Artist Profile:Clams Casino

The album cover for Instrumentals, a difficult to obtain mixed tape that came out in 2011.

I am constantly on the lookout for something different. Several years ago, I ditched the belief that music without vocals has no meaning. That statement makes it sound like purely instrumental music is not even all that much worth listening to. I was never big into instrumental music until I discovered electronic rock or “electronica”. It combines all of the rock based instrumentals with some techno influences and usually has few if any lyrics. It is an incredibly unique style and the best part of it is that it has almost unlimited replay value. It takes me much longer to become burned out on this kind of music. Why that is, I’m not really sure. If I had to guess, it might be due to how difficult it is to find quality music in this genre.  Some of the earlier acts I listened to and encourage you to check out would be Moby, Boards of Canada, and The Prodigy.

Today I want to focus on a recently discovered artist. You’ve likely never heard of Mike Volpe or his stage name, Clams Casino, unless you’re big into the electronic music scene. Volpe is from New Jersey and has released one full length EP, Rainforest. Other than that, most of his productions are mixed tapes that you can usually find on the web if you look hard enough. He has worked with a few rap artists (all of whom I’ve never heard of) and has also sampled the works of some female artists as well. The most notable of them would be Imogen Heap. He mixed her vocals from her song “Just for Now” with his beats to create a remarkable track arrogantly titled “I’m God“.

“Treetops” is a aptly named track off his EP, Rainforest. It takes you away from your often hectic urban/suburbanite lifestyle to a place more primitive. The track starts out with some stock jungle sounding creatures but then moves onto something incredibly surreal right off the bat. It is difficulty for me to describe the many instrumentals going on during this song because they blend so well together. Specifically, all of the chaos comes together to make for a great run of instrumental bliss @2:02. I also enjoy the breakdown and buildup that occurs near the beginning of the song (@0:23) See what you think, hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. Songs like “Treetops” are ones that stay with you for a long time.

The next song I’ve decided to include is “All I Need”. This is much more slow and non-progressive. The vocals border on repetitive, but that is simply a staple of Clams Casino. He finds the vocals he likes the best, and he samples them throughout his song to give the listener what he feels they want to hear. I would still argue that this is one of his songs that sounds like it’s on a loop. The rhythm changes few times and that is usually only when the percussion is dropped. The vocals being altered are what I think is supposed to be the main point of this song. I’m sure there are some that would label this song as boring because the slow rhythm of it doesn’t really go anywhere, but I still believe it’s a good song. It’s one to just sit back and zone out to.

The face behind some of electronica’s finest pieces of art

Slow tracks like the previous one help to set up some of Volpe’s best. Another track off of the fabled Instrumentals is “Real Shit from a Real Nigga” The song title would have you expect that you’re about to hear a rap song. While artists like Lil’ B have sampled it and rapped along with it, I think it has a more electronica or even future pop sound to it. It has a cool subtle intro and then introduces you to one of the best synth lines I’ve ever heard during my existence @0:32. I’m not really a fan of most of the rap songs that accompany Volpe’s productions. Volpe’s works are great listens when they stand alone. There really is no need to add rapping to a song that wasn’t produced FOR those lyrics. I’m not against the idea of adding to what is already a great song, but I don’t think it works in this case. Fortunately for you, you don’t have to get wrapped up in all of that. Just enjoy these brilliant instrumentals for what they are.

Quick Hitters: Buzzworthy Tracks

Although my taste has evolved over the years, I will always have a place in my collection for the artists that made me feel alive. Good music that gets me excited or instantly gets me up and moving is not easy to come by. And while I strongly feel that indie rock is the most intricate, well-written music  available on the market, it is not a genre you go to to get pumped up. A much better style is energy infused rock that, if pulled off correctly, takes you for a trip and makes for memorable moments in life (Just discovering them is an experience all in itself)). However, a lot of bands fail at this and the final product is just some hard rock garbage that has been done a dozen times before. Bands like Nirvana, Silverchair, and Collective Soul would be the ones I consider the best at creating this type of high energy in their rock. Other groups like Linkin Park and Chevelle are near misses. While they do produce songs that are heavy and carry lots of emotion, they generally lack that higher level of complexity and songwriting that the better ones possess.

But the whole point of this blog is to expose you to the songs/artists you may have missed at some point along the way. So I will not be posting any Nirvana today; although if you can’t get psyched up after listening to “Breed” with the volume cranked, I would start worrying because there’s a good chance you don’t have a pulse. This first offering is from a group that most people have likely never heard of. Their name is The Exies and they have produced a few albums in their run over the last decade. I first heard this song on guitar hero, coincidentally. Since guitar hero is not a place I would look to find new music (not to say that no video games contain original quality tunes, because they do), “Hey You” was a rather nice discovery. I had heard their other hit “Ugly” and was never a huge fan of it. Too defensive and ho-hum for me. “Hey You” I liked from the beginning. It’s starts out with a subtle guitar line and escalates into a catchy riff. The song gets very interesting at the bridge (@0:29) and gets chaotic and grungey at 0:38. Then all of sudden the song goes into a different, exciting direction for the chorus. It contains a serviceable guitar solo but I think the strong point of the song is how well it harnesses and releases the high energy that is prevalent throughout the whole song. Frontman Scott Stevens vocals are smooth and while I think he over-sings in some of their other songs, he keeps it in check here which goes along with the flow of it all…that of a just a straight up cool tune.

I simply cannot get enough of Richard Patrick’s ongoing project Filter. Unlike most hard rock groups, I find them to be listenable. Patrick’s anger (which I normally only like in small amounts) is expressed so well and his song writing talent is the main factor in that. He may not be quite as bad-ass as his brother, Robert (see here for example), but his body of work speaks for itself. Filter is a tricky group to classify. They are harder than almost all alternative groups but are so much better than most hard rock line-ups. They have been labeled industrial rock before but Patrick has dissuaded that as many of their songs do not have an industrial sound to them whatsoever. “Heavy alternative” would be the closest tag I could place on them.

Along with liking their music about as much as humanely fucking possible, I’ve always enjoyed the theme’s behind Filter’s album artwork

The song I have posted is “Take Another”. It is one of several raw, gritty tracks available on Short Bus. And in my opinion, it is the best right up there with “Dose”.  It starts out with some sad, almost indecipherable lyrics and quickly picks up shortly after (@0:42). After looking at the lyrics, it appears to me that Patrick is expressing his remorse or regret for some happening yet he is not able to discontinue going back for more. I’ve never really understood the meaning all that well. The strength of this song lies in Patrick’s vocal range and the guitars during the chorus (@2:29). Together they create a angst-driven, heavy aura that I find to be brilliant. Fortunately for me and many others, this was just the beginning of something great.

Probably the most poppy of out of these three by far would be the next track. It is “Hunting for Witches” by Bloc Party. If you’re not familiar with Bloc Party. they’re an English indie group that produced their first album back in 2005. They feature a nice blend of punk, electronic, and indie influences. This track is off their ’07 release A Weekend in the City. The reason I think it connects to the previous tracks is because of the fast paced, energetic flow that the song carries. It’s much softer than the other two but it’s more unique and crafty. It contains a clumsy, yet  intriguing intro and outro with some very scrambled audio . The guitar carries a funky guitar riff that almost seems to whine at you until the chorus where the rhythm guitar joins nicely (@1:14)and climaxes @1:23. This song also holds some fun lyrics. Kele, the leas vocalist, describes his need to prey on this long feared supernatural force. Perhaps the “witches” represent some form of symbolism but some of the lyrics appear to sound more literal which makes me think otherwise. My favorite set of lyrics wold easily be  ” I was sitting, on the roof of my house, with a shotgun…
And a six-pack of beer,” If that’s all witch-hunting entails, sign me up! Nobody’s gonna fuck with a guy in that position, not even the ghastliest of enchantresses…

Ewww…wouldn’t want to get mixed up with them. Except Sarah Jessica Parker, who I think appears more attractive as a witch in this movie than she does in real life.

All joking aside, enjoy “Hunting for Witches”

Artist Profile: CHVRCHES

This edition’s artist you’ll notice elects to spell their name rather unusually. I read they did this in order to not be confused with the very widely used word that stands for a religious body of people. I understand this methodology (although I think they may have created just as much confusion anyway), but why on earth would they use a “V” in place of the omitted vowel? The only conclusion I can come to is that it would look cool. If given the same task of finding an alternate spelling, a more simple-minded person like myself would have added an “n” after the “r” or something…we’d call ourselves Chrurnches…and we’d sell zero records.

Onto the music. I first heard CHVRCHES and they quickly reminded me of Purity Ring, another one of my favorite artists. The similarities lie mostly in the electronic rhythms and the digitally enhanced vocal effects. Purity Ring gives off more of a hip-hop/R & B feel  while CHVRCHES sounds more poppy/techno. Both groups’ songs are very danceable, though. CHVRCHES hails from Scotland (also home of alternative acts  such as Twin Atlantic and Biffy Clyro) The first song I heard from CHVRCHES was “Mother We Share.” The standout feature is probably the vocal echo effect of Lauren Mayberry. They do an excellent job of varying it and mixing it so it never gets repetitive despite there only being a few different forms of “Oh” that are used. From what I can gather, the song about is about a duo that finds themselves with a uphill battle before them (no idea of what, it doesn’t appear the nature of the problem is ever mentioned). All they need to do is remember the mother they share and that it will carry them through the struggles. The best part of the song is the concluding chorus and aforementioned echo effect @2:24. Please leave your comments on this song at the bottom of the page.

Up next is my favorite of the few songs released by CHVRCHES in their young career. “Lies” is a very upbeat, trendy new song that has a future pop sound to it. Mayberry’s vocal and the mixing effort on this sing are top-notch. It’s hard not to get excited when listening to this song. The song has a killer intro and Mayberry’s thick accent is apparent early on. Upon reading the lyrics, the song is mainly about Mayberry’s ability to sway many with her deception. And it’s not just a select group of people either, she can sell her lies to ANYONE! ANYONE! ANYONE! @1:07-It’s my favorite part of the track…right along with the unique sound effects that blend perfectly with all the other instrumentals. This number is probably the catchiest of CHVRCHES’ offerings so far, see what you think.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the previous two songs because I’m afraid I have some bad news. This next one in addition to the previous two are the only tracks CHVRCHES have released so far. The target date for the album is around May sometime, I believe. “Recover” is the last song currently available. It is a fun little number. It does possess some similar qualities to “Mother We  Share” but is unique in its own right. Part of the lyrics sound like she’s offering up a math problem or some type of riddle.She loses me there as math was never my strength. Fortunately, arithmetic skills are not needed to enjoy the soothing synths that “Recover” features.