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Album Review

Robyn Ferguson – ‘Harbinger’ [EP] [Album Review]

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The evolution of South African-born Robyn Ferguson as an artist has been an interesting one to follow, from her days as guitarist/vocalist for Christian death/black metal ragers Adorned In Ash through her inclusion on the Sistas Of Metal project, and then her highly interesting recent solo instrumental prog/shred career. An Ibanez endorsee, her skills on guitar have progressed in leaps and bounds over the past few years, and her music is entering a formative area that is always amazing to watch. To make the journey even more of a Rocky-style beating of the odds, she also had to recently battle health issues that looked to try cut her music career right down – nerve damage and paralysis in parts of her body that included 3 fingers on her crucial left hand. But this all makes it a real phoenix from the ashes situation, bolstered by a strong heroine.

Her first solo EP, 2019’s Alizarin (read our album review here), was an all-out affair that showed all her talents in well-thought-out composition and fiery playing, lots of ripping shred, warm colours, and overall intensity. She released the Falling Forward EP earlier this year – this took all the highlights from Alizarin and focused on the key areas to give a more in-depth look at where she, as the artist and guitar player, was headed. That said, it felt as though she was treading water stylistically, almost worried about taking everything to the next level, which is something that she is clearly capable of.

At 7 minutes and only two songs, Harbinger is the shortest of the 3 EPs and feels like an extension to Falling Forward. “Premonitions” is a short and ominous drone with melodic guitar shadings and lives up to its name. The lead is punctual and forceful without losing any of the ambiences, a little bit of neo-classical shred mashed up with Satriani-esque jams and a smooth fluidity.

“Apparitions” feels like the focus point of the EP – it starts with a quiet build-up that’s dressed in harmonics and a mournful melody, and it pulls heavily on the heartstrings. When the solo kicks in, there’s a feeling of dragging oneself from the darkness and a ray of hope knitted into the perfectly chosen notes, squealing bends, and eerie harmonic back and forth. The song ends as it began: quiet; uneasy, and unsure of a positive or negative conclusion.

The EP has two great songs that, if included, would have pushed Falling Forward closer to a full album and would have fleshed it out a bit more. As such, this is more of a single that covers comfortable ground and once again reminds us of Ferguson’s obvious talents, but I am just waiting for that moment when she finds the holy grail for all guitar players – her true and unique sound. There can be no doubts that this time is on the horizon (possibly nearer than she or us even think) and that will change the game completely. Bring it on.

Robyn Ferguson

Harbinger Track Listing:

1. Premonitions
2. Apparitions

Run Time: 7 minutes
Release Date: August 1, 2020
Record Label: Self-Release

Album Review

Wabi Sabi – ‘The Love Insane’ [Album Review]

‘The Love Insane’ displays the psychedelic jazz band persona of Wabi Sabi and their talent shifting from genre to genre with aplomb.

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Wabi Sabi ‘The Love Insane’ album artwork
Wabi Sabi ‘The Love Insane’ album artwork

About seven months ago, Atlanta-based ensemble Wabi Sabi released their fourth album, The Love Insane, a record that not only flew under the radar but was also impacted by the pandemic, resulting in it being self-produced.

Pianist/vocalist Damien Cartier explains, “This is the first of our albums that I have produced myself. We have never done an album this way, but Covid mixed with having a spare bedroom home studio seemed like the perfect time to try.”

The genesis of Wabi Sabi occurred in 1999. Initially comprising piano, trombone, and drums, the band’s name was Damien Cartier And His My Newt Orchestra. Before long, the band added horns, bass, guitars, percussion, and singers. However, there was a problem: the band’s name, the spelling of which stymied people.

Then Damian saw an episode of King Of The Hill where Bobby discovered the concept of Wabi Sabi, a Japanese aesthetic that perceives beauty in imperfection and transience. Enter the band Wabi Sabi, whose unique sound amalgamates elements of soul, funk, reggae, and pop with tangs of jazz.

The Love Insane begins with “The Truth,” opening on a soft, low piano topped by tender vocals, mirroring pensive tones. The melody blends savors of rock and jazz, forming a dreamy, almost psychedelic flow of floating textures.

Highlights on the album include the title track, conjuring up the swaying soul surfaces of the ’60s, tinted with twangy, country-laced guitars. Cartier’s vocals are spot-on and convey touching, quixotic aromas.

New Life,” a personal favorite, evinces suggestions of Steely Dan because of its deliciously trippy-lite surfaces and grand brass accents that bray forth finessed tones. The funky “Not Yet, Sister,” with its hints of reggae, features bright horns, skiffing guitars, and a neighing organ.

The album finishes with “The Weirdo Blues,” a luscious fusion of bluesy jazz and orchestral flavors. There’s a delightful, sleazy sensation to the tune, imbuing the song with benevolent craziness.

The Love Insane displays the psychedelic jazz band persona of Wabi Sabi and their talent shifting from genre to genre with aplomb.

Wabi Sabi, photo courtesy of Wabi Sabi

Wabi Sabi, photo courtesy of Wabi Sabi

The Love Insane Track Listing:

1. The Truth
2. I Am OK
3. Manifest
4. The Love Insane
5. New Life
6. Not Yet, Sister
7. Sick Tuna
8. The Fall
9. Please Rescue Me
10. Spacetime
11. The Weirdo Blues

Run Time: 48:18
Release Date: July 28, 2023
Record Label: Independent

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Album Review

Spike Polite & Sewage – ‘Punk Not Dead’ [EP] [Album Review]

Seething with primal momentum and frenzied, punchy surfaces, Spike Polite & Sewage’s ‘Punk Not Dead’ projects an intensity of defiance and insurrection.

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Spike Polite & Sewage ‘Punk Not Dead’ [EP] album artwork
Spike Polite & Sewage ‘Punk Not Dead’ [EP] album artwork

Punk Not Dead, the latest EP from Spike Polite & Sewage, is an insolent, provocative social satire, a response to the clueless decline of Western civilization, à la Oswald Spengler. Unrestrained, the EP was produced by Ted Sabety.

Made up of Spike Polite, aka Reagan Youth and Cheetah Chrome, on vocals, Michelle Shocked (bass, vocals), Antony Romero (guitar), and Beast (drums), Punk Not Dead follows on the band’s 2021 EP, PANDEMONIUM.

Comprising three tracks, Punk Not Dead opens with “What Happened to the Punk Rock,” rolling out in buzzsaw guitars riding tight, raw percussion. A single voice segues into gang-like vocals, imbuing the lyrics with enflamed indignation. This is old-school, fulminating punk rock.

Twitter is a Death Machine” delivers a short, vicious commentary on the malicious ramifications of social media platforms, specifically Twitter, now known as X. Traveling on a fast, chunky rhythm, the harmonics slice the atmosphere with edgy guitars.

Snarling, grinding guitars give the intro to the title track chaotic textures as sneering vocals infuse the lyrics with ferocious energy highlighted by ringing percussion. The outro reveals the spoken word vocals of Spike and Michelle announcing that “punk is not dead.”

Seething with primal momentum and frenzied, punchy surfaces, Punk Not Dead projects an intensity of defiance and insurrection.

Spike Polite & Sewage, photo courtesy of artists

Spike Polite & Sewage, photo courtesy of artists

Punk Not Dead Track Listing:

1. What Happened to the Punk Rock
2. Twitter is a Death Machine
3. Punk not Dead

Run Time: 3:24
Release Date: January 15, 2024
Record Label: Solid Bass Records

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Album Review

Night Wilds – ‘All That Should Have Been’ [Album Review]

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Night Wilds “Heartland” single artwork

Progressive alt-rock artist Night Wilds, the musical brainchild of Seth Micarelli, will drop his debut album, All That Should Have Been, on April 1. A darkly cathartic record, it’s an immersive concept album cloaking autobiography in fantastical fiction. (Check out our previous single review here.)

All That Should Have Been was tracked at Robert Lang Studios, London Bridge Studios, and Electrokitty Studios. The sessions boasted an audiophile’s dream of vintage gear and exceptional contributions from mastering and mixing engineer Tom Hall and longtime Heart drummer Ben Smith.

“For my whole life, I have been searching for that magic pill to make everything feel better,” shares Micarelli. “This album is about making sense of that void.”

Encompassing 17 tracks, All That Should Have Been begins with the dramatic “The Curtain,” a heated monologue delivered by the compere of a circus, rebuking the performers, focusing on a small child. His criticism travels over a creepy mosaic of sonic motifs, conjuring up a toxic milieu.

Entry points include “New Jerusalem,” opening on low-slung ethereal surfaces topped by Micarelli’s soft, poignant vocals. Slowly building and taking on elevating harmonics, the melody swells into a grandiose prog-rock performance, highlighted by radiant female harmonies, infusing the tune with gospel savors.

City Of Strangers,” a symphonic rock ballad, reveals the protagonist’s realization that he has created a self-constructed prison in his mind, a prison reflecting the events of his life in his youth. A melancholic piano and weeping strings mirror the passionate lyrics, imbuing the song with regret, yearning, and a moving appeal for human tenderness and forgiveness.

A personal favorite because of the exposure of intimate, inner feelings, “Long Way From Graceland” features an alluring folk-rock melody supporting Micarelli’s raw, sensitive vocals, drenched in musing timbres.

Just A Moment More” conjures up suggestions of Bruce Springsteen, unwrapping textures of folk-rock. Blending gleaming guitar accents, a gently sparkling piano, and a mid-tempo rhythmic flow, the tune evokes the pensive longing for more time in embracing the carefree sensation of life’s satisfying moments.

The album closes with “Where Do We Go From Here,” juxtaposing Micarelli’s haunting voice against the maniacal, cackling laugh and wild spoken words of the crazed compere from the first track. The drifting prog-rock ambiance of the melody, reminiscent of Pink Floyd, is at once delicate and elegantly haunting.

Tucked inside All That Should Have Been is an unforgettable story of working to emerge from darkness and addiction into light.

All That Should Have Been Track Listing:

1. The Curtain
2. The Show
3. Mother
4. Fear
5. New Jerusalem
6. Confusion
7. Control
8. Heartland
9. Where Do We Go From Here
10. City Of Strangers
11. A Long Way From Graceland
12. Joni
13. No Way Home
14. Tired
15. Just A Moment More
16. Lost Light
17. Where Do We Go From Here

Run Time: 60:32
Release Date: April 1, 2024
Record Label: Independent

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