31 Jan

Each year is met with various musical challenges. For instance, tomorrow is February and thus starts FAWM: February Album Writing Month. Each year, I team up with the members of the Berkeley Social Scene to create a new album. I’ll talk more about that in a later post. There’s also the wonderous Songfight which goes on year round (and I’ve got a huge Songfight project on the horizon) and its sibling contest The Nur Ein (which I organize). There’s also a competition called Spintunes. I was a judge during the first Spintunes contest and if you read my previous blog, Audioshards, then you know that my stint as judge was not without its share of controversy. Spintunes revolves around a very strong community of musicians and you gotta love that. Well, Spintunes 4 has just begun and since I’m without my home computer (aka my usual jukebox), this is a perfect time to do some listening and a little reviewing.

Round 1 of Spintunes 4 is a double whammy. Each song has to be about a childhood nightmare and each has to utilize rubato which is kind of hard to explain. Basically it’s freely playing with the tempo. It’s not your run of the mill musical term so I was surprised to see it at the beginning of a competition. No warm up round here. Let’s see what we’ve got. Here are the first ten. (I won’t be criticizing the rubato. I personally struggle with defining rubato so I’m not gonna criticize anyone’s interpretations.)

Governing Dynamics has this dark sound to him that I enjoy. I also like his choice to go for his higher register in the song. The bass ready plods along. It’s not a well done bass line at all but got some charm to it. I guess that goes for the whole song. It feels very long and this comes from someone who listens to 10 minute Nadja songs full of drones. Still, a decent tune out of Travis Norris. Faux put up a song that’s a little all over the place. I know it’s intentional but I found myself struggling to get something to grasp onto in the song. I fear that I won’t remember this song by the time I’m done listening to the round. Looking at the Dex01 lyrics, I was excited to here this one because it’s my kinda nightmare lyric. I was surprised that after about 1:30, it started sounding like Mission of Burma’s “That’s When I Reach For My Revolver” just with very high, kinda nasally vocals. I dig the punk. I think Dex01 with a lower octave on the vocal could get a cool Iggy Pop and the Stooges thing going. Too bad, it doesn’t work as well for a song about a nightmare. Hazen Nester brought the odd but it brought some dark too. The sound effects and the fake newscast were a bit distracting but there is a great disturbing sound to this. There is so much to be said for ambiance and then coupling it with the sweet lullaby sounds. This is a pretty fine piece of work. He gets a spotlight:

Song 1125: “An Indellible Mark” by Hazen Nester

Rebecca Angel  also went for the creepy lullaby. It was a good intentions. The delivery left something to be desired on occasion. Like the piano had these odd staccato bits (at least I’m calling them staccato and not stumbles). There’s some decent imagery and some strong vocals towards the end but it didn’t pull together for me. Still, not the worst thing I ever heard by a longshot. David DeLuc has a very clean sound that reminds me a bit of Jonathan Mann. It’s a fun song but at just over 2 minutes, when I got into the groove of the song, the song was already done. That was a shame because I was enjoying it, despite it being an almost uplifting sopund to a nightmare song. Now, I exactly what to expect out of my x-tokyo bandmate Noah McLaughlin. He has a certain rock style that is driven by his very unique vocals. The lyrics on this song are a mixed bag. Some are great like “You are always someone’s monster”. Some are not as great like “my family tree of twisted branches”. All in all, a decent tune but I didn’t get the emotion of the delivery. Felix Frost brought some crazy experimental stuff like screamed out Nightmare Before Christmas so I guess it worked as a nightmare tune. It was a chiptune 8bit nightmare. But does the music match the lyrical content? I guess it doesn’t have to necessarily but when the music is so wild, the lyrical disconnect becomes distracting. Jacob Haller, now that’s a voice for a nightmare song. It’s built for gritty blues and hell yeah, it’s got an accordian in there too. Wish it was played better but a great idea. Beside the accordian mess, it’s a good song. I wish he’d go that next step. If he would’ve gone Screamin’ Jay Hawkins forceful or Kirk Windstein gruff, I would’ve been hooked. The last of the first ten songs is Common Lisp. Before he got to the poetry part, I was already thinking “this is more like poetry than song”. I think he got really wrapped up in the rubato challenge and its almost to the songs detriment. By the time the last act came around, I was done with it all. Great examples of rubato, but not a great song.

Okay, more tomorrow.



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