Sunday, May 26, 2019

High End Munich 2019--Acoustique Quality

My latest show report from High End 2019 in Munich is now live at Part-Time Audiophile. This one is about Acoustique Quality, a very intriguing speaker manufacturer from the Czech Republic, and a little too much grappa. You can read it here.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

High End Munich 2019--Unison Research and Opera

My latest show report from High End 2019 in Munich is now live at Part-Time Audiophile. This one concerns the brands I used to import and distribute in the US, Unison Research and Opera, and how seeing new products from these Italian companies brings me just a tinge of regret. You can read it here.

Gypsy Temple's King Youngblood

Gypsy Temple is from Seattle, and they definitely have that grunge sound down pat. The first time I listened to their new album, King Youngblood, I immediately thought of Alice in Chains--a band I've only grown to appreciate in recent years. The magic of Alice in Chains was two-fold: the sometimes horrific personal story of the band was a cautionary tale of rock and roll excess which brought an unexpected layer of poignancy to even their hardest songs, and the double lead vocals created such unique harmonies, a sound that made them immediately identifiable in an ocean of PNW rock.

Cameron Lavi-Jones is the obvious front man for Gypsy Temple. He sings, plays guitar, bass and drums, he produces, and he has written all of the tunes. He even raps on songs like "I'm Still Standing" and has an eloquence about him that reminds me of Johnny 5 from the Flobots. But he's also wise enough to include guitarist Wilson Rahn and bassist Moon Milannia in the vocals so he can create those same meaningful harmonies. What's even more intriguing about King Youngblood is how Lavi-Jones starts to steer the band away from those grunge cues and use his soulful voice to head in different directions.

The story behind Gypsy Temple is fascinating--Lavi-Jones is said to have started the band back when he was ten years old. His father was producer Maurice Jones Jr., who encouraged the young Cameron to learn piano, and then guitars, drums, bass and even cello. (That's why you hear so much cello from Cory Cavazos throughout this album.) He's a looming figure in the Seattle music scene--he even hosts a radio talk show, REAL TALK, where he interviews other musicians. He's also known for his incredible stage presence during live shows.

This sounds like the perfect recipe for success, and Gypsy Temple could be one of those bands where we're catching them at the beginning of their rise to the top. Lavi-Jones has the charisma needed to differentiate himself from other hard rock bands, just like Jerry Cantrell and Layne Staley did 25 years ago. Based on Lavi-Jones involvement in the music community and his commitment to his performances, we can expect a far more optimistic path for this very promising band.

High End Munich 2019--Crystal Cable, Siltech

My latest show report from High End 2019 in Munich is now live at Part-Time Audiophile. This one is about Crystal Cable, and one of the most impressive "lifestyle" systems I've seen and heard. You can read it here.

High End Munich 2019--Brinkmann, Vandersteen, HRS

My latest show report from High End 2019 in Munich is now live at Part-Time Audiophile. This one concerns Brinkmann and Vandersteen--two brands that have been making great equipment for decades. You can read it here.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Peculiar Pretzelmen's Transmissions from the Electromagnetic Understream

This is one of the strangest and coolest indie rock releases I've heard this year, a mixture of down-and-dirty delta blues mixed with junkyard percussion that's so crazy and cluttered that it sounds like it's being performed blindfolded in a junkyard after midnight. Incroyable and Deacon are the names of the two men who are both peculiar and pretzelmen, and yes they are following in the two-person rock template that has guided Black Keys, White Stripes and a multitude of other duos who want to ride the latest wave of glory. But Peculiar Pretzelman take it a step further with blues that are so ragged and deep that they waver in the sun like a mirage, augmented with a found-object rhythm section that is just as odd as anything David Van Tieghem came up with in the '80s.

As weird as this all sounds, it's also genuine and serious in a way. These two guys fill out their trademark dark pinstripe suits with some serious blues chops, as they seem more focused on hardcore delta fans than their hometown crowd in Hollywood. (That detachment, of course, is probably what makes them such an LA fixture. LA loves irony.) Their attack can seem frantic and full of chaos at times, but then they reign it in when they turn quiet and pull out something from the deepest part of the swamp. It's good, it's straightforward and it makes perfect sense.

There are plenty of familiar elements here--the Tom Waits caterwaul, the slide and the two scoops of unadulterated, American-grown voodoo. What breaks this loose from other roots albums is that massive, sharp-edged percussive wallop that is so beautifully recorded that you'll obsess over what it is you're actually hearing, and whether or not you can make those same sounds once you uncover the source.

I've read stories about the Pretzelmen's live shows, and I'm sure that would peel back some of those mysterious layers, but just remember that much of the fun in Transmissions from the Electromagnetic Understream is listening to these tracks like they're noises you've discovered on an old ham radio, noises that were made thousands of miles away...or even further.

High End Munich 2019--Whole Lotta Tidal

My latest report from High End 2019 in Munich is now live at Part-Time Audiophile. This one concerns a huge display of Tidal Audio speakers--more than I've ever seen in one place. You can read it here.