard to find/Stop wasting time to shape your life/It’s alright, goodbye” Shultz sings.

While it’s difficult for me to wean myself from the lush sounds of Tell Me I’m Pretty, Social Cues is a great way to keep moving forward to the ultimate destination for Cage. With each album, you catch the ensemble never being content – that is not only refreshing as a fan but as someone who values a band never being satisfied. – Tommy Johnson

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