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FRESH CUTS: On “Goosebumps,” Gregory Uhlmann Stretches Time

photo credit: Jacob Boll

L.A.-based art-folk auteur Gregory Uhlmann (guitarist and vocalist with local act Fell Runner) has today released “Goosebumps,” an atmospheric one-off single—following up on his Neighborhood Watch album of last July—on Topshelf Records.

 

The art-folk track begins humbly with a simple muted acoustic drum fill, announcing the entry of two strummed nylon-string guitars and an hypnotic, elliptic bass line. The atmosphere of the recording is warm and open, quickly inviting the listener into its center.

Uhlmann’s voice is alternately deeply resonant and choir-boy pure, with a bit of breathiness, especially during the chorus, where his voice fades into a deep ocean of reverb on a single syllable. The addition of a gooey, tremoloed synth about halfway through the song changes the flavor but does so tastefully, as does the entrance of plucked instruments, pitched somewhere between mallets and a ticking clock, along with oceanic synth pads that resemble a school of shimmering sea creatures.

By the time the swelling single-note guitar lines double Uhlmann’s vocal melody and a lone, perfectly-timed cymbal crash signals the conclusion of the song, the listener has been taken on a unique aural journey, where contrasting timbres that shouldn’t fit well together still somehow manage to do so. Gabe Hernandez





Bellhead "Dead Lights"

Bellhead has released the lead single, "Nothing As It Seems", from their forthcoming EP, "Dead Lights", which is due out this Friday, July 16th.

This is the Darkwave duo of Karen Righeimer (Low Bass / Vocals) and Ivan Russia (High Bass / Vocals / Drum Programming).

Bellhead will kick off their "Dead Lights" tour on August 28th at Bottom Lounge with V Is For Villians and Code Name: Phoenix.

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VIDEO: “Retreat” Finds Dzang Soundscaping The Climate Crisis

photo courtesy of artist's bandcamp page

Dzang is the project of L.A.-based electronic producer Adam Gunther, who has released “Retreat,” the lead single from his forthcoming EP Glacial Erratic, due out July 23rd on Bandcamp, along with an accompanying music video.

The moody, downtempo instrumental track begins with ominous FM-synth bells tolling over a subtle bed of digital noise and bleeping, before a soft, swollen bass enters along with a drum pattern that resembles a ticking clock with a seizure. Gradually, sparse upper-octave synth notes and insular, beautiful synth pads enter your ears, with the entire soundscape splitting the difference between serene grooving and cautious searching. The late addition of the metallic shuffling of chains to the rhythm lends extra weight to the track, before it fades out with the same fateful bells from the beginning. Are they a warning? Or are they simply mourning?

Gunter explains that the track was meant to convey the feeling of California’s climate crisis and the need to escape. The accompanying music video “shows a talismanic bird flying through scenes of climate disruption only to arrive at an urban core, unable to escape humanity’s influence.” It’s a chilling but mesmerizing visual paired with music that is just as good at provoking deep thought about our global predicament as it is for blissing out on a late-night highway drive. Gabe Hernandez





FRESH CUTS: quickly, quickly Makes Magic Out Of Long-Distance Heartache

artist photo credit: Kyle McKenzie

L.A. by way of Portland, Oregon songwriter/vocalist/producer/arranger Graham Johnson is only 20 years and makes music under the moniker quickly, quickly, but he’s showing a talent and work ethic beyond his peers, having just released “Shee,” the third single from his new album, The Long and Short of It, to be released on Ghostly International on August 20th.

“Shee” is quickly, quickly’s love letter to their girlfriend during their long-distance relationship when he moved to Los Angeles. The track begins with strummed guitar and a soulful lead vocal jumping out at the listener, bouncing across the speakers with a subtle but long echo and reverb. Sweet vocal harmonies join in for a verse before a lively but compressed drum groove drops in with force for the wordless chorus, joined by tasty lead guitar lines. A more hip-hop oriented second verse takes shape with strategic percussion drop-outs and some excellent falsetto vocals touches, before taking on more ethereal, Bon Iver-like vibes for the middle. very casual tambourine and hand percussion appear before quickly being swallowed by the drums and lead guitar again, before ending in a final swirl of acoustic guitar and falsetto, ending in abstract electronic whirring and humming, as if the music was disintegrating itself back into the basic elements of sound.

Overall, the track is an intoxicating blend of R&B, psych-pop and hip-hop that has the potential to appeal to fans of either genre, and shows the formidable young talent making musical progress by leaps and bounds. Gabe Hernandez





UgLi blur the line between DTF and WTF on heavy AF debut album

The South Jersey/Philadelphia-based band UgLi unabashedly bash out ‘90s style alt rock with panache—but still their music feels uniquely relevant to right now and it rocks hard enough to be relevant to any era.

Taking a genre (grunge) originally associated with flannel-wearing, chainsaw-wielding, primal-screaming lone-wolf types, the Philly foursome uses it to address topics like mental health afflictions, gender fluidity, body dysmorphia, medication overutilization, and the pure unadulterated joy of a new love. Surprised you with last one, huh? And while in reality grunge was always pretty multifaceted (oddly enough it only became less so in the later ‘90s morphing into rap-rock, nü-metal, and post-grunge all culminating in the nightmare of Woodstock ‘99) and it’s always included great female musicians (L7 easily rocks just as hard as Soundgarden) but in 1992 it was still necessary for a certain “sad little sensitive Pisces man” to put a not-unsubstantial contingent of his own band’s fans on blast in the liner notes to the Incesticide comp:

“If any of you in any way hate homosexuals, people of different color, or women, please do this one favor for us—leave us the fuck alone! Don't come to our shows and don't buy our records.”

UgLi could in this way be considered the culmination of Kurt’s wishes, and one can only hope that in between floating around and hanging out on clouds that somewhere up there he’s looking down pretty happy about it. Because as a band that’s otherwise made up of three pretty average looking rock dudes (no offense guys!) UgLi is fronted by co-guitarist, vocalist, and primary songwriter Dylyn Durante who also happens to identify as a queer trans woman. So when she sings lines like “How would you find love / you don’t fit in the box / you’re mixing colors and shapes / I think you need to get off” (“Why Be Pretty…when you could be free”) it speaks not only to the youthful alienation of grunge-loving kids across a couple generations but also to a very specific situation—a situation driven home by the tight instrumental work of co-guitarist Andrew Iannarelli, bassist Lucas Gisonti, and drummer Teddy Paullin who pushes the album forward with Jimmy Chamberlin levels of energy.

Wait, what album? The track above plus seven others make up the band’s first full-length on the self-released FUCK, which at first glance may come off as a blunt, simple-minded attention grabber of a title. But when you break it down “fuck” is actually one of the more nuanced and versatile words in the English language given its dozens of potential meanings, ranging from a modifier used to add emphasis (“no fucking way!”) to a single-word exclamation indicating anger or disgust; ranging from the sensual physical union of two or more human beings to the state of being badly damaged or even ruined. And on FUCK, Dylyn covers all these meanings and more in songs where she “gets fucked” in every possible sense, and in songs where the band modifies the grunge formula to fit their own means—adding musical flavors ranging from the proggy side of the alt-rock spectrum (e.g., the Pumpkins/Radiohead-esque “Bad Egg” which deals with the difficulties of transitioning) to the dreamy chamber pop turned shoegazy slowcore rock ballad of the eight-plus-minute closer “Naegleriasis” with it’s vibey vibraphone and hazy horn section played in waltz time.

And finally, when it comes to the exclamatory qualities of FUCK, the record benefits greatly from the aforementioned intricate arrangements and the impressively warm/crisp/clear yet crunchy/dirty/overdriven production work on the album—produced in collaboration with Dave Downham at Gradwell House in Haddon Heights, New Jersey (Dave is credited with recording, mixing, and mastering the album alongside a full production credit on “Naegleriasis”) and I’m guessing that Butch Vig may be feeling just a little bit jealous now reading this. So whether you consider yourself a “House Pet” (“Nobody taught me how to care / I think I should’ve picked it up somewhere”) or a “Bad Egg” (“I’m searching for that high note / grasping for survival / well, what the fuck do I know”) you may want to follow the former song’s advice to “shimmer while you can” because the album itself follows this advice and it seems to work out pretty well. (Jason Lee)

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