Jake's Day 5: Journalism, Parlor Walls, Pile, Ovlov, Ratking, Show Me The Body, Grass Is Green, Kal Marks, Gnarwhal

Jake's CMJ Marathon 2014 ends in an explosion of sounds

By: Jake Saunders

October 29, 2014

" CMJ in the end might be a chance for bands to peek their head into the 'industry', but don't forget that it's up to us as fans to support these bands... "

My last day of CMJ was my most anticipated.  Started off by getting my ticket in advance for Exploding in Sound's 3rd birthday bash at The Silent Barn, where almost every EIS band in some form or another would be playing.  After that I headed over to the warehouse spot over on Hart and Wyckoff known as Hot 97.4 for the 1.21 Gigawatts issue release (read some of my words in the new issue).  There I caught the tail end of Journalism, a tight band of Brooklyn cats who sound like a cross between My Bloody Valentine and Ty Segal, a good combo in my book.

After that was a band called Parlor Walls, a duo headed by Alysse Lamb, who also fronts her other band Eula.  Parlor Walls is in some ways a stripped down version of Eula.  The drummer plays synth and drums while Lamb plays her dissonant half-melodies.  Alysse Lamb is really into the half step minor seconds, which gives everything a really dark feeling; pair that with the odd 5/4 time signatures and interesting rhythmic patters and Parlor Walls becomes something very fun to listen to, and doesn't feel like there isn't enough low end as most two person bands are prone to lacking.

After that I hopped on over to The Silent Barn one last time for the week to experience Exploding in Sound in the purest sense.  I'm not the first to recognize how much this label is doing for music on the east coast, and I certainly won't be the last.  Dan Goldin, disregards any buzz and has a knack for choosing bands with authenticity, and in many ways has unified a lot of musicians and music fans in New York City and the New England area.  He has certainly opened my eyes to the music coming out of Western Massachusetts and Boston areas, and has reinvigorated my love for rock 'n' roll. There is nothing overly flashy about the Exploding in Sound bands; they do a lot with a little, prioritizing the music before anything else. Out of all of the shows I went to at CMJ, this was the show I felt most comfortable talking with people I didn't know, (where at shows like fuckin' Captured Tracks I felt like an uncool doofus). Everyone was talking about their favorite band on the lineup with an excitement I don't see often at places like The Barn.  

The first set I caught was Rick Maguire of Pile's solo set.  Now Pile might be the king of all Exploding in Sound bands, having possibly been around the longest (don't quote me on that; Aaron Maine of Porches might've been around longer going under many different names since settling on Porches). They're a band whose live show has more soul and power than I've seen possibly ever.  A lot of that energy comes from Rick Maguire, whose songs are like daggers to the gut; honest and thought provoking, he's got a presence on the stage that's hard to match.  Pile is a band that has come a long way, and is a band worth researching because they bring something special out in people, take my word for it.

After that was Palehound (which I already covered for CMJ), and after that was Ovlov from Connecticut, another band that has been making ripples in the blogosphere as well as rock n' roll appreciators everywhere.  Headed by the incredible Steve Hartlett, Ovlov has always sounded like My Bloody Valentine to me, which I love.  Steve might tell you it's more of a Dinosaur Jr. sound, probably his biggest influence, but regardless of what this band might sound like, Ovlov is a much loved band, and their live show is like getting hit with a  brick wall. It's fuzzy and heavily distorted, Steve sings with a fire that I wish other musicians could come close to.  What seems to accommunate Exploding in Sound bands is that they're not actively trying to push boundaries, but just playing the music they love and playing it well.  There's nothing in these bands that makes you want to say 'they're the next whatever', none of these bands are attempting to be anything more than what they are, a bunch of passionate rock n' rollers, and I think Ovlov represents this particularly well.

Next was Nashville-based Gnarwhal, not an EIS band, but amazing all the same.  They put out an amazing four way split with Ovlov, Woozy and Ex-Breathers, which I highly recommend you listening to.  They're a loud-ass math rock band, bringing me back to the days of Fiasco and Tera Melos.  They've got a very Nashville atmosphere to them as well, with their long hair, playing everything twice as fast as they need to be played, and stopping maybe once during the set to tell people who they were.  They're a powerhouse, that's for sure. 

Next I'd like to talk about Boston's Kal Marks, whose tape "Piss of the Century" I'm listening to right now.  Kal Marks sounds most similar to Krill than any other EIS band (an amazing band who I wasn't able to catch unfortunately), with raspy vocals, interesting dynamics and dissonant jams that remind me of a toned down Primus.  They're one of the more complex EIS band, their songs go to unexpected places and who doesn't love surprises?  

Next was one of my main highlights, Grass Is Green, also from Boston, whose album, Sammy So-Sick, has been on repeat in my room for the last couple weeks.  Grass is Green reminds me of Kal Marks in that they go to very unexpected places in their songs, dipping into no-wave influenced jams.  They've got the signature EIS distorted bendy thing that all the bands do with their guitars (see Kal Marks, Krill, Ovlov, Pile….they all do it!), another indicator that all of these bands wholly embrace their influences.  Sometimes they remind me of Primus (again. I just really love Primus, ok!), other times it's Dinosaur Jr., but regardless of what they sound like, they have an uniquely aggressive energy.  They killed it that night, it was an epic performance.  

Unfortunately that is when I had to leave to catch my homies in Show Me The Body (in the top picture) open for Denzel Curry and Ratking at the Letter Racer/Mass Appeal showcase at Trans Pecos, probably as far opposite as you can get in terms of audience energies.  I missed Geronimo!, Baked, Two Inch Astronaut and Krill as well as Roomrunner, all amazing bands worth looking into. 

The Trans Pecos show was a shit show, with two hundred drunk kids packed into the tiny venue where I'm used to seeing weird experimental acts play to an empty room.  My boys in Show me the Body killed it, conjuring the craziest mosh pit I've seen since Death Grips.  I say "seen" because I would have died or seriously injured myself had I participated.  SMTB has been pushing their limits further and further, with bassist Harlan Steed adding an immense amount of mass to the sound as he experiments further with looping and pedal mashing.  Keep an eye out for this band; they've certainly got a crafted image, but it never subtracts from the attention they pay to the music, always pushing things further, challenging their audience and enjoying themselves on stage.  And by the way, yes I am biased, having watched this band over the past five years or so evolve into what they've become, but now they're getting props form bigger whigs than me.  I had a very firm realization at this show; SMTB is not my band anymore… they've got a fan base that doesn't include the friends we grew up with. 

Denzel Curry played to an even more densely packed room, constantly complaining about how shitty the sound was, demanding their microphones be turned up, so fuck him he probably won't read this anyways.  After that Ratking (this is around 2 or 3 AM now) played an amazing set even though the amps were basically about to blow.  Wiki's complex flow will never cease to impress me, and Hak's relaxed soulfulness always adds a compelling contrast.

Anways, that's my CMJ, mad love to Exploding in Sound and Gigawatts and The Deli for exposing me to and letting me write about great music.  Just remember: CMJ in the end might be a chance for bands to peek their head into the 'industry', but don't forget that it's up to us as fans to support these bands no matter when or where they are playing, because just reading about them online isn't going to do much in the long run…it's the personal experiences that matter, where this post will be lost in the black hole that is the internet in a few days.  MUCH LOVE!!! SAUNDERS OUT!!