Wicked Flowers - Review
Ted Newsom continues to churn out the music in the form of these short EPs one after another.
For this release we're presented with five original selections with an additional remix of "Dance! in the Desert". The album comes packaged in a simple jewel case with insert, so no frills here and no need to dig up an old cassette player or turntable, just a good CD player or downloadable and streamable at your favorite store.
The artist continues to expand on a variety of styles captivating a bit of gothic rock, new wave along with some experimental and various layered instruments for an at times over-the-top onslaught. The album starts off with a standard enough mix on "Dance! in the Desert" which is one of the most accessible pieces on the album. Clocking in at 4:38, it's the shortest track on the album as well and lacks a bit of the onslaught of guitar, organ and various other instruments that seem to clutter the other pieces at times. The remix at the end of the album, appropriately titled the "Jackrabbit Mix" maintains much of the original feel while just deconstructing the piece a bit and putting it back together with a slightly more haunting touch with a bit more of a classic remix style, throwing things into loops a bit more though not extending the time at all. The other tracks on the album vary in intensity and experimental nature, while most clock in around seven minutes, some can seem to drag on a bit and when the organ, saxophone and and guitars all kick in, it can get a bit harsh on the nerves depending on the mood and location of where you happen to be listening to the album. But before you get to that point, listening to the first three or four minutes can actually be quite enjoyable. Though "Western Bar" goes on for several minutes with intense guitar, organ and various electronic layers before the vocals come in provide a bit of respite from it all and in this case it's the final three minutes that make up a great track. Across all of these selections there's definitely some great elements here, some great guitar, a nice moving beat and underlying layers of synths and electronics that are recognizable for this artist.
For favorite on the album listeners of our radio show will have caught on with the inclusion of "Dance! in the Desert" as well as "False Alamr (Love is Not a Game)". This piece backs off the intensity a bit and falls back to the somber, but moving rhythm and mix of various synths backing the melancholy and at times intense vocals. While "Love/Rain" stands out as a shorter piece and has a little more accessible sound, it lacks a solid vocal element, the vocals are mostly background or spoken, so it feels a bit lacking. It does fall back to more of a classic electro-pop style, throwing off the intense organ and guitars though the saxophone comes in later for a bit of that classic 80's new wave sound. "To Hell and Back" is appropriately titled as much of the track makes my ears and nerves feel like I am being drug to hell and back, I suppose you really have to be in the mood for that intensity to enjoy it.
So there you have it, another short EP from this artist. There are some good gems on here that listeners will be familiar with and fans will enjoy. While not a one-hit-wonder for sure, not really one of those that captivates you through the entirety of the album either. Best enjoyed in segments.
Soulless Experiment - Review
Following the growing trend of releasing something rare on physical media, the latest from this artist is a four-track, limited edition release available only on cassette tape.
It has been years since I listened to anything on cassette, so it was a major feat just finding a good stereo with a casette player to listen to this short EP. For the die-hard collector fan this is a unique offering, and one that is appearing more and more as artists and labels search to find creative ways to release music to the fans besides the compressed, cold digital medium used today.
As a collection of songs we have a fairly broad mix here. We've had quite a diverse sound and mix from this project in the past and this cassette presents a little bit of everything on these four pieces. It starts off strong with "True Love" with a bit of the classic new wave sound with the gothic touches we enjoyed on from the Sleep Slid In
side-project as well as previous tracks from this project. The reverberating percussion echoes hollowly across the soundscape as shrill guitars mixed with various electronic loops and a touch of piano and organ accent the musical tapestry as the angst-ridden vocals carry the melody and message of the lyrics to the listener's soul. From here we move into the rock sounds of "Land of the Free". Plenty of digital "cow bell" accent this piece possibly to the annoyance of the listener as the heavy guitars grind out the rhythm along with a mix of electronic drums (that also sound a bit cheesy with an 80's pop style). My opinion sways a bit on this song, as an anthem it has strength, but the aforementioned annoyances grate on the nerves after a while. The intensity comes out quite a bit with the dark sarcasm of "Been Saved?". This piece rolls along with distorted vocals over a slowly pulsating rhythm and heavy layers of percussion, electronics and plenty of reverb. The main problem with this piece is that it just drags on seemingly forever over agonizing vocals and piercing guitar and organ that all build to a grinding, harsh, dynamic finale. At this point we drift off into the experimental title track that wanders all over the place a bit, starting off with soft and beautiful piano through heavy reverb. From here we slowly drift into a nightmare of dark ambient soundscapes, various haunting grating violin and distant spoken word before the beat picks back up and more spoken word comes out of the distance and into the forefront before fading off again for several minutes of experimental mixtures of noise, talking and so ambient sounds. Needless to say, you have to have some patience to sit and listen to the entire track or turn it down and listen to it as background noise.
My opinion has swayed somewhat as I've listened to this several times. Partly because of the annoyance of digging out the cassette player whenever I want to listen to it, and partly because the structure wanders so much and in some cases drags on a bit. Because it's a cassette, it's hard to pick out a favorite and just enjoy that piece or part of the album which has been a saving grace of the digital age. If I were to change anything I would shorten up or break out some of the tracks and release them digitally. For example, the first part of the "Soulless Experiment" track with some haunting melodic vocals to go along with the piano would make a nice ethereal piece and shortening "Been Saved?" and having a reprise addition would make it a bit more accessible. Regardless, as a collector's piece it's a nice touch and while it is a nice little set from this artist, it's not his best work for sure.
Sketches: Live At Storm Mountain - Review
Ted Newsom pairs up with a couple of guest musicians and vocalists for this excellent new EP featuring a great mix of mid to down-tempo darkwave music.
This is not your typical live album with poor quality music recorded in front of a live audience performing previously released tracks, but rather all the tracks are recorded live on location instead of pieced together with various takes and tracks mixed and so on. The EP presents us with all new material as well. There is a full video available to go along with the EP as well, located on youtube here.
"Differences and Heart Attacks" kicks it off with a somber mid-tempo piece that slowly builds and ebbs along. The musical tapestry is created through various soft and dreamy ambient synths and electronics, pulsating and flowing along creating a dark and dreamy backdrop. These styles are a nice contrast to previous rock-based selections and create a nice ambience for the entire EP. While Ted's vocals are the anchor for each piece, it's great to hear the occasional guest female backing vocals such as appear prominently on "My Love Takes Me Home" which picks up and comes in strong as the next selection on the disc. While starting off with emphasis on the percussion, this slowly fades into the background as the various layered synths build with one after another creating a dynamic mix of ethereal, ambient and futuristic elements as a very dynamic piece.
As the music drifts along we're presented with five of these dreamy pieces overall, yet all spanning over 30 minutes of great music. The ambient and darkwave soundscapes come out again on each piece as we drift through "It's All Right (Heart of Stone)" featuring more great female backing vocals layered over the myriad of synth loops. As I've listened to this EP several times, constructing and deconstructing each piece, I've found a great way to really get the full effect is to listen from start to finish, or even better is to watch the full video. The production, imagery and music all come together nicely for great effect. "Endless Night" carries on the somber moods as the music slowly flows along with the dark and brooding soundscapes. This piece marks the shortest selection on the EP at just over five minutes and gives way to the longest and finale with "Star of Pain" clocking in at just over nine minutes. This final track is another great selection with in my mind the one flaw on the disc and that is the distracting percussion. While definitely well within the realms of official The Rose Phantom
style, I just found that with such an excellent piece, the "popping" percussion distracts, more than adds to the somber and deep emotional feeling that this track is made of. Pushing that aside we have another great selection here with the deep piano and a mix of various synthesizers layered over it all as a great backdrop to the solid melodic, yet brooding vocals.
With that we bring the sketches to a close and wrap up the review by just saying this is a great direction for this artist. The mix of imagery audible in the music and accented by the video production is a great addition to our library. Ethereal radio listeners will be familiar with several tracks by now and those that haven't heard or picked this up yet that enjoy the darker brooding electronic sounds can really enjoy this work.
Abandon - Review
This project is the solo work of Ted Newsom, also known for his work under the instrumental project Revideolized
and also the great gothic sounds of Sleep Slid In
Embarking on this new solo adventure he brings together the dark and brooding styles from various genres of his past into this new project and debut album. The album comes in a standard jewel case with a booklet of lyrics and photographs while the disc spans ten solid tracks.
While those familiar with music from Revideolized
and Sleep Slid In
, the foundation in the dark and brooding gothic and new wave styles still remain a heavy influence on this album, yet the overall style is still very distinct from thes aforementioned projects. This is definitely something new and different and not just something rising from the ashes of the past, though the heavy influence from bands like Depeche Mode
and Clan of Xymox
are still readily apparent, especially on the first two pieces "All I Want" and "Here It Is". The music throughout the album is solid, very well mixed and formed by excellent compositions. The piano accenting most pieces adds a slightly dark and moody element while the heavy and solid percussion move each piece along nicely. The tempo and intensity varies throughout the album, occasional up-beat and dance-friendly pieces keep it moving while still grounded in the dark moods while the mid-tempo and slower pieces really drip with angst.
There are plenty of favorites on this album, as previously mentioned the music is solid across most of the tracks. The experimental side really comes out on a few pieces with some distortion and noise mainly on the final notes or as a wake-up introductory call. Previously mentioned up-beat pieces have quickly become favorites for me and Gothic Paradise listeners, while the slower, down-tempo pieces are also excellent. A personal favorite along these lines is the latter part of "Destiny Wants My Heart". The somber beat and structure of this track brings so many emotions running to the forefront. The soft echoed spoken word samples in the background coupled with the somber music is heart-wrenching. The track is divided up into different segments, putting off this haunting style for a more up-beat electro-pop sound, but fading back into the haunting abyss once again.
These ten diverse tracks are a great addition to any library, however I think that fans of Depeche Mode
and Clan of Xymox
as previously mentioned will enjoy this album the most. Don't hesitate to check it out.