Unfamiliar Frequencies 2 - By Volume

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Nam Le

Unfamiliar Frequencies 2

Coultrain, Nam Le, Papa Bear and the Easy Love & Lifecurse feature in the second edition of our series on overlooked gems. Author: on August 6, 2013
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In the second edition of Unfamiliar Frequencies, we take a look at four young bands who have been kind enough to share their work. Lifecurse are a metal band hailing from Asheville, North Carolina; Papa Bear and the Easy Love are some heartwarming folksters out of San Francisco; Nam Le are a Philly-area post-hardcore outfit; and Coultrain is a St. Louis-based, soulfully-projected singer-songwriter.

Lifecurse – Elysium – 6.0

Drums. Drums and deceptively infectious vocals; out of Asheville, Lifecurse are erupting, bursting with energy, and though their sophomore record Elysium could do with a bit more ambition, it is for the most part adrenaline-pumped. Lifecurse are never dull, and although Elysium is slightly too squeaky-clean for its own good, it’s on more experimental tunes like opener “Black Genesis” and the elegant “Particles” that the band’s softer side is on display, along with their beautiful blemishes.

Break-neck tunes like “Oceans of Space”, “Graveyard Fields” and “Patterns” are delectable in their own right, particularly when the spotlight spins to drummer Jared Marrow. To call Elysium anything less than white-knuckle would be a wholehearted falsity – for a dedicated lover of blast-beats this album is a haven and possessing of Will Moss’ surprisingly wide-ranged vocals, Lifecurse definitely have the ability to grip the attention tightly.

Moss, in truth, is the band’s weightiest feature. Even as Marrow’s drum kit is pounded to a bloody pulp, it’s Moss’ excellent ability to dance between clean vocals and gravel-pit growls that give his performance on record such muscle.  And while Kyle Odell’s production touches are a bit too clean when it comes to the guitar riffs, his ability to layer Moss’ voice, as though the one man were a walking argument throughout Elysium’s runtime, is impeccable. Really, this touch adds so much to the album, allowing the listener to remove themselves from Marrow’s engulfing drum work, and it adds an interesting dichotomy to the record’s intrinsic chaos. There’s always that chance that Lifecurse will explode and do something truly great; now to harness this for an entire record.

Papa Bear and the Easy Love – For The Wild – 6.9

From the first juncture, one can’t be faulted for making assumptions when confronted with a name like Papa Bear and The Easy Love, and that majestically serene album art.  A grinning grizzly sharing a moment with a kindly faerie, the desert sun shining on the horizon, hippies dancing in a sandstorm, eagles, bear demons and mountain-scaling bear-riders – from this angle, For The Wild is sure to be damn naturalistic. For The Wild is folksy, love-obsessed, sun-shiny rock music, opining on a life of solitude, cultural tolerance and exuberant across-the-board acceptance. Aaron Glass (or Papa Bear) projects his image of a hands-across-America type modernity where God is on our side and the world’s wilds are meant for open-minded exploration, where love is even more than the be-all and end-all. While this world to some may seem inarguably desirable, The Easy Love’s world feels at times too naïve, regardless of how easy it can be to settle into their pillowy-soft melodies.

“You fill your glass full of hope / you leave your tender heart exposed / you reach the top and stumble / you see the magic go,” Glass muses during one of For The Wild’s more sky-bound tracks, “Dance Through The Storm” – and all delivered in a gracious tone with a sunny disposition. If the thought of a bright, flowery field packed with kind, giving souls makes you a bit queasy, For The Wild may not be for you, but the melodies are lush, the voices pristine. This is pure love-rock, in the vein of the Bay-Area legends of the 60s, and for the most part, For The Wild transports you directly to Golden Gate Park circa 1967.

Nam Le – Nam Le – 8.0

“I will admit they’ve shown me / how easy it is to be a changeling”: these wails set off “Raw Dog ABE 2012”, Nam Le’s shining moment on their excellent self-titled second release, and those words quite possibly put forth a mission-statement of sorts. Sure, they hop along the borders of post-hardcore, emo, and indie – but they do it with such reckless abandon and ease, expertly pummeling through a Slint-esque tune like “Chambered” into the aforementioned beautiful pandemonium of “Raw Dog ABE 2012”. Nam Le really do grow these riff-heavy rock journeys into multiple-movement tunes and still rarely crack the three-minute mark. It’s not so much how their uniqueness – though there’s a lot of it – but what they are able to do with the sum of their parts. This record was crafted with wholehearted love – you can hear it from the moment the drums drop on opener “Buried” – and Nam Le look to project these hearts of theirs upon us.

At first the band can come off a tad abrasive, but there’s soot to remove, grit to dig through before that pristine glow is unearthed. The record will probably take a spin or two to sink in – it’s dirty, in the best possible way – but not lacking in effort or skill. This sounds like a band, forcefully constrained against the proverbial wall, yet instead of pressing back, Nam Le turn around and bust through the same fucking barrier. Instruments in hand, emotion in tow, they come crashing through in the form of something huge, and you would be wise to let them break that crack wide open and settle on into your skull.

Coultrain – Jungle Mumbo Jumbo – 8.2

Full disclosure: I absolutely, undoubtedly love Stevie Wonder. Take a guess as to how I feel about, say – Frank Ocean? Love that dude too – that buttery voice, those glorious synths. In a similar vein (though pretty different in the classical soul-sense)  Aaron M. Frison occupies a realm where 1975 never really ended, and the world of Motor City Motown is alive, vibrant and growing. The St. Louis musician, more appropriately known as Coultrain, is all gorgeous vocal melodies, lush horns and inviting, piano-heavy beats. He himself describes Jungle Mumbo Jumbo as “Inspired by HER, the chase, the missing pieces, & the generator, operator, and destroyer within. Where the ‘?‘ & ‘answer‘ led us, Jungle Mumbo Jumbo is the story of Seymour’s search of the ultimate muse, the 7 women involved, the erupting emotions, and the enlightenment born from it.”

An epic quest for enlightenment through love, postured against a backdrop of chasing hearts and breaking minds – all set to woozy, Parliament-meets-Stevie musicianship? Coultrain’s melodies are damn pristine (save the misguided “Sassyphrass”) and lyrically you’ll be hard pressed to find more eloquent love songs. Whether it’s equating romantic desires to a deathly animalistic chase (“Gazelle’s Dance”), that first inkling of love engulfing you like water (“Streams & Rivers”) or your subconscious desires guiding you as you sleep (“Y Not”), Frison finds tender middle grounds amongst his more grandiose beats. This isn’t music for a dance hall, but it’s certainly not meant to be idly appreciated from your seat.  This is get-up-and-go music in the purest sense, in that not only does Jungle Mumbo Jumbo musically implore you to rise up; it transports you worlds away should you elect to simply sit back and enjoy from the comfort of your own abode.

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