On the Turntable – Trevor Shelley de Brauw ‘Uptown’

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When I first gave Trevor Shelley de Brauw’s new album Uptown a listen I was writing a letter to someone, trying to decide whether to lie to explain away my bad behavior or tell the truth and own up to my failings as a friend. The music lulled me into this dark battle of my personal code of ethics vs. my urge to simplify life with a tiny lie. Instead, the music led me to acknowledge my actions and feel a whole lot of feelings about the ordeal. Trevor’s got a gift, in that he created a very powerful soundscape that perfectly served as the soundtrack to my personal dilemma that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.

Trevor, who’s most recognized for his work as a guitarist in Pelican, created a small but valuable piece of art with this album. I had a brief moment of being unimpressed with the simplicity of the songs and overall length of the album, but I dismissed those thoughts instantly when I realized how much these droning impressionistic sounds were making me feel. I was caught off guard when I saw one track titled, “Turn Up For What.”  I was eagerly awaiting that track so I could figure out what was going to happen but again I was pleasantly surprised by its quiet strength.

Uptown is the result of ten years of work and marks Trevor’s first solo album. He has always been a force to be reckoned with, but this album transcends genre and gives him the added badge of artist. While that may sound vague, he creates something so simple yet so complex. Something that could be applied to so many different types of art and could work so beautifully as a layer to each. I think this needs to be scooped up to be the soundtrack of a short film asap, but who am I to push my own agenda on such a fantastic solo project.

I don’t think this is an album that should be listened to song by song, I would recommend buying the entire album and putting it on in the background and observing what happens next!

Grab your copy of Uptown from The Flenser here.

-Pygopagus-

The Power of the Riff

In six years, The Power of the Riff has earned some notoriety as a music festival full of raucous fun and more great bands than you can shake a stick at.  This year, POTR took place at The Regent Theatre in Los Angeles and as always was curated by Greg Anderson and Sam James Velde.  It usually spans two days, though I suppose this year it could’ve been called three days if you count the pre-show/party at The Complex with Deth Crux, Despise You, and Excel – a show which I still have a mural of bruises from attending.  

If you are unfamiliar with POTR but enjoy being exposed to a menagerie of punk, metal, and hardcore bands all at once, then this is definitely your scene.  While I was excited to see all the bands, there were most definitely some standout performances this year that I was grateful to catch – one of which was the band that kicked off the entire weekend, Crypt Rot.  

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Crypt Rot

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, if you have not given Crypt Rot a listen, do yourself a favor.  They really got the ball rolling at POTR and to be honest I was bummed that more people hadn’t arrived yet to see them play.  Even leaving aside my long-standing affinity for corpse paint, these guys (& gal) packed a fast, gritty set that really left me anticipating their new album, which is set to drop sometime early this year on Southern Lord Records.

Gag was another band that slammed into the crowd.  In a flurry, singer Adam Barnes stomped across the stage like a feral animal, throwing his seemingly pent up rage at the crowd.  Although Gag had thirty minutes to play, they finished in just over ten, like a tornado that arrives without warning and destroys everything in it’s path.  

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Gag

Bloodclot had the room buzzing a bit.  This group, featuring members of Queens of the Stone Age, Agnostic Front, and Cro-Mags, played their first official show that night.  They packed in the old New York hardcore vibe and energy but kept it fresh with catchy and somewhat melodic lyrics.  They have their first album dropping this year on Metal Blade Records and based on how well they were received, I’m sure many people will be grabbing a copy.

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Bloodclot

The final two acts to close out Saturday were Incantation and Wolves in the Throne Room.  Incantation was a blast to see live and the energy in the room went up threefold.  Given their long history, albeit wracked with lineup changes, they continue to maintain their position as one of the most notorious death metal bands on the scene.

Wolves in the Throne Room continues to be one of my favorite live bands, not just because I deeply appreciate their music but because they provide a refreshing challenge to photograph.  Bathed in cool blue light with fog swirling across the stage and into the crowd, WITTR provide a rich ambience, cloaked in layers that are dizzying to get lost in should you wish to.  As particular about lighting and presentation as Neurosis, they delivered a carefully crafted set, starting off with “Queen of Borrowed Light” and taking the crowd on roughly an hour-long journey.

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Wolves in the Throne Room

Sunday’s schedule had one less performance on the lineup to give ample setup time for Neurosis to get prepped, but that didn’t mean it was any less heavy-hitting.  Sunday saw the triumphant return of Nails, which was definitely a crowd favorite, and nearly the whole room was engulfed in a circle pit.  Guitarist Todd Jones said after expressing immense thanks to the crowd and all involved,  “God never came into my life but Minor Threat & Slayer did.”  It stuck with me since I have always felt the same way about music.

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Nails

Closing out the weekend was Neurosis.  I’m not sure what I can say about Neurosis that hasn’t been said before, to be honest, and words just don’t seem to do them justice.  But I will say, their presence on stage is powerful.  It’s both weighty and intimidating,since they are incredibly stoic and approach their music with a silent resolve.  Even so, you can feel years of pain and anguish flooding through their music, and that’s what originally made me fall in love with their work.

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Neurosis

Check out the full gallery of all the bands below! (click on the thumbnails to open gallery)

And a huge thank you to Greg and James for putting together yet another incredible event!

-Skc Photo-

Pre-Party at The Complex w/ Excel

 

The Power of the Riff at The Regent

 

The Power of the Riff Update

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A few weeks ago The Power of the Riff announced this year’s headlining bands are Wolves in the Throne Room and Neurosis.  If that wasn’t enough of a reason for you to research flights and grab a ticket then maybe the latest announcements will.  On top of these already incredible headliners, you now can look forward to seeing Pelican, Nails, Gatecreeper, Gag, and Bloodclot.  In addition, a teaser video was just released which you can check out below!

See you crazy kids there!!

-Thalia Gore-

The Power of Music as Inspiration

Every medium of expression has a way of bleeding in and out of one another in a way that creates an intricate system. Much like the veins which carry blood to the heart, they are all connected, and feed one another in ways which keep the inspiration alive. We hear all the time about how bands and musicians were inspired by other bands before them, but you also hear of bands who were inspired by a certain piece of literature, art, or even a photograph for a particular song or album. In turn, many painters, writers, and photographers are heavily inspired by music. There is a sense of unity to all mediums of art I find both beautiful and fascinating, and I would like to highlight a deeply personal example of that concept.

Music is very often the catalyst of my own inspiration as a writer, and the most intense example of this I have is the creation of my upcoming novel, which took me nearly five years to complete. I can honestly say the book would not exist if it had not been for the bands I listened to while creating it. The most influential band of those being Pelican, the instrumental, post rock band from Chicago. The first song of theirs I heard was the pulsing, crushingly heavy “Mammoth” off their first release, long before I even had the idea for the novel. That song connected with me instantly in a way that no other sound ever had, and somehow, I knew right away it would become the soundtrack to an idea that did not even exist at that time. I knew it was significant, but to what intensity I could not fathom.

In 2011, I began work on the novel, and listened to every album Pelican had released at that time almost exclusively as I wrote it. Their album, What We All Come To Need in particular is so intimately tied in with this novel that I can think of nothing else as I listen to it. When I hear songs like “Strung Up From the Sky”, I am forcefully thrown back into specific scenes I wrote as I listened to it, and the memories are as stark and vivid as if they had actually occurred in my own life. To me, this is not only the power of art and inspiration in general, it is the power different mediums can have over one another. I am convinced that my novel would be a shell of itself had it not been for the potency of Pelican’s music, and the effect it had on me as I listened to it.

In 2013, I had much of the novel completed, but was struggling to delve into the darker aspects of the story. I knew I was going to take it to places I never wanted to delve into, places so deep and dark I shuddered to think of them. I was at a standstill, too afraid of my own creation to press onward, and I did not have the inspiration to do so until Pelican released that year what became my favorite album of all time, Forever Becoming. That album was so intense, so hard-hitting that it became the backbone I myself didn’t have for the novel. It drove me forward, allowing me to step outside of myself just enough to write what needed to be written without faltering, without apology, without fear.

Heavy, driving songs like, “Deny the Absolute” are the most accurate depiction of what this novel feels like to me; the way it would sound if the words were no longer words, but were translated through sound. At the same time, songs like “Threnody” capture the pervasive emptiness and isolation this story highlights as well. The fact that I wrote a novel about a deeply scarred, heavily disturbed metal musician and the lives he destroys is reason enough for why Pelican became the driving force behind this particular project, but buried inside this ugly story is also a sense of hope and triumph. Emotions flawlessly expressed in the song I listened to on repeat as I wrote the final pages. This song was “The Wait”, off of The Cliff  EP, released in 2015.

In a way, I feel like every release by Pelican came to me in the exact moment I needed it. Every album they have is woven into a certain era of the story, and the gravity of that is monumental for me, as I consider it my life’s work. As I get closer to the release date, I think more and more about the forces behind it. Pelican’s music is one such force that cannot be overlooked for even a moment. I sobbed as I finished it, and the intensity of my emotions combined with the weight of the ending, was fully encapsulated in “The Wait”. I felt as though Pelican had become a cherished friend. The only friend that had aided me, and had been there from the beginning of such a taxing, monumental feat for me. From the first page to the last they helped me in ways they couldn’t even imagine..

So last December, when I had the chance to finally see them live after all these years, and actually tell Trevor de Brauw in person about this experience and what it meant to me, I was overcome with this feeling of closure I hadn’t previously felt. In some strange way, I felt I could finally let go of the story. I could finally let go of those years I spent drowning in the misery of the protagonist. Most of all, I felt I could finally let go of the fact that this pivotal part of my life was over. As a result of all of this, I will always hold Pelican’s music close to me in order to remember it, and I feel it is a true testament to the power of music as inspiration.

-Faint Sketches-

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