Summer Sleep is the reflection and transformation we all need

The dream pop and shoegaze collab duo between Pete Martin and producer Jarrod Ottinger, Summer Sleep, released their self-titled album just before the uprising summer 2020 began, and it’s the album you didn’t know you needed. It’s the transformative R&R that most of everyone forgot in these times of trouble and apocalyptic bingo. Let’s dive in and listen from start to finish – but first, get the big headphones.

Pete Martin – vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, beats, found sound
Jarrod Ottinger – production

“The Ocean Never Ends” begins with reverberation of sweet guitar sounds over a retro downtempo beat, both moving well in tandem with Pete’s vocals tying it all together. It’s a beautiful way to start an album, painting the imagery of ocean waves but with also a steady heartbeat and determination.

Next is “I Can’t Lie to You”. This one really gives you an experience, and it’s definitely a highlight of the album. Martin shows a lot of soul in the lyrics, he sets the atmosphere in the guitar and keys, and goes deeper in a colorful bass line. The pensive beat in the drums also drive the mission of the track, of which you can hear in the lyrics – “I have died a thousand times for you” – sung like a reluctant confession.

After these meditations, “Rise” gets you back in the game. Starting off with a steady guitar sequence and Martin’s vocals echoing beautifully, then introducing grity synth long notes, and finally, the drums come in as the call to action. This song has significance in the track order, as it’s placed in the middle of the EP. We must also recognize that the fade outs on “Rise” and “I Can’t Lie to You” make their statements even more effective – like “here, think about that for a while.”

“Please Stop Taking the Things I Love Away” – these sole lyrics for the track are sung in the beginning, then Martin begins another instrumental meditation, but it’s darker and more brooding. This song fulfills the role of the emotional deep cut. If 2020 were a mood, this would be it.

The Summer Sleep EP concludes with “What More Do You Need”, having retro wave beats and this time with warped, haunting vocals. Martin delivers almost another version of himself in this track, singing a tired cry with modal licks in between.

Producer Jarrod Ottinger and songwriter Pete Martin really came together on Summer Sleep by painting the atmospheric picture that dream pop does best and with its own unique message. Make sure to take a break from the continuous doom of our world at this moment and realize – we are humans growing positively into the next phase of our lives. We are rising, falling, facing, and believing again.

www.summersleep.com

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The Alea Dilemma: Within the Clamor of Voices

If you are looking for a new jazz fusion sensation, I highly recommend giving The Alea Dilemma a careful listen. Their debut album, Within the Clamor of Voices (2015), has a blend of jazz harmonies and rhythm, alternative rock riffs, and it’s topped with a soulful voice. In fact, their melodies tie all sections together-those many sections we all love in progressive rock.

Based in Kansas City, MO, The Alea Dilemma takes on their own niche, where a lot of rhythm and melodic changes in the songwriting are like a game of chance. As stated on their website, this is the definition of “alea”, coinciding with “dilemma-an argument presenting two or more equally conclusive alternatives against an opponent.” Therefore, this sets up the premise of the argument that things will happen randomly, and how we approach that subject is critical. Guitarist and lead vocalist, Danny Brymer, hopes to combine artistry with complexity in their music. I reached out to Brymer for comment on the contents of their work.

“Playing jazz taught me that you can be complex and artful, yet be creative with interpretation, so I’ve mixed the two approaches in The Alea Dilemma, ” Brymer said. “I utilize the elements of music to create music, but at the same time, allow the other guys to be themselves and interpret it their own way, though there are times when things need to be written out in order to work.”

The other band members, bassist Ryan Sloan and drummer Todd Crookston, really hammer down the foundation on every track. For instance, on “I.D.”-which opens the album-the bassline is strong and hearty and yet has its own melody during transitions and below the guitar riffs. The drums, while in unison with the bass and guitar at choice times, hold down the head-banging beat that really sells this track. Furthermore, I would say that counterpoint sells the entire album.

“I love harmony, so for me, that is an important element that defines the progressiveness of our music, but strong melodic contour and counterpoint and outside-the-box rhythmic development are also highly essential,” Brymer commented.

Another song that is polished in complexity and stylistic changes is “Forsaken Pawns.” Along with the advanced performing, the lyrics seem to do the same:

You cast our lives as they were lots
To be endowed your precious gain
Our lives are sealed and bought
Hope reduced to grain
We are but mere forsaken pawns
Luck of the draw

The dark lyrics are intertwined with the rhythm development that Brymer mentions, until the chorus (written above) returns with a swinging drum beat and soaring voice. On that note, I think Brymer takes the chance vocally on “The Catalyst”, and it’s executed well when escalating to the top of his range.

“I really don’t think like a singer, but more like an instrumentalist using their voice as an instrument and I try to sound like what I feel should be the right sound over the music we do,” Brymer added. ”A lot of the 70′s rock singers such as Steve Perry, Steve Walsh, Lou Gramm, and Robert Plant have been influential on me.”

Additionally, Brymer says that Doug Pinnick, Chris Cornell, and Myles Kennedy are more modern influences for his singing. Indeed, on tracks like “The Machine,” you can hear hints of 90′s alternative in the guitar riffs and drums as well. Then, of course, the guitar melodies return to outlining jazz chords for a change of pace. “Betrayed Brilliance” is a softer passage, and like the other songs mentioned, the lyrics still have the same theme of chance-”in the name of chance, will you elect the choice…”

As these three musicians have meticulously laid down their tracks, I think listeners can return the service by hearing the rest of the 10-track album. For more information on The Alea Dilemma, please visit http://www.thealeadilemma.com.

Churn Out Your Rebel Soul: Chasca Celebrates Second EP, Barbarians

October 18, 2015

With much splendor and glitter splatter, Chasca marches into the next EP, Barbarians (2015), and brings us everything from pop progressive rock to heavy metal to piano mini-serenades. Indeed, Chasca always encompasses the perfect balance of accessibilty, adventurous songcrafting, and a full-body good time. The first track, “Salvation,” begins with a rhythm hype and in comes the signature synth melody, (Brittany Paris) ready to make you explode on what’s coming next. Before you know it, you’re going from the catchy chorus to the crowd chant “Our instincts were strong, but our plan was unclear,” and yes, the wall between performer and audience is always broken down with this band. You can be sure all your walls need to come down when you see Chasca in their element.

In fact, let me break from the track description to conjure a placid debate. What do we really experience when we see and hear Chasca? Upon listening to their first EP, Bedtime for Bedlamites (2013), and now having the pleasure of blasting Barbarians in my car, I might hear the flamboyance of David Bowie, the harmonies and progressive qualities of Queen, the power chords of Kiss, the flute excellence of Ian Anderson in Jethro Tull, and all things early heavy metal. However, this all combined with their own style of song-crafting, I feel like I’m hearing a band capable of a strong creative force, one that is boundless and not only ready to entertain but school you on what it takes to enjoy music out in the crowd and not within the confines of your mobile camera.

The second track, “Barbarian,” is a smoldering concotion of nutty, zesty, heavy metal that has given me a sore neck in the morning, to say the least. Sean Hannon on guitar and Junior Scott on bass just kill it with this one! Both this track and “The Muse & the Martyr” (3) showcase frontman, JT Martin, on flute, and his melodies and double-tonguing skills have always been impressive since I first saw him at the Greyhorse in San Marcos three years ago.

On the visual side of things, you have to be prepared for the best, as there is no downfall at a Chasca show. JT is ready to jump all over the stage whether you are doing so in the audience or not, and if you’re not, you really should. Take my most recent example, Chasca at Stonewall Warehouse in San Marcos on September 4, 2015: Not only was the event a tribute and celebration of Freddie Mercury’s birthday, but Chasca’s homegrown congregation was embracing the energy with both arms (and legs) wide open, ready to take it in and release with every booty shake. To provide that extra lift for his costume display (from soldier to devil to pagan to pope), JT was able to galavant on a stage that extends into a runway. The minute I saw the layout, I was ecstatic-they have struck venue-gold! This is not just a rock show, as I have said before in my comments and reviews about Chasca, but performance art, a la Genesis’s theatrics (Peter Gabriel era), the capes of Yes, the stage props of Rush, etc. They shall have big stages and long runways!

The fourth track, “Carry On,” is a powerhouse cover of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young’s beloved multi-section folk anthem. It is so well done in full-blown distortion, and it is usually one of the encore choices. Chasca also closes with “Cherry Bomb” by The Runaways, giving that rock salute to the fairer sex; as they do with all genders-another reason to take their performance art into account.

It is during “The Stareater Saga Chapter III: Kruella Retooled,” that the band really takes the wall down, and what I mean is they actually sing, “bring it down, bring it down!” Most of the time, the people respond accordingly, and everyone is on the ground ready to adhere to “Pope JT Martin” while Junior and Wiley Koepp on drums keep the beat. If anyone in the room is still standing and retreating behind their phone screens, beer in hand, awkward eyes looking to the side, then those folks are exposed among the kneeling crowd. Of course, they don’t have to join, but I always politely scoff inside when people refuse to have a good time.

“The Stareater…” (5) is a multi-sectional, story-driven delight, where we meet Kruella Stareater in a most daring dialogue, so be prepared to blush upon listening. I feel that this song gives us an emblem of Chasca’s pop progressive art. As each section weaves into the other, synth melodies following, full harmonies soaring, vocal effects on the dialogue, I am enchanted. I think I’m more grateful, too, that a band from San Marcos can keep the magic of rock ‘n’ roll in times like these. If pop music can move your body and rock music can churn out your rebel soul, Chasca can do both, and they do them very well.

For further details on the band, please visit chascamusic.com. The band performs on Saturday, September 12th at The Blackheart.

Working Songwriter, Thawind Mills, Tours America, Releases Seventh Album

mills-profile

It was three years ago that I moved into a house in south Austin with two inviting and eccentric musicians. The garage was made into a recording studio, the living room was bare – which made room for video shoots or other projects – and the overall feel of the house was “ground zero.” This was a place for creativity and activity. Yet, some things seemed to hold back the owner and singer-songwriter, Thawind Mills. We simply called him “Mills.” He would write a few songs, then he would go back to the grind of laborious jobs. That all came to a tipping point when he decided to sell the house in the summer of 2014, to take his music on the road, and to never look back.

My being a flute player in the house was enough for Thawind Mills to ask me to sit in for a rehearsal or two. I obliged, and soon after he sold the house, I was playing flute on his next album, Halo or Horns (2014). Thawind Mills is a different songwriter, in that he doesn’t really like to name-drop famous artists, and his style is very much eclectic. He does his own thing. While he has released seven studio albums thus far, he has written hundreds of songs over the years.

country

If you check out his Instagram, you will see the many adventures he’s had since parting ways with the 9-5 world. As he last told me, it’s not always easy or fun as it looks. With some hardship, comes adaptation. Along the way, he began to find alternatives to generate revenue aside from music and T-shirts – his own bracelet designs.

bracelets
Here a few of the many bracelets Mills designs.

While on the road, Thawind Mills began to put his latest album together, Delirious Love Symphony (2016).  This work combines charm, frustration, and wit in the telling of love’s trials and challenges. Songs like harmonica-infused “Amazing” and “Still In Love With You” reflect that charm while “Could You Keep It Down” (Catherine Grimes on back-up vocals) and “Jalapeno Rose” show frustration and fascination with the lover’s quirks.

One of the best qualities about Thawind Mills’ music – aside from his strong and versatile voice- is his exceptional guitar playing. He often likes to loop his guitar melodies at shows, and it’s really nice to hear the ideas develop. On the album, this is best heard on “Subterfuge.”

While I did not learn a lot about Thawind Mills’ life during that short time at the house in south Austin, he brushed the topics of religion and his upbringing. These stories are told in “Pray” and “Daddy.” I think the lyric – “I pray that people with power gain more common sense, I pray that people with common sense gain more power” – embodies the ideology of Thawind Mills. While he was my landlord, he had such a free spirit to share. He is not bound to the saturation of Austin nor to any one town in which he tours. Since his journey began, I’ve noticed he’s met so many people, and it really is wonderful to see someone break free from this conventional world.

If you’re looking for an album with a nomadic feel and the sounds of a working musician, have a listen to Delirious Love Symphony.

cd-release
Thawind Mills (left), myself in the middle, and Catherine Grimes (right) at the CD Release for Halo or Horns. November 22, 2014

For more information, you can visit Thawind Mill’s music page here.

The Austinot

Austinot

This is a portfolio of blogs I wrote for The Austinot. Check out all content at austinot.com.

Traveling Band, The Watters, Settles in Austin with Album Release

07/08/2016

The Deer Explores Avant Folk Terrain on Release of Double LP

06/14/2016

Every Shape a Diamond: Weekly Jam Sessions to Progressive Songwriting

05/13/2016

Calliope Musicals, Austin’s Best New Artist, Releases Debut LP

04/25/2016

Voyager Nights Stimulate Growth of Experimental Music in Austin

04/11/2016

Cari Hutson and Good Company Reside at Reputable Listening Rooms

03/17/2016

The Sonic Experience of 80H Project

02/24/2016

Voyager Music Festival Website

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This a portfolio of blogs published on www.voyagerfest.org.

The Year So Far in Experimental and Progressive Music

7/18/16

VoyagerFest Presents: Promethean Waltz by Ponytrap

1/15/16

Artist Showcase: Danny Brymer Discusses Progressive Music

01/12/16

Heavy Riffs and Power Grunge at Hotel Vegas

11/17/15

Churn Out Your Rebel Soul: Chasca Celebrates Second EP, Barbarians

10/24/15

A Spree Outside The Atmosphere: Opposite Day Releases Space Taste Race, Pt. 2

10/24/15