Pedals

SPEAK AND BE HEARD: THE FINEST SYNTHPOP
June 3, 2016 2:14 pm

SPEAK is a synthpop group from Austin, Texas. Combining ear pleasing vocals with catchy synthesizer backdrops, Speak breaks out of the mold typical to the genre. None of their recent songs sound forced; in fact they jam in ways that I was unprepared for.

Composed of Troupe Gammage on keys and lead vocals, Nick Hurt on guitar, Joey Delahoussaye on bass, and Jake Stewart on drums, the band has been putting out material for over five years now. They have a comfort with one another that comes with ease translated in their music. These smooth dance tunes will help even the most awkward of us find our groove.

Their latest song is “Gates,” which hopefully might be a lead single off a forthcoming album. Ridiculously catchy, between the synthesizer and Gammage’s vocals, I am hooked. True to the new wave style of Austin, in the music video everybody looks slightly lost, or out of place. Maybe it’s the thick rimmed glasses and the awkward carrying of the magic metal box. Regardless, the more I listen to this song, the more I like and appreciate Speak. I found myself coming back again and again to “Gates,” even humming it first thing in the morning after I woke up.

Gammage truly has a fantastic set of pipes, not only making dope music with Speak but also performing voice work for many and multiple video games. Even though each member of the band is talented beyond reason, it is Gammage that I find ties the whole shtick together.

Improving and tweaking their sound much over the course of their last few projects, their latest album Pedals, which came out mid ’14, is a good place to start if you’re not hip. Their lead single off Pedals is “Peaks”; sick drums over elegant harmonies. The beat will immediately get your head a bobbin’, if you have a pulse.

“Heavy Metal Way” may be my favorite track on the project. It brings a more rock-friendly feel with the drum-line intro that sets the rest up perfectly. Again, Gammage’s vocals are truly inspiring. He reminds me of a young Adam Levine the way he seamlessly switches between low scratchy growls and pristine falsetto.

Much of Speak’s appeal to me while listening through their discography is how they don’t lean on the category of ‘synthpop’ as a clutch, but instead uses it to fuel the basis of who they are. They incorporate gnarly guitar solos and blistering drum beats to round out a healthier end result. Some of their instrumentals take on a post-rock sense of depth and longing. Nothing resembling pedantic, Speaks excels at surprising the listener track after track.

I am sincerely looking forward to the next tape from the lads of Austin. With a ton of new music already infecting the airwaves of Summer 2016, I think Speak has a bonafide chance to really be heard.

THE ALL ENCOMPASSING- PALATE PLEASING ZULA
November 4, 2015 5:49 pm

Trying to figure out the direction in which electronic music is headed is basically a fool’s errand at this point. There’s just too wide of a range now. And while the variety is wonderful, it can be a little jarring to some seeing such a broad spectrum of brow altitude. It’s like reading a great article on Buzzfeed about the harsh conditions in American prisons, and then being told why Jennifer Lawrence should be your spirit animal in .gif form immediately after.

Nobody can deny how huge those Red Bull guzzling synth monoliths like Steve Aoki and Skrillex have gotten, but plenty of “Purists” hate them and they’re by no means the first wave of polarizing electronic artists. The genre “Intelligent Dance Music” wouldn’t have a nearly 25 year long legacy of Orbital and Aphex Twin junkies swapping vinyls if they were. But at this point, everyone’s using some device learned from a branch of the mighty oak that is the electronic music family tree. So it’s kind of silly picking sides when each camp is connected in some way. This applies strictly to electronic music, not humanity. Continue having wars and stuff.

zuulaThis is what makes a band like Zula so fun. Listening to them is like a blurred canvas of so many different sonic entities. On their debut LP, This Hopeful, they offer up a wide range of grooves to choose from. A song like “And More Business” shows them flexing their dance muscles the most, while keeping it understated. Everything builds from a simple piano riff that’s eventually paired with a very chunky bassline and sporadic synths. Frontmen (and cousins) Nate and Henry Terepka’s echoed vocals add to the trance atmosphere of the song perfectly.

Zula is adept at establishing a foundational pillar in each song. Whether it’s “And More Business’s” piano riff or the drum groove from “Sullen Crackle,” having a constant adds to the effect made by each unconventional loop, as well as their off-kilter guitar work floating intermittently through each song. They’ve shown that they can use those elements as a way to get themselves into a tight rhythm or build up to a huge payoff at the end.

The Terepka’s have that magic touch that lend to the sounds coming together so nicely. They can tap into some of those Thom Yorke-ish sassy howls when they wants to, but can also shift to a more delicate tone perfect for melodies that really stick. Henry is one of those vocalists who can have a mini-hook in the middle of a song by simply repeating a key phrase over and over without it sounding droney in any way. This is done a few times in “Sullen Crackle.” His ear for the atypically catchy is perhaps Zula’s best attribute.

Zula’s knack for unforced catchiness, paired with the variation in their sound should offer something fresh for any electronic fans. These fellas probably won’t be headlining any festivals that hose you down with neon paint, but it’s doubtful they’ll be staying in the niche fringes of the underground either. They’re sort of a tweener band in that sense, and have the all the skills needed to expand their sound further.

You Need To Know Idgy Dean
October 14, 2015 9:00 am

Upon first listen, the album Ominous Harminus reads as a valiant debut effort from a trio of sound-makers: a drum-kit banging out up-tempo poly-rhythms, an electric guitar setting the tone with easy yet catchy melodies, and a vocalist driving the energy forward with a combination of chanting and singing.

Only this album did not come with just three instrumentalists. Meet Idgy Dean, a “one-woman psychedelic rock band with DIY beats and reveries built from the bottom up.” Her songs are all looped live on stage with a loop pedal, modified drum kit composed of just snare, tom, and cymbal and an electric guitar.

idgy fuckin dean

Her debut album Ominous Harminus is layered meticulously with every detail mapped and planned ranging from the vowel of her chant to the number of 1/16 beats in a measure. There is a mathematical quality to her instrumentals, not unlike some of my other favorite one-woman acts tUnE-yArDs and Julianna Barwick. She also has a rhythmic bounciness to her vocal melodies evocative of a Sylvan Esso, CHVRCHES, or even Purity Ring tone.

Tracks like “The Indian Squirrel Dance” and “Hopscotch” stand out from the rest of the pack as true indie-dance ballads while the rest function more as atmospheric soundscapes. However, as each listen exposes sounds that had previously gone unheard, the album begins to grow more refined with age.

While Dean’s debut is not quite as adventurous into the realm of electronica as loop-heavy masterpieces like tUnE-yArDs’ Whokill or Sylvan Esso’s self titled debut, the creativity in her videos and the skill seen in her live footage shows the potential she has to harness this talent and develop her songwriting ability to evolve into the next big solo/band hybrid artist out there.

You can catch Idgy Dean live at CMJ TOMORROW (THURSDAY) at our Atypical Beasts Agency Showcase at Piano’s!