New Noise Magazine Review of Sean Morales’ ‘Call It In’

Out of Austin, Texas underground by way of Norfolk, Virginia, Sean Morales offers a refreshingly breezy mix of lo-fi rock on Call It In, his newest record.

Morales’ debut began its life as an inauspicious series of bedroom compositions, which only became fully fledged when he brought his wife on board, drummer Erica Barton. Once Morales hit Austin though, momentum took over and he ended up bringing a whole series of musicians to work on his collection of songs, giving the record its present form.

As fully-fledged as the sound on Call It In is, one can almost hear the raw matter, strummed to the night sky through an open window. What strikes me first as most unique here is how Morales utilizes the lo-fi aesthetic without delving into the noise realm, which has for a while felt like the trend. This isn’t a Ty Segall record. Rather it feels like an offshoot of Sonny And The Sunsets, airy and wide open in places. “Slummertime” is a quintessential back porch song, a blast of alt-rock bliss, all ruffled denim cut offs and cold cans of Lone Star Beer. I’m fond of the sparse, creeping guitars featured on “Bring Me Home” which plays well with Morales’ hushed, shamanic vocal style, as does “Been Apart” which is the singer/songwriter stripped almost to the bone. On “Problems” and “Whispertime” Morales tries his blues hat on, traveling the swamp-tromping road with broke down lyrics sung like Velvet-era Lou Reed on the latter track.

While Morales largely eschews noise rock on Call It In, that does not mean all of his songs are soft. “Call It In” is a loosely produced mess of guttural wails, instrumental noise and sludgy guitars. If you’re looking for a new direction song, as in where Morales could expand his sound, this is that track. It is rich in ideas and, at less than three minutes, he leaves the surface barely scratched. Most of the record strikes you like that though, like this is more sketchbook than etching.

For a record as diverse (and as short) as this, Morales does a nice job of keeping his persona out in front. This is his record and his voice the lead character. I would have liked a longer record, maybe more toward the optimism of “Slummertime” but that’s OK. At twenty-seven minutes, it’s a lot to enjoy with little to explore. Still, Call It In begs for the back porch and should be a breath of fresh air to anyone amid winter rest in need of that particular change of scenery.

Purchase the album here.

Ink 19 Review of Adam Ostrar’s ‘Brawls In The Briar’

Adam Ostrar

Adam Ostrar

Adam Ostrar

Brawls In The Briar

Super Secret Records

Ok, bear with me here, because this might get confusing. Adam Ostrar – nee Adam Busch when he headed up bands such as The Curious Digit and Manishevitz – has a made a record that at first glance looks like a folk release. From the title Brawls in the Briar, to the rustic, wood-grained cover and the delightful hand-drawn images of dogs, ghosts and a tea service on the liner notes, you might think this was a strum-strum record of fireside singalongs.

Well, until you played it, that is. The opening cut, “Enemy” establishes the mood of the record with a low-key, Lou Reed-ish guitar pattern atop an insistent piano figure that lets Ostrar’s somewhat unsettling vocals to pull you along. The entire record never raises above a whisper, and becomes ever more ominous as it goes. Imagine putting the original line-up of the Velvet Underground in a cabin along with Young Marble Giants and making them share an amp. (Told ya it might get confusing). Now, at times Ostrar unleashes some Frippish guitar histrionics, but they are masterfully subdued. The record reminds at points of English art rock, such as Roy Harper on Bullinamingvase or perhaps more sedate Julian Cope, and the record ends with a cover of Eno’s “Cindy Tells Me” from his 1973 masterwork Here Come The Warm Jets.

Brawls in the Briar isn’t what you’d expect at first glance, but as someone wise once told me, you can’t judge a book by looking at the cover. This is a stunning work of low-key drama and mystery, full of hidden places and surprising touches. I can’t wait to hear more from Adam Ostrar – or whatever he goes by the next time out, because this music is damn near flawless.

supersecretrecords.com

Razorcake Review of Plax’s Debut Album

PLAX: Clean Feeling: LP

PLAX

How to capsulate the sound of Plax? They’re a mix of punk, post-punk, and garage. They feature members from OBN IIIs, Spray Paint, and Skeleton, so those influences seep in. You could compare them to Institute, who I do like, but Plax is much better. The songs are largely mid tempo with some jangly guitars, a propulsive bass, and drummer who knows there’s power being economical. “What a Waste” is a killer among killers that takes off right out the gate with the bass up in the mix, pushing the whole affair forward. “Mistake” is somewhat similar, and just as good. I like the confrontational tone of “Location,” but it’s the closer, “Mold,” that has me singing the praises of Plax. It’s a drawn-out song that is heavy in atmosphere. The guitar work is a-f’n number one primo. Great record! –Matt Average (Super Secret, supersecretrecords.com)

Swordfish Blog Review of Debut Little Mazarn Album

Review: Little Mazarn – S/T

Little Mazarn Album Cover

I’ve always considered Curtis Eller to be the prototypical underground banjo player. He crafts song-stories about history (or more appropriately, history through a warped contemporary lens) with an Americana flare and P.J. Barnum hucksterism; his banjo, as vibrant as a ringing electric guitar, drives the compositions front and center. Little Mazarn, whose self-titled outing will be released next week via Self-Sabotage Records, plants itself firmly on the other side of the spectrum, making filmy ballads that place spare, reverb-drenched banjo measures alongside Lindsey Verrill’s tender, longing voice. In other words: this is slowcore, even dreadcore, folk that sounds, at times, like it was recorded at a slower speed than you’re used to hearing a banjo.

Verrill, for sure, does some amazing things on the too-short debut. The opening “In Dreams,” where Verrill’s ghostly banjo measures are accented by what sounds like a musical saw, echoes Black Heart Procession but is somehow more resolute, less dirge-ish, more adept at creating drama without the drama.

The murder ballad “Rain and Snow” is haunted, ephemeral .“White Fang” is devastatingly fragile to a fault. Even when Verrill tips her hat at lusher moments – the reach-for-the-clouds voices on “Love Is All Around You” are carefully multi-tracked during the chorus – the landscape still is pretty barren. (I mean that lovingly.) This is the music Sam Beam or Damien Jurado make when they’re sad-drunk and alone.

What you think of Little Mazarn will depend, largely, on how you view loneliness. From the banjo echoing, a bell unanswered, to the plaintive singing or the spare accompaniment here and there, the record is assuredly a solitary affair. Instead of referencing Eller, consider fellow antique-gardist Robin Aigner at her most melancholy: strip her bare, remove a layer of skin so every emotion seeps more quickly into your system, and you’ll get an idea of Verrill’s M.O.

All in all, a fine outing.

GIGsoup Reviews Adam Ostrar’s Brawls in the Briar

Originality80
Lyrical Content75
Longevity70
Overall Impact70
Reader Rating0 Votes0
74
Ostrar mixes referential and autobiographical themes, confirming definitely that the most amazing feature of an author is how music, but also art in general, could be a personal way to cure and release ourselves

Songwriter and veteran band leader of the last twenty years Adam Busch alias Adam Ostrar has released his second solo alternative-folk record ‘Brawls In The Briar’.

The opening is with the melancholic ‘Enemy’. During all this piece, the bass guitar seems to predict that something is happening, that someone is coming and we can only wait for in a state of fluctuating suspension. Maybe, is it truly the enemy?

Closing eyes while listening to ‘Warlock’, it’s easy to go back until the vintage folk of 50’s-60’s American western movies, watching a cowboy with a white horse riding to discover the horizon and beyond (“And now you are riding into the great beyond”).

With ‘Cossacks in the Building’ the author deals with political matters straight lived by his family: “I remember my grandfather telling me who the Cossacks were and what a pogrom was. I know there was a pogrom history on his side of the family, and his parents and aunts and uncle ultimately immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1900s because of persecution.” (Supersecretrecords.com). The reference is about the Russian meddling in U.S. elections and of course, you if you’re from a family that has already felt the heavy hand of Russian authoritarianism and racist scapegoating, this is doubtless a little more creepier for you.

On Supersecretrecords.com, Ostrar also talks about the recording: “Point being, there aren’t any distractions. We recorded it live, all in the same room. I guess I made a record the way lots of people have made records, but it was a first for me. I’m used to piecemeal recordings and piecemeal recording budgets.” And also: “I wrote the bulk of the songs in 2016, which was collectively an awful year for obvious reasons. I was also experiencing cognitive dissonance unrelated to the election, personal stuff. All of it worked itself into the material. I suppose the backdrop of 2016 is the briar. The songs are the brawls.”

Ostrar mixes referential and autobiographical themes, confirming definitely that the most amazing feature of an author is how music, but also art in general, could be a personal way to cure and release ourselves.

This album feels like a secret album that people make, in some way, as their own.

‘Brawls In The Briar’ is out now via Super-Secret Records

Adam Ostrar

Austin Chronicle Reviews ‘Hong Kong Cab’

Ingebrigt Håker Flaten’s Time Machine

Hong Kong Cab (Self Sabotage)

Texas Platters

Bass solos are all well and good, but why listen to an album’s worth of unaccompanied thrums without the band dynamics that make the grooves come alive? Happily, Hong Kong Cab, Ingebrigt Håker Flaten’s fourth solo bass album, is a different breed. Unconcerned with unadorned rhythm, the Norway-born/Austin-based jazz maverick uses his instruments as paintbrushes, expressing himself with slashing strokes and controlled splatter like Jackson Pollock. He bows his double bass like a butcher cutting meat on “Hotel Isabel,” plucks his Rickenbacker into echo oblivion on “Time Machine,” and disintegrates his gear on the title track. Even when he just plain grooves on “Guts” and “All or Nothing,” Flaten stretches the boundaries of what it means to be in the pocket.

***.5