Cloud Control: Bliss Release

Ivy League Records, 2011

Australians have always seemed to run a strange horse in the race of the hipster-driven aughts. Though arguably having a heavy hand in shaping and defining modern indie pop with acts like Architecture in Helsinki, most Aussie bands since then – whether by systematic design or their own disinterest and ineptitude – have failed to make any significant splash on our end of the Earth.  Even local legend Nick Cave – boasting a revolving-door band of Bad Seeds that hail from so many different countries that Australia is often nothing more than their humble pied-à-terre – has stylistically treated his own critical successes in the past decade with a certain amount of cool indifference. Granted, it’s damn near impossible for the Western World to fully grasp whatever subtle and varied musical innovations the continent down under may have produced; but by the time the most Aussie artists reach our shores (with few exceptions) they easily get lost among a crowded plane of American and British musicians at the precipice of every new indie movement.

And while that could easily end up being the fate of psychedelic chamber pop band Cloud Control, this young Australian foursome drums up enough complex contradiction and dichotomy on their Ivy League debut (re-released for American consumption on Turnout Records) to make that fatalistic presage sound as laughable as it is surely incorrect. From their entry in 2008, they’ve explored the boundaries of a sound that’s at times somewhat antiquated in the fast-paced stylistic world of indie rock and at other times flat-out dated.  Yet while a propensity for eschewing the radiating neediness associated with the Western drive to constantly sound fresh, reinvented and groundbreaking was Cloud Control’s unassuming promise on the Death Cloud EP, it is the defining characteristic and singular strength of Bliss Release.

On nearly every track here the band methodically utilizes existing conventions of indie pop’s many contrivances while ignoring the ubiquitous fear of being a twee cliche; and with a vast yet barefaced presentation, highlights like the Pacific Ocean Blue reflection “Gold Canary” and the psychedelic cave dance “Meditation Song #2” allow the listener to connect with what are undeniably well-written and fully enjoyable pop songs. The band effectively draws a line in the sand between themselves and the myriad Western pop acts on straightforward rocker “The Rolling Stones”, wherein singers Alister Wright and Heidi Lenffer perpetually harmonize their youthful green voices and posture kaleidoscope keyboards to deep echoed guitars through a series minimalist rhythms courtesy of bassist Jeremy Kelshaw and drummer Ulrich Lenffer without ever allowing themselves to get bogged down in the usual trappings of cutesy boy-girl pop.

While the far-too-easy and patently-incorrect superficial references to Aussie rock n’ roll ancestry are bound to fly loosely with this record, if Cloud Control has any true connection to legends like the Go-Betweens it’s in that they have a deft ability to fly light years ahead of their contemporaries in terms of songwriting prowess while doing so with a deceptively archaic type of creative canvas.  Though little fanfare outside their home country has surrounded the album since its original release over a year and a half ago, hopefully its reintroduction in America will garner this talented band some much-deserved recognition because, even at their least focused, Cloud Control pour more infectious quality into each song on Bliss Release than most artists of their ilk can muster in an entire album.

Bliss Release at Insound

He’s My Brother She’s My Sister Raising Money For A Tour Van

Bands holding pledge drives to raise money for their artistic efforts is nothing new; in the last few years we’ve seen locals Sun Hotel solicit donations when they wanted to release their debut album on vinyl, Cliff Hines do the same to bring his Quintet to the East Coast, and Royal Teeth ask for the public’s help to travel to Charleston to record an EP.  Especially with music based projects, “crowd-funding” sites such as Kickstarter have created a unique co-op-styled ecosystem that allows artists to raise much needed capital without turning to major labels, all the while directly engaging and rewarding fans for their support.

The latest band to launch such a fundraising campaign is Los Angeles-based glam-folk revivalists He’s My Brother She’s My Sister, who are looking to purchase a tour van and spend more time on the road.  While the members of He’s My Brother She’s My Sister have no hard ties to New Orleans, we have a vested interested in the band’s touring efforts as their show this Thursday, December 1st, at Tipitina’s will mark HMBSMS’s third New Orleans stop in a just over year.  They followed a supporting role on Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zero’s Fall tour with an unforgettable summer ramble at Breezy’s Spot, where the sweltering dance party that erupted during the encore pushed the uniquely appointed, quasi-legal performance space to it’s climate control limits.

The PledgeMusic campaign set up by real life brother and sister combo Rob and Rachel Kolar and Co. includes not only the kinds of rewards one would expect from a music project – autographed merch, a mention in the liner notes of their upcoming full-length debut  – but also some amazing and unique opportunities for those willing to open his or her wallet a bit wider. A $30 pledge gets you will get a limited edition karaoke sing-a-long version of the new album, and for $35, the band will create a customized voice mail greeting for you. $500 gets either private tap lessons from the lovely dancing percussionist Lauren Brown or a custom paint job on one of your instruments from bassist Oliver Newell; and for $5,000 the band will play your LA-area wedding.  Many more sponsorship levels are available, and all include the satisfaction of supporting an awesome group of talented independent artists.

MP3: He’s My Brother She’s My Sister: “Escape Tonight”

He’s My Brother She’s My Sister at PledgeMusic.com

Brass Bed: 11.11.2011

You’d think that with their admirable success over the past three years, Brass Bed would be just a little complacent with themselves. However, even after having had the pleasure of sharing the stage with the likes of indie big wigs The Walkmen and releasing last year’s shimmering chamber pop epic, Melt White, the on-stage demeanor of this notoriously restless and hard-working Lafayette-based indie pop band beams with such a transience that it’s almost impossible to anticipate just how phonically brilliant Brass Bed will be on any given night.

Admittedly, nothing about Melt White suggests that Brass Bed aren’t exactly where they currently need to be. Formerly signed to Philadelphia/New Orleans-based label Park the Van, which sported an extensive roster of similarly twee artists, they seem to comfortably embody the three R’s of indie rock: Revivalism, Reverence and Restraint. If Melt White was nothing else, it was a great indie record; but it was also decidedly indie – though that designation does the band little justice after last Friday night. Because while it may seem easy to define this apparently dreamy chamber pop band as the sum of their recorded parts, I can assure you that you have not heard Brass Bed until you have heard them follow a gear-trashing set by New Orleans experimental noise duo High In One Eye.

At the palindromically scheduled release party for the inaugural Chinquapin Records Compilation on November 11, the invitation to perform on a bill between the aforementioned math rockers and heatseeking Sun Hotel side project Native America no doubt brought with it a lofty assignment – though one that the members of Brass Bed seemed more than up to the task of fulfilling with a calculous, yet raucous, live prowess. While the dingy, decaying confines of Saturn Bar all but require a musician to step out of his comfort zone and deliver a set as oracular as it is becoming of the scene Saturn represents, drummer Peter DeHart deftly balanced a penchant for understated rhythmic tenderness with the necessity of creating a gritty backbone to Andrew Toups’ bouncy, effect-laden keys. The result was an ambiance of dark, sweaty psychedelia that allowed the front duo of Johnny Campos and lead vocalist Christiaan Mader to fully realize their subtle XTC and Television influences as if the muscular bass work of Spoon’s Rob Pope was bracing the scratchy guitar picking of A Ghost Is Born-era Jeff Tweedy.

With a technical perfection matched only by a fluid, unassumingly titanic stage energy that had otherwise mild-mannered audience members raving for days after, this humble four-piece gracefully proved both that their success up to now has been no accident and that on this night Brass Bed could have easily been one of the best rock n’ roll bands in the entire country.

Live Picks: 11.24.2011 – 11.30.2011

11.24: Rebirth Brass Band – Howlin’ Wolf

11.25: England in 1819 + The Winter Sounds + Shovels and Rope – Cafe Prytania

11.26: The Rooks + The Switchers + Sharks’ Teeth + Dominique LeJeune – The Big Top

If you’ve been to The Big Top in the last five years, the Lower Central City gallery associated with the non-profit arts education organization 3 Ring Circus Productions, there is a good chance it was for a Community Records organized or affiliated event.  Several times a month, the multipurpose exhibition space is transformed into an all-ages punk emporium, providing a safe and inclusive venue for DIY fans young and old. As the default venue for the collective’s large-scale programming, The Big Top has hosted everything from Samurai Deli’s final show to the annual indoor/outdoor Block Party extravaganza; and this weekend Community Records will stage an event to benefit the center itself.

The Community Records Benefit For The Big Top takes place this Saturday and will be headlined by The Rooks, a punk power-trio starring label co-founder Greg Rodrigue, Lollies’ guitarist Brian Pretus and Rob Landry of Marathon on drums.  The bill also includes ska-core crooners The Switchers and solo performances from math-folk songstress Dominique LeJeune and Tyler Schurlock of Sun Hotel, under the guise of his prolific space drone side project Sharks’ Teeth.  Doors open at 6:30PM on Saturday and admission is a recommended $5-10 donation (100% of which goes directly to 3 Ring Circus Productions).

MP3: The Rooks: “Fall Again”

MP3: Sharks’ Teeth: “Grave”

12.30: LA Guns + Dilana – One Eyed Jacks

Check out our New Orleans Music Calendar for a full slate of constantly updated live picks