Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Midweek With: The Heroic Enthusiasts - Heartracer - Cosmonauts - Hiva Oa - Apothek

The Heroic Enthusiasts - Summer Serenade.

Bakground bio - On Monday, New York indie rock band The Heroic Enthusiasts released their new EP The Second Three on JamTom Music. Inspired by experiences traveling in Italy and France, The Second Three builds on the band's polished indie rock sound that is reminiscent of definitive 80’s post-punk groups such as Echo and the Bunnymen and The Smiths.

Back in the 16th century, the Catholic friar and astronomer/philosopher Giordano Bruno gazed up at the stars enraptured by the poetry he saw in the elliptical patterns playing out in the sky. For Bruno, math, science, art, and romance were all one and the same ­­ a perspective that resonated so much James Tabbi and Tom Ferrara that they chose to name their band after Bruno's epic work Gli Eroici Furori -- literally "On the Heroic Passion" but commonly known as "The Heroic Enthusiasts." Much as they did for Bruno, numbers for this band function as a window into matters of the heart.

Both math majors and music lovers of Sicilian descent, Ferrara and Tabbi understand that form derives its beauty from a dance between precision and an intangible quality that can't be quantified. Yes, they write songs that stick in your memory and make you want to sing them out loud. But they also add discreet touches of sophistication, leaving a note out of a chord, for example, so that your ear strains to hear it and then introducing contrast by adding the note they've been implying all along. The way their guitar lines mesh together brings to mind the approach of master weavers and designers as much as it does musicianship in the conventional sense.

The Second Three follows the success of The Heroic Enthusiasts’ debut effort, Memory Wheel, released in February of 2016. "Summer Serenade" sets the tone of the EP, wrapped in themes of summer love and relationships of the past, present and future. Inspired by experiences traveling about in Italy and France, The Second Three builds on the bands polished indie rock sound that is reminiscent of 80’s classics like Echo and the Bunnymen and The Smiths.


We featured The Heroic Enthusiasts back in February with their debut release, Memory Wheel. Featured song 'Summer Serenade' from the bands brand new EP sees the band continue to impress. It's one of three superbly crafted songs, their brand of indie rock has depth, heartfelt vocals and an expansive musical sound.
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Heartracer - Hollow.

Background - Chris and Chip Cosby grew up in the suburbs of Richmond, Virginia. Early on, the brothers took a liking to 80’s pop culture from Nightmare on Elm Street to Back To The Future to the super cheesy martial arts movies starring Jean Claude Van Damme. It was a time when the United States economy was booming, people still bought records, Blockbuster still populated every street corner, and social media wasn’t the dominant influence on society. However, more importantly for the brothers this decade represented the golden era of catchy melodies and pop sensibility. The nostalgia for this period of their lives became the foundation of what would eventually become Heartracer. Chris and Chip had finally come together after years playing separately. After all Chris wasn't always aware of his music ability. He grew up watching his older brother Chip play in bands his whole life, but it wasn't until the suicide of a close friend that Chris realised his musical ability. As a mechanism to cope with his grief Chris began playing on the piano in his parents living room, using singing and songwriting as a form of catharsis.

In the summer of 2014 Chris was inside his home studio above his garage next to a broken AC unit playing a little melody and singing the words "If you go where I go, then you'll fall where I fall." A simple, yet poignant line about transcendence. A song about the way a song should make you feel if you will. Why are human beings drawn to sound? What is that we love music so much and how does something so simple make us feel so much? That was the inspiration for what eventually became the single "Heartracer." Little did the brothers know that at this time this song would come to define their signature and distinctive retro-electro pop sound and would eventually be chosen to be their identity. The pulsing and shimmering synth in the sweat of a summer afternoon paved the way to their sophomore release Summer Gold. This EP showed confidence and maturity in the direction of Heartracer's signature and distinctive sound and gave Heartracer their first national exposure. Since then Heartracer has toured and played with several international acts to at capacity crowds Future Islands, Jimkata, Banks, Pvris, Joywave, The Peach Kings, Priory, and Third Eye Blind.


'Hollow' begins with a dreamy musical feel, that comes alive with soaring vocals and from then just continues to build. Melodic, with a wonderful interface between the guitars and singing, put simply this a superb song.

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Cosmonauts - Party At Sunday.

Background - Cosmonauts came into being in 2009 in outer space or Orange County, depending on the way you like to look at things. The band was originally formed by Derek Cowart and Alexander Ahmadi after he heard Cowart play a Spaceman3 song solo at a show in their home town of Fullerton, CA. The two were students at different high schools but as it turned out, of the same musical school of thought: two lovers of lo­fi, adorers of the atmospheric, kindred pop­loving spirits. The two bonded over the Velvet Underground and Brian Jonestown Massacre, and quickly turned their mutual appreciation club into a band. Cosmonauts have been making music ever since, picking up bassist James Sanderson and a host of different drummers along the way (the spot is currently filled by Mark Morones). Now residing in Los Angeles, they’ve put out a number of releases (including three full length albums) through Burger Records and various other labels.

They’ve toured extensively through the US and Europe, and played alongside Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Pixies, Slowdive, Black Lips, Belle & Sebastian, and more, though Cosmonauts don’t exactly fit neatly into the fabric of their scene: too psychedelic to be punk, too punk to be psychedelic, and too absorbed in making their own brand of music to care. Their latest offering, A­OK!, is out August 19th via Burger Records. 


From the imminent album release AOK! the track 'Party At Sunday' showcases the band in a more laid back mood. It's a calming, melodic and atmospheric piece, and only one aspect of their material. The ten track album has some real rockers, the occaisional energetic wall of sound piece, and bags of imagination. Hard to pigeonhole, the new album for me is bursting with well delivered ideas.

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Hiva Oa - Seskinore.

Background - Belfast duo, Hiva Oa are pleased to share their brilliant and brooding new single Seskinore on Gold Flake Paint today. The track is taken from their forthcoming EP, mk2 (part 1) - out September 16th.

New material from Hiva Oa has been a long time coming. Sometimes, it seems, a period of inactivity is better for a band than one of constant creation. With the release of their forthcoming EP mk2 (part 1), core members Stephen Houlihan and Christine Tubridy departed Edinburgh, returning to their native Ireland seeking renewed inspiration. Hiva Oa retain the mystery and ambition of their former incarnations, but inject a heavy thrum to their intricate patchwork style, and turn their attentions to themes of fear, loneliness, abandonment and awakening.

On lead single A Great Height the band continue their controlled experimentation by marrying primal, dizzying electronica and a swelling bass hum, with minimal guitar patterns to create a tightly wound, suffocating and intense atmosphere that sets the tone for the EP. Somewhat appropriately it’s an anxious listen, the influence of Thom Yorke on vocalist Stephen Houlihan here provides the forlorn, and almost hopeless, punctuating refrain “…and I fall from a great height.”  Elsewhere Seskinore demonstrates their skill in developing percussive motifs that flit from the suspenseful and shuffling, to eruptive, deafening, conclusions. A powerful resolution to each composition is never far from the minds of Hiva Oa.

The latter part of mk2 (part 1) begins to bring subtler intricacies to the fore. Christine is awash with swathes of gentle guitar, gifting the four-minute piece a transcendent quality that, coupled with another yearning vocal, offers the listener a brief glimpse into one of the EP’s more intimate moments, in this near-fearful, dream-like, serenade. Closing track Jonny Brazil again shifts unassumingly from sinewy indie-rock before revealing a raft of squalling guitars and inter-playing vocal melodies. Hiva Oa have become masters of developing atmospheres proving that, for them, a visit to old pastures has worked wonders.


Second time around on Beehive Candy, and on the strength of this hopefully not the last. Hiva Oa have the knack of keeping the listener guessing where any given song is going, even when well into the piece and 'Seskinore' is no exception. In our last feature I descibed Hiva Oa as producing "intense and swirling music" with the new single I would add, powerful and hypnotic.

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Apothek - Invited.

Background - Together they have “a confidence that evades other artists early on” (Stereogum), but for Apothek’s Morten Myklebust and Nils Martin Larsen, this is one debut that has been years in the making. News of the pair’s eponymous debut album – ‘Apothek’ released September 30 via Propeller Recordings – materialises with new single ‘Invited’, which rather aptly contains one of the oldest elements on the record.

“The chorus for ‘Invited’ was originally meant for a different project,” Larsen explains, “but at some point, we started playing around with it during an Apothek session and realised we had to use it.” From somewhat subdued beginnings comes perhaps the most immediate pop song on the album – impressive from a duo already hailed “so joyously epic” by The Guardian.

It hints to the intricate and meticulous nature of Apothek’s full-length foray, a labour of love blurring the boundaries between electronic and organic. “All over the record, we had this mantra that what felt like an integral part of the band’s sound was trying to make acoustic sounds sound really mechanical and mechanical sounds sound acoustic,” Larsen says. “We spent a lot of time reamping synths, running them through different gritty effects and trying to make my old piano sound like a strange synth.”


Apothek create vibrant, melodic and distinct songs, that clearly work for me, as this is their third feature in around a year. In a few words, joyously luscious and emotionally intriguing.

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