Alternative Nation’s Modern Artist Showcase: March 2016

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After an extended hiatus from the AlternativeNation’s Modern Artist Showcase, I have decided to explore bringing this segment back as it is incredibly important to keep up with what is and could be happening with music today. If interested in being featured in one of these segments, please email  altnationbands@gmail.com or contact your favorite AN writer/reporter.

Red Curtain 

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Red Curtain, the heavy-melodic brainchild of Devan Fuentes of OC DIY (a Orange County, CA music nonprofit), expressed itself in its latest incarnation through the vehicle of deep seated and personal lyrics around Fuentes’ experiences with falling out with recreational drug use, psychosis and life after that. In his recovery, his musical interest peaked in bands like the Smashing Pumpkins, Duster and Starflyer 59, which influenced the birth of next project since his former band warmm: Red Curtain. Red Curtain in its short time recorded their first eponymous EP (available here on Bandcamp, as well as Spotify and iTunes) on Sun Terrace Records, which reached the #20 spot on OC Weekly’s Top 20 Releases of 2015, Orange County’s largest independent news distributor. The latest incarnation consisted of Devan Fuentes on guitar/vocals, Will Saba on drums, Nadya Diaz on Bass and Conner Reischl on guitar. I managed to catch them play at Programme HQ in Fullerton a couple weeks ago and they managed to neither be a band that plays better live or better on their recordings; but the best of both worlds. Unfortunately, it became their last show as this incarnation. Taylor Morgan of OC Weekly said of his review of the Red Curtain EP that:

“There’s a pretty remarkable high when you hear a song  for the first time that demands to be blared throughout your speakers. We had that somewhat unexplainable ‘fuck yeah’ feeling listening to the first track “Broken Glass” off Red Curtain’s, self titled, debut album.”

Vice featured an interview with Fuentes in an article about cannabis and psychosis, which you can check out here. Fuentes is at work with other projects right now, as well as the other members and we can hope that Red Curtain seeded a tree for much greater music to grow and blossom.

The Soft Underground

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Hailing from New York, New York, the Soft Underground began as a collaboration between drummer Andrew McCarty and guitarist Charlie Hickey in 2010. They met at a music school out in NYC and discovered a commonality of interest between bands like My Bloody Valentine and the Smashing Pumpkins. During their more formative years, they went through several incarnations until they brought in vocalist Brandon Barnett. During their time as “Soi Disant”, AN reporter Doug McCausland commented on the band that, “and definitely has the knack for writing rock songs with hooks, as evident in their track “Limousines”, which I could see as a potential radio single. “Psychedelic Audio” shows the band’s heavier side which displays riffage similar to Alice in Chains and Core-era STP.” On October 30th, 2015, the Soft Underground released their first album Lost in Translation. The album personally gives me hope for music’s future. I have to admit, I can be really picky about my taste. This is especially true when it comes to contemporary music. Being able to sit and listen to this album, realizing that people can take and accumulate so many different influences and put out a product representative of all of them is testament to how far these guys will go. Wavering dark morose grungy whispers and layered, dream pop moments in instrumentation, Barnett takes his voice from Scott Weiland to a gentle choir in an amazing way. I’m also a sucker for Frusciante influence in guitar. Definitely would check these guys out. Here is their bandcamp where you can listen to their incredible album Lost in Translation, available on Space Mall Records. Available below on Soundcloud:

GIBBEt

GIBBEt is an experimental duo from Grand Rapids, Michigan, consisting of Adrian Mitchell, who most of the time sings lead vocals, plays guitar and writes their lyrics, while Jackson Simmons play the drums as well as deals with the drum programming, harmonies and most of the  keyboards.Their chief influences include the Flaming Lips, the White Stripes, Lorde, Mø and Sky Ferreira but still possess their own experimental nature as their own. One word that comes to mind here is kooky. GIBBEt disclosed with me that the creation of the duo originated from a conversation they had with Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne, in which he told these two young men, “be as weird as you want to be.” With song titles like “…And the Robots Will Bring You Breakfast in Bed”, “Cloning the Mammoth”, “Lana del Ray”, “The” and “Playing Frisbee with Schizos”, it would be hard to believe these are song titles taken by a standard 3-chord pop rock band, while they still have a knack for pop sensibility. While  I feel as though experimentation sometimes leads to a sort of emotional distance and disconnect, this material much like the first Velvet Underground records, is blessed by a co-occurrence of accessibility and pure, unadulterated wildness. I suppose it is worth noting that half of this duo is the nephew of Anthony Kiedis of Red Hot Chili Peppers fame, of which they also proudly take influence. I know when I first discovered that fact my interest was peaked, but then the music hit me. From there, I realized what was going on and it became incredibly apparent that was a lot more going here than any amount of music trivia. I need someone to look me in the eyes and tell me GIBBEt didn’t suddenly just become their new jam. GIBBEt currently is projected to move to Los Angeles this summer and are looking around a record deal. They have about 30 songs lying about in consideration for a new release. For the time they have been around, they are certainly prolific. For more information, I’d love to re-direct you to their Facebook, Bandcamp and last but not least, their Soundcloud:

TRAKTOR

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All the way from Eskilstuna, Sweden, TRAKTOR is a heavy mix of alternative rock and hardcore punk. Formed in 2005, the band has had a steady release of material flow from self-released material and label deals, but are currently signed with Altas Rec with whom they just released their fourth album Mean Business on February 11th, 2016, allegedly recorded in an abandoned school building on island in the Stockholm archipelago. TRAKTOR has also utilized a lot of post-hardcore influence throughout their career but here on Mean Business it is reformulated into a more alternative/indie context. “Post post hardcore”, if you will. I see it as the intersection of the Rollins Band and Silversun Pickups. Their sound has evolved since their first self titled EP in 2005, as bands will do. It’s nice to see artists grow and change, much like the satisfaction we can get realizing we can grow ourselves. Chunky, fat bass lines from Fredrik Hennum Jepsen, a drummer from Hell named Rickard Linblom, guitar virtuoso Georgios Kalafatidis and versatile frontman David Deravian take us for a wild ride through the recesses of their musical imagination through slow melodies and insatiable fury. Enough talking though, just check their new single “No Filter” and the kickass video:

If more curious about Traktor, much of their material is available on Spotify, but their Bandcamp featuring their new album would be here. Their website and Facebook are also available for visiting.

Quarrels

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Quarrels is a indie/post-hardcore four piece out of Boston, Massachusetts and demonstrate a powerful prowess over the sound. I suppose “indie/post-hardcore” might give a certain connotation to some people, but to me Quarrels takes it to levels I haven’t heard before. Within 30 seconds from their song “Window Neighbor” off their new album Admit (available here on Bandcamp), shifting from lounge influence, hardcore breakdowns, Johnny Marr-esque guitar lines intermittent with raw emotion  in a truly seamless way. The vocalist, Cory Best, particularly catches my attention as someone who holds notes in the haunting ways of Layne Staley, Brandon Flowers, Frank Sinatra, Maynard James Keenan, but at the same point is like none of these comparisons. The sync of his bitter melodics with the heavy (and sometimes almost jazzy) instrumentals provided by guitarist Ryan Bernardo, Max Monahan on bass and Jeff Crenshawo on drums, is just something seldom heard. Truthfully, it gets me pumped. They cite their influences as At the Drive-In, Built to Spill, The Beach Boys, Radiohead, Boris, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., Brand New, My Bloody Valentine, Unwound, Fugazi from their Facebook page, which in practice emerges as a burgeoning kind of high strung, heavy, alternative, harmonic and soulful music from the heart to the bone. Incredibly impressed with their sound. For those in the Los Angeles area, they will be playing a show March 16th at the Jai & Jai Gallery. They’re growing fast, make sure to check the links I provided. Quarrels is a train you don’t want to miss, yet they’re almost out of the station.

We’ll have plenty of bands for you to read about and listen to next time! Here’s a brief recap of band links:

Red Curtain (also on iTunes and Spotify): Bandcamp, SoundcloudFacebook, Tumblr
The Soft Underground (available on iTunes and Spotify): Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Facebook
GIBBEt: Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Facebook, Jackson Simmons’ AMA discussing his uncle Anthony Kiedis
TRAKTOR (available on iTunes and Spotify): Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Vimeo, Facebook, Tumblr
Quarrels (available on iTunes and Spotify): Bandcamp, Facebook

  • Felonious Punk

    Thought for sure this was going to be a write-up celebrating The Afghan Whigs’ brilliant album ‘Black Love’, which turned 20 today. That album was an unsung classic of the mid-90s music scene. So many excellent records turning 20 this year…Superdrag’s ‘Regretfully Yours’ in a few weeks, Local H’s ‘As Good As Dead’ next month, The Refreshments just celebrated the 20th anniversary of their first record a few weeks back..

    They just don’t make ’em like they used to..

  • Billy

    nothing grabbed my attention from this list, but i’m always hopeful. Plantation is still one of my faves from these showcases

  • BlueFlameFord

    Really was a great mix here; not going to lie i’m usually dissapointed by the amount of early-2000’s style cock rock in these articles. Wide range of styles, and the style of singing from The Soft Underground singer is exactly what STP needs to not look like a machismo joke going forward!

  • BlueFlameFord

    Oh, and people should check these guys out, their first EP is coming out in a few weeks.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgPKlyDnp-g