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Album Review

Puscifer – ‘Existential Reckoning: Re-Wired’ [Album Review]

Puscifer’s ‘Existential Reckoning: Re-Wired (Alchemy Recordings, BMG) is definitely one of the better remix albums of recent years. The additional effort pays off in a more diverse, insightful auditory journey.

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Puscifer ‘Existential Reckoning: Re-Wired’ album artwork

As far back as bardic and skaldic traditions predating written notation, the act of reinterpretation has been a staple in music. Fast forward to the ‘classical’ era, and this becomes formalized under the banner term ‘variations.’ Many composers have been known to use this as a compositional tactic in their own work, such as Chopin’s “Nocturne in F Minor,” that so effectively returns to its introductory phrase later as a reworked, re-imagined passage of far greater depth and complexity. But then there are also multiple instances of composers reinterpreting the work of others, too: such as Mozart’s 1785 mediation of “Twinkle, twinkle, little star” (“Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman” to use its ‘official’ name). In 1819, Anton Diabelli went so far as to encourage other composers to give one of his waltzes this treatment – resulting in no less than 33 submissions by Beethoven himself.

Dub and ska embraced this in the late 1960s and 1970s to inject new rhythms into dancefloors, but it really is only in the digital era that producers could really get to grips with the remix: from hip-hop to industrial to techno and beyond, mediated, interpreted production became the norm. And it wasn’t just an independent exercise, either: Michael Jackson’s 1997 Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix is still credited as the best-selling remix album of all time, with well over two and a half million units sold – closely followed by Madonna’s 1987 You Can Dance.

Agent-in-Training Dick Merkin (AKA Keenan) delivers a typically Puscifer-esque sitrep on the state of the new remix album and its associated tour.

However, it’s in the left field that remix albums really come into their own, with faithful and authentic revisions making remix albums as good – and sometimes better – than their original versions. Consider Fear Factory’s Remanufacture (1996) or Linkin Park’s Reanimation (2002) as cases in point. Or even the panoply of Remix Wars EPs Metropolis Records used to plug their roster of EBM producers – from FunkerVogt to Frontline Assembly to :wumpscut: and more. And Puscifer is one band that has made the remix album part of their musical DNA: “V” is for Viagra, “D” is for Dubby and “C” is for (Please Insert Sophomoric Genitalia Reference Here) were all shockingly good takes on the 2007 “V” is for Vagina album. As such, the remix album of their most recent album, Existential Reckoning (reviewed here), should come as no surprise.

What is surprising is just how damn good it is.

The original Existential Reckoning record was a delight, a well-paced, nuanced and thoughtful narrative exploration. The Existential Reckoning: Re-Wired version is something Derrida would have marvelled at: a deconstruction and summary re-engineering from the ground up, a tale that grows in the telling, featuring some seriously big hitters in the music industry. As well as contributions from current members and touring musicians of Puscifer, notable inclusions are Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Troy van Leeuwen making his mark alongside Tony Hajjar on a more atmospheric take on “Grey Area,” while Alessandro Cortini (live keyboards for Nine Inch Nails) turns the latter half of “Bullet Train to Iowa” into a brooding, post-industrial dystopian soundscape. Tool’s Justin Chancellor and The Crystal Method’s Scott Kirkland join forces to deliver a dancey, trip-hop laced and flippant “UPGrade,” and New York electro-rock duo Phantogram convert “Postulous” into one of the strangest (and that’s REALLY saying something), most hypnotic Puscifer songs I’ve had the pleasure of listening to.

If you don’t believe me about “Postulous,” listen (and watch) for yourself.

The big sell, of course, is Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross taking a break from Oscar-winning soundtracks to offer up their own take on “Apocalyptical” – which, unsurprisingly, translates into something like a Nine Inch Nails song featuring Maynard James Keenan on guest vocals, replete with the typical drum sounds and synth stabs we’ve expected since The Downward Spiral in 1994.

Overall, though, this is definitely one of the better remix albums I’ve listened to: yes, there is the disconnect in styles between individual cuts, but each collaborator offers something unique, adding to the final mix rather than lessening the impact of the original. It’s not as seamless a listening experience as Existential Reckoning offered, but the additional effort pays off in a more diverse, insightful auditory journey.

Puscifer frontwoman Corina Round’s version of “A Singularity.” The beauty of this particular visualization is that it’s just one in a number of ‘fan’ submissions – there’s even one by Keenan’s own daughter, Lei Li.

Existential Reckoning: Re-Wired Track Listing:

1. Bread and Circus (Re-imagined by Mat Mitchell)
2. Apocalyptical (Re-imagined by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross)
3. The Underwhelming (Re-imagined by Juliette Commagere)
4. Grey Area (Re-imagined by Troy Van Leeuwen & Tony Hajjar)
5. Theorem (Re-imagined by Sarah Jones & Jordan Fish)
6. UPGrade (Re-imagined by Justin Chancellor & Scott Kirkland)
7. Bullet Train To Iowa (Re-imagined by Alessandro Cortini)
8. Personal Prometheus (Re-imagined by Greg Edwards)
9. A Singularity (Re-imagined by Carina Round)
10. Postulous (Re-imagined by Phantogram)
11. Fake Affront (Re-imagined by Gunnar Olsen)
12. Bedlamite (Re-imagined by Daniel P. Carter)

Run Time: 1:05:20
Release Date: March 31, 2023
Record Label: Puscifer Entertainment/Alchemy Recordings/BMG

This is Dayv. He writes stuff and makes being an aging goth cool again. Actually, nobody can do the latter, so let's just stick to him writing stuff. Predominantly about black metal, tattoos and other essential cultural necessities. He also makes pretty pictures, but that's just to pay the bills.

Album Review

Two Faces West – ‘Postcards From Lonely Places’ [Album Review]

Two Faces West knows how to play blues rock. On ‘Postcards From Lonely Places’ they’re at their best when pumping out nasty, swaggering, trash-laced melodies.

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Two Faces West ‘Postcards From Lonely Places’ album artwork
Two Faces West ‘Postcards From Lonely Places’ album artwork

Denver, Colorado-based blues rock trio Two Faces West released their debut album, Postcards From Lonely Places, in the middle of last year. The album’s title discloses a singular theme: stories of American lives and the daily grind of life experienced, in all its glories and defeats, tragedies and triumphs.

Produced by Glenn Sawyer and Rich Veltrop, the album was initially intended to be an EP but grew into an album after a change in personnel.

The band explains, “If Postcards From Lonely Places seems like a stylistic mess, it probably is just that. This album was originally conceived as a 5 song EP and slated for release in early 2020. Vince Carmellini joined Two Faces West in 2019, and the new line-up decided to write five additional songs. The result is a group of songs with essentially a very dynamic group of songwriters and players, with different flavors and moods.”

Made up of Kurt Ashmore (vocals, guitar, sax, banjo), Mick Knudsen (drums, vocals), and Vince Carmellini (bass, organ, vocals), Two Faces West’s sound merges rootsy blues rock, rock, and hints of funk into what the band calls ‘crankin’ rock and blues.’

Of the 12 tracks on the album, entry points include opener “Ain’t Got a Clue,” riding a funked-out rhythm topped by skiffing guitars and dramatic flourishes of braying brass. Because of its familiar, irresistible funk flavors, the song grabs listeners’ attention.

Rolling out on a cool drum shuffle, “Vegas at 3AM” features dark, dirty guitars giving off grimy tones as Ashmore vocals imbue the lyrics with cautionary timbres. The mood of the song conjures up suggestions of ZZ Top, especially in the solo section, highlighted by sleazy, virtuoso licks.

Hot Tamale Baby” ramps things up with its scorching textures of galloping blues-rock, radiating retro-infused energy. A personal favorite because of its muddy, growling guitars and Elvis-like vocals, reminiscent of “Jailhouse Rock,” “Brand New Suit” struts the pure essence of down-and-dirty blues rock.

Another grinder, “Moonshiners,” travels on a deep, gritty bassline and Mitch Mitchell-like percussion as Ashmore’s raspy vocals give the lyrics the dangerous savors of whiskey bootleggers. Whereas “Dirty Ol’ Man” snarls and grimaces on murky, sliding guitars that ride an austere, pummeling rhythm.

Freedom,” a live track recorded at The Bluebird in January 2020, recalls the grand live performances of Humble Pie, oozing low-slung, smoldering, bluesy surfaces and a jam band atmosphere.

Two Faces West knows how to play blues rock: they’re at their best when pumping out nasty, swaggering, trash-laced melodies.

Two Faces West, photo by Perks Photography

Two Faces West, photo by Perks Photography

Postcards From Lonely Places Track Listing:

1. Ain’t Got a Clue
2. Vegas at 3AM
3. Hot Tamale Baby
4. The Ballad of Jerry Davis
5. Rocks Like a Country Song
6. Mountain Sunrise
7. Brand New Suit
8. Moonshiners
9. Late Night
10. Spinnin’ Circles
11. Dirty Ol’ Man
12. Freedom (Live at the Bluebird 01/02/2020)

Run Time: 56:33
Release Date: June 16, 2023
Record Label: Independent

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Album Review

Gianfranco Pescetti – ‘DAYSTAR NOCTURNAL’ [Album Review]

Gianfranco Pescetti delivers a series of ambient/dance bangers, coalescing a nexus of complexity and intoxicating extracts on ‘DAYSTAR NOCTURNAL.’

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Gianfranco Pescetti ‘DAYSTAR NOCTURNAL’ album artwork
Gianfranco Pescetti ‘DAYSTAR NOCTURNAL’ album artwork

Composer and producer Gianfranco Pescetti recently unveiled his latest album, DAYSTAR NOCTURNAL, his first new album in almost a decade.

Speaking about the album, Pescetti says, “DAYSTAR NOCTURNAL is my attempt to explore the depth of emotions and create a profoundly personal and evocative sound without conforming to the rigid specifications of a particular genre, all while keeping an eye to the dance floor.”

Originally from the Tuscan Island of Capraia, he previously lived in France for a few years before moving to the United States to continue his music career. He currently lives on the Hawaiian Island of Maui.

Influenced by an eclectic range of music, including modern chillwave, Depeche Mode, and The Cure, Pescetti’s sound incorporates instrumental atmospheric electronica with dance vibes and elements of modern indie rock.

Comprising ten tracks, DAYSTAR NOCTURNAL starts with “Clownspunk.” Flickering tones shape a rising intro that evolves into a shimmering, ambient-flavored dance melody. As the melody progresses, a psychedelic-lite dance vivacity slowly takes over, pushing the ambient surfaces into the background.

High points include the changing emotional sensations of “Obsidian,” which utilizes amiable layers of shifting colors riding a galloping rhythm to fashion a warm, sparkling melody punctuated by glistening, chiming textures.

Gianfranco Pescetti, photo courtesy of Gianfranco Pescetti

Gianfranco Pescetti, photo courtesy of Gianfranco Pescetti

Sundog” places darker rhythmic pulses against the illumination of drifting, humming, twinkling blushes, thus giving the melody a lingering, hypnotic intensity, at once exotic and full of lavish refinement. “Be My Ghost” swings away from the ambient and pushes into the more muscular momentum of EDM, employing a driving kick drum and elusive tints of disco.

Capraia,” a blend of industrial and heavy, atmospheric dance components, molds a mechanistic mood, simultaneously shadowy and foreboding. “The Wake,” eerily haunting on one level, pours like a waterfall on another level, giving the tune dual interpretations: either a progressive lament or a celebration of natural beauty.

The album concludes with “Stopless,” traveling on a propelling rhythm topped by intertwining layers of scintillating, aerated percolations, heady with impetuousness. For some reason, the melody conjures up the impression of EDM gingered with hints of Ennio Morricone-like Spaghetti Western.

Gianfranco Pescetti delivers a series of ambient/dance bangers, coalescing a nexus of complexity and intoxicating extracts.

DAYSTAR NOCTURNAL Track Listing:

1. Clownspunk
2. Macchia, I’ll See You…
3. Obsidian
4. Sundog
5. Nostalgia Aime Le Rouge
6. Be My Ghost
7. Capraia
8. The Wake
9. Fogbound
10. Stopless

Run Time: 35:47
Release Date: January 25, 2024
Record Label: Independent

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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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