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All posts for the month November, 2013

Amnesty for Astronauts. Left to right, guitarist/vocalist Josh Green, vocalist Alyson Byerly, guitarist Chris Byerly, drummer Joe Carbon and bassist Sam Silsbe. Photo courtesy of facebook.com.

Amnesty for Astronauts. Left to right, guitarist/vocalist Josh Green, vocalist Alyson Byerly, guitarist Chris Byerly, drummer Joe Carbon and bassist Sam Silsbe. Photo courtesy of facebook.com.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

The northeast Ohio music scene is a bona fide breeding ground for innovative and unique local talent. Each year, another crop of new artists and projects emerges, continually turning the scene on its side. With a sound consisting of soaring melodic guitars, spacey atmospheric noise and a dual vocal attack, it’s no doubt that Youngstown, Ohio’s Amnesty for Astronauts is poised to be the next standout act of the area.

Like a handful of the area’s current acts, Amnesty for Astronauts consists of veteran musicians coming together from former big name acts. From the infectious grooves of drummer Joe Carbon (ex-Slander, Moral Dilemma) and bassist Sam Silsbe (ex-Erin’s Vineyard), to the gigantic riffs of guitarists Chris Byerly (ex-Relic, Moral Dilemma) and Josh Green, to the dual vocals of Green and Alyson Byerly, the band is solid through and through.

The band said that like most projects, it began naturally through friendships, mutual admiration and the love of music.

“It started out as a few friends getting together jamming in a basement. They called me up and asked, ‘Hey, you want to join the project?'” said Silsbe.

“Joe and I have played together for 18 years now. I was in his first band with Aly, so that’s where our roots are. Joe and I continued to jam ever since,” added Chris Byerly.

Formed over a year and a half ago, the band began to incessantly evolve. With the final addition of Alyson last summer, the sound had officially became solidified.

“With the addition of Aly a couple of months ago, we decided to bring in another singer and really turn it up a notch,” said Carbon.

With a wide pallet of influences, the band effectively blend their eclectic tastes into a unique and fresh sound that is unlike any on the area’s scene. Fusing the dynamic of The Pixies and early Radiohead with thumping grooves and a Hum-meets-Helmet slam of guitars, Amnesty for Astronauts successfully spans the broad spectrum of alternative rock. Evident on tracks such as the soaring “Miss Perfection” and the dream-like “Counting Sheep,” their sound provides no limitations.

“We get in arguments about what we sound like. We don’t really want to stick to a certain genre. And it’s helping us write songs. Every week we’re writing a song. It might sound something completely different than the last one we wrote, but it’s still something we like,” said Green.

“It makes you more versatile. The more you listen to, the more opportunities you have to be inspired,” added Alyson Byerly.

While consistently finding inspiration, the band have not only been pushing themselves forward artistically, but stressing the importance of building their name in unique and entertaining ways. For their first live performance, the band have been hitting the streets for promotion with a flyer resembling a moon-landing reported on the front page of The New York Times.

“You need to show your passion for what you’re doing to people. You can convince people to like what you’re doing if they see how much you like it. Facebook is very impersonal. I think getting out there and meeting the people, that’s what music is all about,” said Carbon.

Amnesty for Astronauts officially takes flight on Saturday, Nov. 23 with their first mission taking place at Chipper’s in Austintown, Ohio for a FREE show alongside Skull’Rz Bane and New Diaries. Exclusive live tracks can be streamed via their Reverb Nation page by clicking here.

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Doctor Who: 50 Years of Time and Space

The Doctor’s Impact

IN THIS ISSUE:

Music

Ms. Rose

Art

Scene

By Rick Polo (Editor-In-Chief)

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Artist: Danny Brown

Album: Old

Release Date: 10/8/13

Rating: 4/5

Indie-rapper Danny Brown has certainly done his homework. As one of the leaders of the genre’s underground movement, just bubbling beneath the mainstream, Brown has gained some serious momentum over the course of his discography. With Old, his newly released third album, he’s again successfully smashed his own boundaries with one of the year’s most well-rounded and enjoyable rap albums.

Brown first hit the scene in 2010 with his ground-breaking debut, The Hybrid. After releasing the near-perfect XXX in late 2011 and stealing the show on featured tracks of the previous two EL-P records, Brown delivered Old in early October, again taking the rap world by brutal force.

Brown took a unique old school approach to the construction of Old, dividing it into two “sides,” as a traditional vinyl would, with two different vibes. Side A, titled “Old,” lives up to its title somewhat. It has a laid back, old school hip-hop vibe with soulful samples and grooving beats. Following opening tracks “Side A (Old)” and “The Return,” the album begins to show its chops, beginning with the third track, “25 Bucks,” which features Brown’s group, Purity Ring. The track seeps with Brown’s lyrical genius. From there, tracks like “Torture” and “Lonely” paint a more vulnerable portrait of Brown, with very self-actualizing and introspective lyrics. A trait not typical among many mainstream rappers.

Side B, titled “Dope Song,” has a high-energy, almost live feel to it. Also certainly not an approach taken by many modern rap artists, as their live performances are merely lip-synced over a pre-recorded beat. No, as those who’ve attended any of the summer festivals of which Brown performed this summer, he’s abrasive and in-your-face.

The second side of Old reflects that, especially with the lead single, “Dip.” The energetic performance factor reels the listener in from the start with an infectious up-tempo dance beat that will make you almost want to slam dance along with it. Fellow tracks “Smokin’ & Drinkin'” and “Handstand” keep the party going, until another stand-out track, “Kush Koma,” featuring talented newcomer A$AP Rocky, takes hold. As many of the songs on Old, “Kush Koma” presents a lyrical juxtaposition to the vigorous music that accompanies it. Brown’s realization of his own debauchery, and the toll it takes on his soul, make up the lyrics on the almost depressing tune. Finally, Old ends on an even more somber note, with the beautiful “Float On,” featuring Charli XCX.

When it comes to honestly, Danny Brown holds nothing back. Like contemporaries Kendrick Lamar and Tyler, the Creator, Brown is not afraid to shed light on his vulnerability, nor is he hesitant to admit to the not-so-flattering aspects of his life. However, he does so in such an earnest and beautiful way, you come to realize that he’s just giving his version of the blues. And with all the raw emotional and powerful songwriting, Old, in a modern sense, is as bluesy as it gets.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

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Artist: Gary Numan

Album: Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind)

Release Date: 10/15/13

Rating: 4.8/5

For some, Gary Numan was a mere one-hit wonder amongst a vast crop of early 80’s synth-pop nostalgia. His lone pop hit, “Cars,” has become a staple of 80’s compilations albums, and rightfully so! He kicked the door open for a whole slew of new wave and synth-pop acts in the early days of MTV. However, not as many are aware that he’s been consistently making influential and groundbreaking music for 30 years and counting.

What Numan lacks in chart toppers, he more than makes up for in a strong discography and a prominent presence amongst underground electronic and alternative music. Originally a punk rocker, Numan went solo in the early 80’s and took his love for Kraftwerk and Berlin-era Bowie to the next level, inventing his own brand of electronic, synth-heavy proto-industrial. After the success of “Cars,” Numan continuing making challenging electronic music. His influence has spread far a wide, being covered by the likes of Hole, Smashing Pumpkins and Foo Fighters, as well as acts like Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson and Fear Factory citing Numan as a key influence.

Over the years, Numan’s music had grown darker and moodier. By the 90’s he was keeping in touch with the industrial scene, as well as making a splash among the Goth and darkwave scenes. In recent years, Numan’s music has grown increasing aggressive, adapting heavily distorted guitars to compliment the equally distorted pulsing synths.

This sound is most notable on his latest release, Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind). It kicks off with the heavy riffing “I Am Dust” featuring Nine Inch Nails axeman Robin Finck. The industrial rock powerhouse continues on “Here in the Black” and “Everything Comes Down to This,” creating a wall of noise, laden with driving beats, throbbing synths and mean riffs. The title track “Splinter” stops for a more atmospheric and brooding vibe, while the piano-driven “Lost” provides a dark and moody, heavy NIN-like build. Unsurprisingly, this track also features Finck on guitar.

More head bumping and booty shaking noise takes control from there with the KMFDM-like “Love Hurt Bleed” where Numan growls “everything bleeds” repeatedly. Dance club banger Goth anthems “A Shadow Falls on Me” and “We’re the Unforgiven” continue the assault, finally climaxing with the melancholy closing track, “My Last Day.”

Splinter is, in many ways, the album industrial fans have been waiting for. It’s dark, moody and heavy, but not in the bland and redundant detuned, double-bass metal attack that dominates most so-called industrial. It harks back to golden age of industrial, from 1988-95, before the genre splint into either more metal or techno directions.

Most of the tracks on Splinter are key listens, with hardly a falter throughout the album. Certainly the tracks “I Am Dust,” “Everything Comes Down to This” and “A Shadow Falls on Me” will catch the listener by storm. But it would be foolish to count out the more atmospheric tracks like “Lost,” “Splinter” and “My Last Day,” where although the aggression is more subtle, it’s a slower yet ultimately harder punch.

If Numan continues to make music this hard-hitting and this good, hits or not, he’ll continue to remain relevant for another 30 years.

Lou Reed

Lou Reed

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

Visionary, trailblazer, cool, godfather, original, genius, brooding, artistic, inspirational. Those are just some of the terms that come to mind when referencing the godfather of art rock, Lou Reed.

Reed’s 46-year career spanned several eras, trends and movements. Somehow, the iconic rocker always managed to be cited as a leader or influence. And up until his passing last month, Reed was still going strong, still challenging his audience and still making an intellectual and trend-setting statement.

Reed’s career begin in the mid-60’s as frontman of The Velvet Underground. While most bands of the time were drenched in psychedelia and trying to play louder than their predecessors, Reed and his bandmates were taking an intellect in rock and roll to a whole new level, birthing the sub-genre of art rock.

The Velvet Underground were, at the time, rock’s best-kept secret. With themes of sex, drugs and violence, it certainly wasn’t very in step with much of the “hippie” movement. They were arguably the first cult band, with a devoted underground audience despite a serious lack of national radio play or television exposure. In a pre-Internet world, they were among the first acts to connect others like-minded, one a smaller yet wide-ranged scale, selling only 30,000 copies of their debut album. As Brian Eno was once famously said, “…everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.”

Their association with Andy Warhol and their artsy approach gained the band even more popularity throughout three studio albums in the late 60’s and lasted long after the group disbanded in 1970.

Reed’s career was far from over after The Velvet Underground. He took the world by surprise in 1972, releasing two of rock’s greatest masterpieces, his self-titled solo debut and the David Bowie and Mick Ronson co-produced Transformer. Transformer was arguably the first glimpse of Gothic rock, featuring Reed on the cover donning black clothing and eyeliner. The album’s smash hit, “Take a Walk on the Wild Side,” was a dark and ironic tune, paying homage to all the misfits and freaks that surrounded The Velvet Underground and Andy Warhol in the late 60’s.

The following year, Reed took steps into progressive rock, releasing the concept album, Berlin. Darker than Transformer, Berlin told the story of two junkies in love in the city of Berlin. Songs of severe drug addiction, prostitution and suicide further expanded Reed’s fascination with the darker side of the human experience.

By 1975, Reed released another critical work, Metal Music Machine. Although the album was considered a commercial failure and sold poorly compared to Transformer and Berlin, it’s influence spread wider than originally imaged. The album consisted heavily of electronic noise and feedback; a stark contrast to his well-produced earlier solo works. However, the album’s noisiness went on to heavily inspire early NYC punk/alternative acts like the Talking Heads, as well as entire sub-genres such as noise rock and proto-industrial.

Reed’s experimentation, both sonically and lyrically, continued over the next 30 years. With the occasional commercial successes and the equally occasional commercial flops, Reed always managed to remain relevant through out the ages. Punks admired his ambition and lack of interest to play nice with the music industry. Acts as diverse as Iggy Pop, The Flaming Lips, The Smiths, Sonic Youth and Jane’s Addiction all cite Reed, as well as The Velvet Underground, as critical influences on their music.

His final musical stand came as a very unlikely collaboration when he teamed up with metal icons Metallica in 2009. He first performed with them at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s 25th Anniversary Concert, and later announced he would be recording an entire album with them. The result was 2011’s Lulu. The album, based on a late-1800’s German play, went straight to number one on the Billboard charts. However, the album was quickly deemed a critical and commercial flop. Both parties stood behind the project, as Reed again managed to challenge his audience, whether they liked it or not.

Reed’s unrelenting search for thought-provoking and challenging artistic statements were ultimately the reason for his long-lasting relevance and his wide-spread influence. Reed never tamed himself and never necessarily gave his fans the music they were expecting to hear next. It’s because of his ambition and fearlessness that he remains a true icon, visionary, and the King of Cool. Even after his death, as long as rock and roll is still kicking, his life and influence will continue to be celebrated.

Shoegaze act Catherine Wheel circa 1993. Photo courtesy of MTV.com.

Shoegaze act Catherine Wheel circa 1993. Photo courtesy of MTV.com.

By Jennifer Elizabeth Rose (Social/Cultural Writer and Music/Arts Historian)

The early development of the Shoegaze genre lies somewhere in the post-punk haze of the 80’s. Gothic/Ethereal artists such as Cocteau Twins and The Jesus and Mary Chain began to fuse elements from uncategorized and/or “art” rock acts like Sonic Youth and Dinosaur, Jr. The name itself evolved because artists, namely guitarists, where using a lot of effects on their guitars through the use of various pedals and stomp boxes and they seemed to be “gazing at their shoes” during performances.

Though many of the genre’s predecessors often used a lot of layering or effects in their music via multi-tracking, in live situations they were more sparse. Live performances from Shoegaze artists differed in many instances because they rarely changed the arrangement or the effects, although the layering was done in a more ethereal or blurred out way to begin with on the records, it was a bit easier to cope with live. Moreover, live versions were even more exaggerated because of this. Shoegaze greats Ride and Catherine Wheel are prime examples of this practice.

By the 90’s, a sister sub-genre called Dreampop surfaced with artists such as Slowdive and Lush. Their music featured the noise of Shoegaze, however was a bit more poppy and melodic. Even Brit Rock/Pop bands like The Stone Roses also experimented with many of the budding trademark sounds with their single, “I Wanna Be Adored” in 1991.

However, 1991 was the year that the first significant stride was made in Shoegaze. One of the first acts to be described as both Dreampop and Shoegaze, the influential My Bloody Valentine, combined airy female vocals and guitarist Kevin Shields’ distinctive sonic wall of guitar noise. In fact, My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless had a great impact on many guitarists in the 90’s, not just in Shoegaze, but Alternative in its broadest sense. Billy Corgan and James Iha of Smashing Pumpkins are notable followers.

The torch was in a way, carried most authentically to British band, Catherine Wheel. Shoegaze became full circle and the trademark sound was “nailed” by them in 1993 with their second record, Chrome. This is arguably the cornerstone record in this genre with its dreamy and catchy melodies sung with Gilmour-esque soothing ethereal vocals and sonically lush (but often still aggressive) guitars and concepts which vary throughout. This record is also one of the most unsung and overlooked recordings of the 90’s in general due to the quick shift in focus to the rise (and fall) of Grunge.

However, not all was forgotten. Catherine Wheel went on throughout the 00’s, inspiring new fans of other genres to not only go back and listen to their old records, but discover My Bloody Valentine’s, Loveless too, and draw from a perhaps small collection of Shoegaze records. Even more so, the quality that spanned Smashing Pumpkins’ range of influences, as well as successful English Alternative/Rock acts such as Radiohead and Pulp, had therefore inspired yet another Brit Rock Revival.

In the Shoegaze lineage, little known but amazing American artists such as Starflyer 59 (often referred to as a Space Rock band) and Hum plugged away through the 90’s. In more recent years, the independent two-piece act, Have a Nice Life, emerged with one of the greatest Shoegaze mixtures ever, especially on their debut album, Deathconsciousness. The presence of Dreampop-y melodic hooks, spacey textures and even darker undertones, hark back to the beginning of this genre’s early Post-Punk/Goth influences. (Refer to some of the artists mentioned in last month’s Gothic Rock article).

In addition to the previous Picks of the Week, which I used introduce this origins of this genre I now include for your enjoyment:

Catherine Wheel – Black Metallic. From recommended album, Ferment. 1993

Starflyer 59 – Hazel Would. from recommended album, Silver. 1994

Hum – Stars. From recommended album, You’d Prefer an Astronaut. 1995

Have a Nice Life – Bloodhail. From recommended album, Deathconsciousness. 2008

What Doctor Who has Meant to Me

By Joel Anderson (Art & Poetry Editor)

I first met the Doctor in the winter of 2011, after being persuaded to give it a try by my friend Zack Brammer.

So I convinced my lady friend at the time to sit down with me and give it a shot. And from the first episode “Rose” I was intrigued.

Who is this man running around in a leather jacket and purple sweater? Why is he so maniacal/unhinged? What’s up with his ears? What’s a TARDIS and why is it bigger on the inside? Holy crap this is so cool!

Christopher Eccleston is my first Doctor. And I still love his interpretation of the character. A man wounded by his decisions in the past, yet still willing to help any species that needs it, and despite his hardened exterior, he falls in love with a young human, Rose.

I loved seeing the man who could go from the brink of destructive madness, to a mad scientist, to a comic. Which all incarnations of the character have, but I really liked how Eccleston handled it.

I went through David Tennant and Matt Smith, but Eccleston still holds something over me. Such a shame he didn’t stay longer.

But I digress.

Needless to say it didn’t take long for me to get hooked. The writing is incredible, the monsters are fantastic and the characters are so rich and complex. I fell in love with the emotional toll it took on me when a companion left, and we met the new one. The incredible twists, the weeping angels, Daleks, Cybermen it all culminated into one big ball of love that attached itself in my chest, you could say it gave me a second heart.

I ran into some hard times once I became a full-fledged Whovian.

I had a terrible job; working as a telemarketer, not happy with my life, living back with my mom because the economy sucked so badly and my job didn’t pay me enough to live on my own.

I drew a TARDIS on the side of my headset box. And I would stare at that shitty hand drawn TARDIS for hours on end, hoping to hear the all familiar wheeze as the little blue box lands and out pops the Doctor.

It helped me get through some tough times at that hell hole. Picturing some of the fantastical adventures the Doctor and I would go on. And having my weeks ending with a new episode of Doctor Who helped a lot too.

Then I realized my other connection with the Doctor.

Our birthday!

Yes, on November 23, 1963 the first episode of the series aired on the BBC. 24 years later I entered this world. Maybe that makes me a timelord?! I sure hope so.

The Doctor helped me to establish new friendships, started fierce debates, help me to sort out bad girlfriend candidates and made bow ties cool again. But let’s face it, they’ve always been cool.

And on this, the 50th anniversary of the show, I can’t wait to see what the Doctor has in store for us. I can’t wait to see Peter Capaldi in the role, even though I’ll have to say goodbye to Matt Smith.

So here’s to you Doctor. Thank you for two wonderful years of adventure for me, and 50 years for the whole of the fandom. I look forward to the road ahead and I can’t wait to see what the next 50 years holds. To end this tribute I will call upon the great Steven Spielberg who said “The world would be a poorer place without Doctor Who.

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By Jennifer Elizabeth Rose (Social/Cultural Writer and Music/Arts Historian)

The first true Science Fiction show. The first Science Fiction fandom.

Pop culture owes so much to a little under-produced British television series called Doctor Who, which made its debut Nov. 23, 1963. With its 50th anniversary special just a few weeks away, there are some that might be intimidated to just jump in and watch without a “History of,” or a proposed list of “catching up” episodes. Though BBC America has had specials all year featuring the personality and contributions each facet of this timeless alien, The Doctor, has undergone, it is nice but not necessary.

“The Doctor,” (name unknown, hence his being referred to as “Doctor Who”) is an alien from Gallifrey, the planet of the Time Lords. Time Lords are able to not only travel time and space but can to regenerate their lives approximatley 12-13 times. The show’s mastermind Steve Moffat isn’t always clear to us on this matter.

Each incarnation of the Doctor is played by a different actor who presents their own interpretation of the character. The show saw much success and influence with British children and many musicians in the 60’s and throughout the 70’s and 80’s the show became a British staple. With the end of the 7th Doctor’s tenure, the show went off air but was briefy revamped in the late 90’s with a feature film featuring an 8th Doctor (a great place for new comers). Its success and the buzz it generated led to the show being relaunched completely (this time with AMAZINGLY high production) with a new 9th Doctor in the 00’s. The new Doctor Who featured complicated story archs and new, more involved travelling companions.

As far as a true “history of…,” it would be impossible to discuss the range of influences this program and its thought-provoking idea/ls have had on any number of creative mediums, or even actual science, in the last 50 years but its influence in recent years alone has spawned a loyal fandom which is far from anything lukewarm.

You either love The Doctor or you don’t.

While fads come and go in entertainment, and the recent popularity? (shakes head) of “geekdoms,” a concern for yours truly, usually people who truly grasp onto Doctor Who are quite changed. But fandom is not about collections, it is not about who has seen the most episodes and it sure is not about a geekdom which is now maybe something amusing on primetime but that might lose its “coolness” overnight with the next fad or social phenomenon. NOR is it about the previous “laughing at” and now “laughing with” a geek of said interest, or any interest. It shouldn’t be. The Doctor would not say that. None of these things matter in all of Time and Space.

However, shows like Doctor Who, along with a small handful of other highly influential series, have seen die-hard fandom endure. Nowadays, fandom has gone mainstream. The influence of popular comic books that have been turned into blockbusters, along with the popular graphic novel The Walking Dead seeing a successful run on television, has seen fandom widely acceptable by the masses.

The upcoming 50th Anniversary special is going to examine “who” this entity of the Doctor really is. His culminated nature, his “name” and what he has done throughout history in “his name.” What does he mean to the Universe (real or imagined)? And as such, this cultural historian really has little to say for a “History of…” because as compared to more longstanding fans, whatever I say would be trite. Though much research has been done prior to this article and really as soon as “fandom” hit with MY “first doctor,” the 9th Docotr played by Christopher Eccleston. But again that is not the point of this fandom of Whovians. It shouldn’t be because it is not the message of the Doctor nor his archetype. Yes, it can be intimidating even though one might have heard great things about the series being thought-provoking, about the endless possiblities posed by time and space travel and the 900 year old alien entity that shared his experiences with little old humans because he chose to. In the series, the Doctor chose to see the good and foster it in this imperfect race. But when one jumps in and finds that yes, there are complicated story arcs but the average episode, any episode, can intrigue a new viewer to watch and crave more. Similarly to novellas.

Fandom. Merchandise. While it is nice to have something one likes become more accessible, one must beware the capitalism. Not “Capitalism” in a broad sense, but by other fans’ capitalization. The, “Oh yeah, I’m a geek too” that a Whovain might hear at say, a convention or even in a more average mundane place. And just proceed with the mission of well, watching the show.

Having said this, a recommended list of books about Doctor Who will not be provided. Although there are some great ones, there are many bandwagon sensationalists that are, again, capitalizing on die-hard fans’ commitment. To truly appreciate the program, one must simply watch it. Watch it alone. Watch it with others. But don’t watch it out of peer pressure or because geekdoms are cool right now and the other geeks are tweaking over it. Don’t believe the hype!

So without further ado, in addition to watching the show, I present some media in appreciation of the Whoniverse in its most basic, honest and/or comical manner.

With love, Ms. Rose

Fandom Picks: