For the most part, I go unnoticed. I myself notice that more and more every day. My interactions with friends are minimal as we crack jokes through either text or social media. I can count those friends on one hand, but that’s neither here nor there. Finding solace in music is my go-to, usually finding myself at shows and concerts solo, which was always a great adventure, sharing drinks with someone I just met, bonding over life and music. It still happens, and it’s allowed me to open my palette to innumerable styles and genres. Hip-Hop, R&B, Indie Rock, Metal, Electronic, Hardcore; the list goes on and on. Listening to anything, in particular, depends on my mood, shuffling through a kaleidoscope of sounds. Never judge a book by its cover, just because someone grew up in the South Bronx doesn’t mean he can’t enjoy a good musical now and again.
There are certain things you have to just believe in, whether its an individual, a project, a way of life, and even a label. I can’t help but always champion Chicago’s Culture Power 45, a staunch independent Hip-Hop label that always brings heady lyricism regardless of artist, with booming beats surrounding tracks. This is that adult contemporary Hip-Hop that will never die. Automatic Gain Control 14 was just released, a 4-track compilation release of various artists. Fatnice delivers a rough mix of a bouncy “Get A Hold,” led by a few chords of keyboard, surrounded by percussion and a melody that’s contagious! It’s quickly followed by ML7102’s “Etherian Crypto Money Scam,” dark maneuvering electronic bitcoin funding set to music. No, really, this is what it sounds like and I dare anyone to challenge me. Thaione Davis delivers the heavy “No Reciprical,” as he weaves his words around a thick bass line and stormy beat while 9th Scientist crashes in and out of “Afro Punk Futurism (MGP Mix).” There seem to be new routes traveled on the Culture Power 45 camp and I welcome the newness.
This is a great opportunity to dive into something different, something new, but something familiar. This is my first interaction with Kansas City, Missouri’s own Nerver, a loud and raucous trio made up of Mat Shanahan (drums), Evan Little (bass/vocals), and Jake Melech (guitar), that could probably peel the paint off walls with the blast of their instruments alone. No, this isn’t a slight on the band who has just released its second(?) full-length release Cash (Knife Hits Records), in fact, it’s probably just the opposite.
The band’s influences are clearly worn on their sleeves although it’s possible they may not even be aware of it. Nerver makes moves, the band has literally rifled through time machines and the continuum, shifting past decades from the Midwest to NY’s lower east side. The trio maneuvers itself through deafening volumes and frantic rhythms. This isn’t something new but should be embraced and welcomed. From the opening “Deepest Bluest,” we get a strong sense of the band’s penchant to challenge how music should be listened to. Push that fucking dial to 11 if you’re able to. Rhythmically, the band punctuates the song when and where you may not expect as guitars follow the same chaotic rhythm patterns, enriching it with melodic notes and walls of glorious noisy distortion. Evan Little howls and screams but briefly shifts things at the 2:43 minute mark and the melody from his vocals are minimal but makes a point.
“Full Dead,” opens with a repetitive guitar riff the rest of the band eventually joins in on. It’s full-throttle and there are brief stop-starts but it’s still unrelenting. The energy harnessed is infectious and you’d be hard-pressed not to jump around in your seat. The band’s “Now It’s Dark” slows things down a bit, starting off with more power, hitting more guitar notes tossing the world into the upside down, with loads of piss & vinegar. It’s heavy, it’s sluggish as it heads directly into oblivion. But again and again, “Purgatory” is what might captivate listeners with its slow and haunting directness. For the first minute, it’s hypnotic before the dynamics change, overdriven with guitars and Little’s guttural vocals. And then the hypnosis is offered up again. The band plays this game throughout the song, but no fucks are given when it’s handled with such precision. The band closes with the title track, offering up just about everything it’s given throughout the album although the keenly placed feedback pretty much dictates this isn’t what we all signed up for, giving everyone more than what they bargained for.
Nerver by its own account, is “a real big rock band” but that alone may not be descriptive enough considering Cash, holds more cheddar than we ever expected. The group’s massive deliveries throughout the release should really let everyone know it’s absolutely nothing to fuck with.
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Always leave questioning everything. Like many independent artists, Plato III, the nom de plume of one Ryan Silva, hasn’t seen much success but a lot can be said about the constant and consistent grind. After three albums, it just may be paying off with the new release The Devil Has Texas (Polyvinyl Records), also an unprecedented move his first release on the indie rock label as well. While Hip-Hop has seen a dramatic shift through its evolution, the pairing of the artist & label just might be what’s needed to level the playing field.
From the artist’s standpoint, Plato III has offered up the impact indie rock has made on him, and we can hear it in his music, first with the high pitched delivery of Mike Kinsella’s voice opening the cover song of Daniel Johnston’s “Spirit World Rising,” as guitars strum in the background as Plato III incorporates his own lyrics, a point of view giving Texas a different look altogether. They revolve around his hometown of Abilene, incorporating a lean drink of choice, a perspective only he can give, much different from the original but remaining close to the original musically. Make no mistake though, while the indie rock may have a heavy influence on Plato III, this remains unapologetically Hip-Hop.
In 2022, Hip-Hop itself has worn so many different faces, melding into pop, R&B, rock, and just about any other genre. In essence, it doesn’t seem to matter how it’s presented anymore so long as it’s presented in an original way or just slaps. Here, Plato III seems intent on giving it to us in a number of different ways. “Give Em Hell,” which features local artists Merk, MoneyM!ll$, Blasé, & Mickey Matta give a harder-edged slap across the face, as guitars blare in the distance giving off a Hang Em High vibe & bite in the song. (Sounds like Kinsella singing on the track as well. I could be wrong but I don’t care.) The track is followed by the sweet pop indulgence of “It’s Alright, It’s Ok,” juxtaposed by angry and confused lyricism filled with vibrant imagery. And there’s plenty of that throughout the album, as well as a decadent amount of pop-inducing infectiousness. “Holiday” hits that way with soaring guitars that aren’t even trying to as Plato delivers personal self-reflections.
Plato III isn’t afraid to challenge listeners either, tossing out lovelorn rhymes over an atmospheric, dance-inducing rock song like “Never Get Away.” He finds his groove here and flows seamlessly alongside the hypnotic rhythm, torn between one or the other. Oh, Plato definitely focuses on his inability to make a choice moving from one place to another, well aware he’ll be happy wherever he lands. This one definitely slaps hard with an unrelenting bassline and cooing backing vocals. Throughout the album, Plato is all over the place but that’s fine because it seems every track hits in one way or another. “Summon The Based God” features the Based God himself Lil B as they quickly (w)rap their words around mesmerizing guitar notes and a mechanical rhythm while with “Heaven” it seems Plato deals with existentialism. But it’s “Sorry If I Dissed You” that seems to be making the rounds with its Modest Mouse sample and Plato’s apologetic lyrics. Yes, it’s idling and catchy AF so there’s reason for it, leaving anyone who listens, a direct convert to the artist’s artistry.
Does The Devil Have Texas support the weight of its hype? That’s a fucking “Hell Yes.” Should we expect to hear more from Plato III? Strap yourselves in because it seems we’re all in this for the long haul.
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There are anomalies throughout history that many can’t seem to quite get ahold of, avoiding the straight and narrow opting for something more meaningful that people can hold onto. There are some that probably wouldn’t say that of Wild Arrows, the project helmed by Mike Law (Eulcid, New Idea Society) who has just released its fifth long-player Loving The Void, an album that remarkably defies classification. Sort of.
There are moments throughout the album when listeners may think the album is self-gratuitous and has the prerequisites for a vanity project…but is it? Initially, it may leave you on the fence about that, but we’ll eventually get to it. While Loving The Void may seem to suffer a bit with an identity disorder, it never moves into dissociative territory. Wild Arrows has a STRONG relationship with pop music and it’s sometimes adorned and meshed with overdriven punk rhythms, layered vocals, and/or distorted guitars. But this alone doesn’t tell the story that is Wild Arrows. The frantic rhythm of “Silent Film” provides just a small view of the band, as delectable swaying beats shift their direction, and then move back again. It’s literally two different items for the price of one. There’s more experimentation on “Hunting Bell” though, with its catchy vocal delivery, and melodious guitars, as it crescendos with a fiery passion. It’s jaw-dropping. The song’s instrument placement may seem odd but fitting throughout as it all comes together and seems to make sense rather quickly. “Reasoning With the Guards” is blanketed with percussion, and odd stops & starts with both a resounding pop sensibility and punk aestheticism. It’s an insane movement that unrelenting.
Then there’s “Almost Like Oblivion” where for the first minute and a half, Wild Arrows furrows its brow and isn’t giving up the ghost of (apologies for the cheap comparisons) Ian Curtis before the band moves in dully slow motion, with Bells Palsy like vocals, and droning bass. The seems to eventually end but then doesn’t, pausing a bit before starting up again before its final decline. Again, that’s right before adding in more percussion into the fold. This is where things seem self-gratuitous. Seems excessive and takes away from the song itself. Redemption is in the air though as “Crowded House” drips with staggering confidence and the swaggering style of a young rock god. The song’s rhythm & melody is repetitive, straying from becoming repetitious and filled with power in every step. With barely any break in the song, the dual vocals elevate the song to another level. For the most part, at this point, the songs seem to follow a certain pattern, as Wild Arrows literally paves its own way. “New Name” however seems like the odd-man-out. With a much more folk-oriented delivery, it’s filled with acoustic guitars although it’s accented with thunderous percussion. A song that for some reason floods memories of American Celtic rock. Not in the literal sense but underscoring it somehow.
One track won’t distract or detract from the rest of the album though as the atmospheric “Dark Glass” magnificently transcends any and all expectations. Led mainly through keyboard washes, Mike Law’s voice is uplifting as it reverberates throughout the song. The song itself doesn’t need much else, it’s just perfect. The alluring “Here’s The Ghost” slowly builds around a droning bassline that’s pop perfection while “No Lights” is hauntingly glorious. Wild Arrows closes with all the pop sensibilities of “Night Time,” building around an acoustic guitar and Law’s sweet vocal melodies.
Initially, Loving The Void may leave you confused but from beginning to end Wild Arrows makes it a point of allowing everything to make sense. Wild Arrows is possibly going to be one of the most underrated groups of 2022.