Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Guitar centered freak folk mind expansion played with a refreshing youthful sincerity. The guitarist's chops are not of the degree of buckethead, but there is a variety of genre that is impressive. The tone of the guitar goes from reverb drenched noise echo to quick release acoustic twang. The Dick Dale speed picking gets gnarly ala MY BLOODY VALENTINE special effect sonic blast as the structure remains pop, almost to the degree of twee. Television hiss snow accompanies distortion power chords and the vocals croon like Echo & the Bunnymen, but the overall attempt is far more spare and DIY. Great vocal harmonies and lots of force in the voice. A song like Ghost Town brings it down a knock, hitting Nick Drake territory, but slightly more droned, with perhaps an over reliance on chords.
A great end of the summer release ... eclectic and bittersweet played at the tempo of jaded determination. It's an intimate release and one that can be melancholy in tone, but its overall effect is one of satisfaction.
-- Jack Turnbull
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
The band’s sound is best described as Bedroom/Dream-Pop. However, it does not quite fit the same bill as The Antlers, or Beach House. First of all, it is safe to listen to without being mistaken for someone who moved from Greenwich, CT to Brooklyn and after two months is already claiming to be “from” New York. (very important side note: having been to Connecticut, I empathize with their embarrassment but seriously…fuck those people).
What sets Brave Radar apart is that the “Bedroom” in their sound isn’t a bedroom like, say, someone from Connecticut grew up in. It is a pile of cardigan and ironic sweaters in the corner of a basement, separated from the rest a tapestry that has been traveling via duffel bag since it’s owner dropped out of college. Best case scenario, the auxiliary (liquor-wreaking) couch in a living room with a sleeping bag shoved behind it during waking hours.
The “Dream” isn’t a dream like Kurt Vile or Zachary Cole Smith of DIIV might express through effect-laden guitar leads. It is not a continuous, lucid and romantic dream world where the one-that-got-away shows up out of the blue, you turn menial events into vaguely sexual activities, possibly kill each others parents, use the insurance money to hire Tom Verlaine to play your wedding, have an episode of Law & Order based on your story, and after waking you have to spend all day reluctantly convincing yourself (through the tears) that it didn’t actually, and never will, happen. Not that kind of dream. Sorry. These Dreams are like the ones you usually have – fragmented, disassociated, almost humdrum but through a surreal lens like in a French film.
Teasers of melodies, near-surf guitar riffs, and wholeheartedly passive vocal stylings make this tape a pop-minimalist’s delight. The vocals (from dual, male/female vocalists) are perhaps the subtlest element of all. They are perfectly audible and clearly pronounced; yet melt so well into the music that you could conceivably miss them if you’re not paying attention. This is by no means a drawback, rather it is inline with the iconic Ferris Bueller quote…I think it goes “Life moves pretty fast sometimes, but if you rig up your room like a Rube Goldberg device your principal will break into your house and assault your sister” or something like that.
The songs themselves are just as restrained as the vocals, almost like they’re running through a set at a secret practice to see if they can get away without their lead guitarist. When the tempo picks up, they get catchier and almost sound like a punk band that had to resort to practicing in the uncool parent’s basement.
There is a definite bouncy element at play her as well. Not ‘bouncy’ like a pogo stick but more like a partially deflated kickball. Not great for throwing a runner out at home but still plenty good for kicking. Fans of Blanche Blanche Blanche, Chris Weisman, and those who long for a tamer version of Deerhoof or a less ambitious version of Low, are sure to get a kick out of this cassette.
-- Travis Long
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Editorial by Jack Turnbull
Cassette Gods is reviewing a different type of cassette today; a VHS cassette, Fancy Lad Rollerboards presents “NEW HELL”. “New Hell” documents a Boston based skateboard crew with a style that has a lot of momentum within the skateboarding community in 2014; “creative skating”. While “New Hell” captures footage of daredevlish drop-ins, advance level rail grinds, bombing down scary steep hills, “physics be damned” switch wheelies and everything you’d expect from a skate video, what makes Fancy Lad’s “New Hell” unique is its ability to poetically illustrate the complexities of skateboarding in your late twenties when the glamor of the practice begins to fade. It’s an exhilarating video and the skateboarding captured on footage is impressive. “New Hell”’s crew perform skateboard tricks of exceptional difficulty. But these stunts are intermixed with the silliest of pulpy B grade exploitative films, camcorder late night tomfoolery and scenes of self deprecating humor. Balancing the sincerity that comes with genuinely needing to accomplish athletic undertakings with loosely thrown together Simpsons doodles and tacky kill scenes from old school horror movies makes for a compelling contradiction. It’s almost as if the Fancy Lad crew is unaware of their accomplishments. Or maybe the Fancy Lad crew is purposely attempting to downplay their accomplishments. Or maybe the Fancy Lad crew is fully aware of their accomplishments and are allowing humor to point out how little reward there is in skateboarding for the average border beyond the act of skateboarding itself.
The video editing in “New Hell” is sometimes random. Some of the found footage from movies (that range in source from “Brain Damage”, the worst B-grade 80ties creature feature you can find, “Apocalypse Now”, “Steven King’s Misery”, “Happiness”, 1990ties MTV News snipers, “The Simpsons”, footage from the Charles Bronson Death Wish series, etc.) does not always correspond with the footage of skateboarding, although sometimes it does to make delicious puns. The feel of the movie is therefore jarring, especially the movie’s final segment with skater Jesse James who skates like he's in the circus. James skates in clown shoes and at one point goes as far as to include a scene where someone is pooping off a ceiling (the footage is very short, so it’s over before you can figure out what’s happening. Like a subliminal message, you know you’ve been visually assaulted but due to the footage’s lack of screen time its shock is quickly forgotten as a new barrage of skate footage grabs your attention).
This is not to say the movie is anti-thematic or lacking structure, however. In fact, New Hell addresses an incredible amount of emotional range; from anxiety, to euphoria, to discouragement, to triumph.
There is a slam session (skateboard lingo for footage of crashes and failures) accompanied by sad trumpet jazz… it makes skateboarding appear isolating and painful. Later in the session, the editing superimposes footage upon itself. The effect gives off a melancholy film noir portrayal of time fading away. In the context of the rest of the video, which is very passionate, high octane and aggressive, it is introspective. This juxtaposition made me laugh, but again, sincerity shined through and the segment feels bleak to the point of almost feeling like a cry for help. A reprise of this “sad jazz song” theme is used in an equally painful looking segment later on in the movie. Vangelis’s “One more Kiss, Dear”, from the Blade Runner soundtrack, accompanies it. Again, the juxtaposition of tepid jazz with high speed crashing is ironically amusing, but more importantly introspective.
The skateboarders in “New Hell” are not glamorous. Their clothing suggestions a disheveled poverty. They are flawed but athletically ambitious men the audience roots and empathizes with due to their visual disappointment, injuries and failures. By not glorifying their practice of skateboarding, Fancy Lad’s “New Hell” ceases to be a cynical promotional device to glorify skateboard commodities and instead becomes art; an undiluted and raw expression of human determination, enthusiasm and creativity.
If one studies the history of the skateboarding film one will know that this isn’t anything new; Toy Machine’s “Welcome to Hell”, for example, has a cringe inducing smash reel that would make even the most seasoned of crash test dummies run for the nearest toilet or rubbish basket to puke. But New Hell isn’t just injury porn. It’s more complicated than that. New Hell exaggerates and expands on whats its like to have a burning passion for skateboarding, only to realize you’re not Tony Hawk, you’re never going to be Tony Hawk, you can’t join the ranks of respected financially stable society through your burning passion like Tony Hawk … and to decide to continue following that burning passion regardless. New Hell is not just physically ballsy, it is existentially ballsy and the crew deserves greater notoriety.
Therefore, I got in touch with Fancy Lad Skateboards CEO Nick “Big” Murray. The following questions were inducted via e-mail correspondence.
CG: Was there one particular cinematographer who filmed "New Hell" or does the Fancy Lad crew share the responsibilities?
FL: The entire crew shares the filming, whoever is out on the session, it’s referred to as “Buddy-Cam” in skateboarding. That’s why some of it sucks so much.
CG: Non-licensed Simpsons doodles are a recurring theme in “New Hell” and on your decks. Is Matt Groening an influence?
FL: Everybody loves the Simpsons earlier works, they taught us everything we need to know about life. Without it, I would have no childhood.
CG: Do you have a favorite Simpsons episode?
FL: Fiske likes when Homer goes to Clown College, or when the Family goes to Ned Flanders summer home with Milhouse, but my favorite might be “A Star is Burns” or better known as the film festival episode. Too many to name though, that’s just a few.
CG: White Boy the Average Rat Band's "Sector 387" is a highlight of “New Hell”s soundtrack. How did you stumble upon this obscure proto-metal band?
FL: We discovered that band thanks to file sharing with our friend Matt Haggerty, he used to have a blogspot called White Widow. The guy is a Genius; he has more music than anyone we know.
CG: What can you tell me about Ferderalz “Coming Soon”? It has a looping orchestral beat that sounds dated, like classic Wu-Tang Clan. The outdated VHS footage of the rappers in New Hell makes them appear from another era. Is Ferderalz a contemporary band?
That song was sampled from the Shorty’s Skateboard video “GUILTY” which was released in 2001. I searched for a long time, but could not find a download, so I had to rip the song from the VHS copy I have, which is why you can hear skate audio that doesn’t sync up. I assume they are from the San Diego area as well. Hopefully they are still around.
CG: New Hell has almost an anti-digital aesthetic. There is a lot of freehand typography, for example. Furthermore, some of your board designs are collaged and photographed by hand, not even in Photoshop. If someone were to watch the VHS “New Hell” it would be difficult to decipher its production date (could be anywhere between 1993 - today!). The soundtrack isn't very contemporary sounding, either. Are you nostalgic and is your lack of contemporary sources intentional?
FL: Just because we have the technology, does not mean we have to use it. It is intentional in the respect that it is a more bare-bones approach the skateboard video medium. I think it makes for a more honest result. It is looking backwards and forwards at the same time, as it strives to take what has come before into a new direction. Just like in music, you know you have done something special or with a certain merit if it sounds good without a slick production.
CG: The Fancy Lads are creative guys. Does anyone in the crew have other creative or artistic outlets/projects? If so, what are they?
FL: Everyone on the team is an artist, skateboarding is an art in itself, so that goes without saying, but there are other projects. There is a Fancy Lad art show in the works this autumn at “BASE”. Zacher, Yellow Nick, Legs, Abe, Ripquist, and myself all have attended art schools in MA for college. Everyone still practices the arts when we are not skating. Some even have jobs in the field.
Fiske has been writing poetry and working on his video collage for quite some time. Also, Fiske and Tony are both Techno geniuses. Everyone is creating in one way or another when the inspiration strikes.
CG: You work very, very hard. New Hell is evidence of this. However, there doesn't seem to be a correlation between hard work and financial benefit these days. You seem aware of this irony to the point you celebrate it, or at least point it out. For example, one of my favorite Fancy Lad skateboards is the “food stamps” deck. You’re literally advertising your own poverty. As a fan, this is incredibly frustrating because I know, right now, there is some lame ass lobbyist jerking off in a cubicle somewhere making six figures to look at the Facebook profile of some girl he had a crush on in high school. And here you are, bruises up and down your legs, literally busting your ass to make the world feel inspired and happy, literally for free because the Fancy Lad New Hell video is up on Youtube and therefore accessible to everyone, even the hypothetical lobbyist in the cubicle. How do you keep doing this? Is the act of skateboarding really a reward in and of itself? Do you genuinely believe this, or do you ever feel resentment?
FL: A friend told me that Elliott Smith used to refer to food stamps as “artist grants”. I think that sums up why we made the graphic best. It is just a product of the times we are living in. We are not ashamed of this. It is facing your own harsh reality and laughing at it. But when I think about it, genuinely, I don’t think anyone of us should complain, we all have it pretty good if we can work a dead end job and spend the majority of our time doing what we love; besides, you can’t take your money with you when you die.
CG: What’s next for Fancy Lad? I hear a new video is in the works.
FL: Yeah, that is what we have pretty much been working on for the past year. “FL3” is the title. There will also be pogs, trading cards, and action figures coming soon!
CG: Any music you are listening to right now that Cassette Gods should know about?
I say listen to more COIL. Other than that, Ancient Methods, Death Grips, Chrome, Flying Lotus, and make your own music. Make it fucked up. Also, the last castrato.
CG: Thanks for answering questions, Nick. Godspeed!
Buy your copy of NEW HELL and other Fancy Lad Products HERE.
Finally, here is the track listing for New Hell. It isn't complete, but at the very least it should give you guys a happy music hunting session. As always, these tracks are free but we implore you to purchase physical copies of these samples because the musicians are mondo talented and should be supported.
1. Rites of Spring - End on End
2. White Boy and Average Rat Band - Sector 387 (see link above)
3. Chrome - Creature Eternal
4. Song from Creepshow soundtrack (youtube video N/A)
5. Federalz - Smolik (youtube video N/A)
6. Adaptation - Nicholas Cage monologue
7. Anonymous VHS Porno
8. Altered Beast Theme Song
9. Fiske - Untitled (Youtube video N/A)
10. Bladerunner Soundtrack - One More Kiss, Dear
11. Mystifier - ???
12. Piano - ???
13. Buckethead - Friday the 13th Part 3
14. Logic System - Talk Back
15. Dr Who Theme
16. Benga - (???)
17. Streets of Rage
18. Sol - the Boxcar
19. Jake Kaufman - Mango Tango
20. Todd Rundgren - Dumb and Dumber score
21. Los Microwaves - Time to Get Up
22. Funny Man Theme (youtube link N/A)
23. Oingo Boingo - Forbidden Zone
24. Song from Caligula