REST NOW: It was with great sadness that the Athens music community learned of the death of musician Derek Olivera (Manray, All City Cannonballers) on Sunday, Oct. 24. Derek was a kind friend and a fiery musician who is best remembered for his role as the drummer for Manray, which also featured his two brothers, Ryan and Jordan. On a personal note, I remember Derek with his huge, ear-to-ear smile and infectious laugh. Always quick to joke around or come to the defense of someone that needed defending, Derek was a joy to be around and a wonderful person to call friend. He was 32 years old.
GO WEST: Jake Ward (Eureka California) has made his home in Los Angeles over the past two years, having made the move just before the pandemic hit. During his downtime out West, he went deep into home-studio mode and emerged with a spectacular new EP, released by HHBTM Records under the project name Mild Mild Country named Never Had a Touch to Lose. The synth-based all-instrumental record is wildly different from anything we’ve heard from him before, and is swaddled in sweeping western soundscapes (“Snake War”), a touch of Spaghetti-Westernism (“Cake Sword”) and even poptimism worthy of The Go Team (“Quake Shore”). Importantly, though, these aspects are generally subsumed into much longer meditations, and none are married to the descriptors above. For the digital release, Ward also includes a cover of Depeche Mode’s anthem “Everything Counts,” and while it’s a fine version, it’s also the least interesting thing here and pales in comparison to his original work, which is compelling, thoughtful, painstakingly arranged and a real treat to hear. Find this from wherever you get your digital tunes, and for more information, as well as CD and cassette versions, please see hhbtm.com.
TRIPLE THREAT: Fresh from his breakout hip-hop track of the summer, “Summer Rain,” Niño Brown released a three-track EP last week named Terrible Tingz. Whereas “Summer Rain” folded its aggressiveness into an ostensible love song filled with both confidence and yearning, Terrible Tingz calls everything to the carpet. Featuring guest appearances from Kxng Blanco, DK, AyoPaco, Quezzy Poet and 96 Vizion, these three tracks explore themes of betrayal among friends, jealousy and resolve. Brown also runs through three pretty distinct styles on this from the slow-grinding Outkast-styled “Alpha”—especially between 2:33 and 3:25—to the hard trap styling of “Mouthfool,” and then the Caribbean rhythm of the title track. Find this on all major streaming platforms.
BLISS OUT: Musician Marcel Sletten, who moved his label Primordial Void to Athens from Lodi, CA earlier this year, has a relatively fat catalog of works under his belt, both his own and those from other artists. For his own part, back in August he released his new album Vicious Kisses, and it’s a nice, eight-track collection of generally ambient goods. It is far less abrasive, ergo more immediately accessible, than his EP release California Delta Blues from April. Unlike traditional ambient records, though, there are instances where Sletten commands attention, such as the deliberately rhythmic “Kali Yuga” and the highlighted percussive piano in “Sleepless Nights.” Sletten is devoted to noting his compositional influences lean toward folk music, and it’s interesting to hear how he’s filtered this through his own music, which on its surface appears to bear little resemblance. Check it out at primordialvoid.bandcamp.com, and learn more over at marcelsletten.com.
FRIENDS & FAMILY: The historical bona fides of Athens supergroup Cosmo Jr. are indisputable, and now they’ve got a new album out that tells tale of several other notable and longstanding Athens community members. The record is appropriately titled Athens Legends, and it specifically name drops Cillies’ Cat Bobon, Wuxtry Records’ Dan Wall, Barrie Buck and Velena Vego (of the 40 Watt Club), musician Doug Stanley (The Glands) and theater star Calvin Orlando Smith, among others. Generally speaking, Cosmo Jr. maintains a classic rock combo style—especially on tracks like “Queens of The 40 Watt” and “Betty Alice”—but has specific moments of lovely tenderness such as the softly psychedelic “Sunbeam Spots.” Close listeners to the album will notice tips to both Sly & The Family Stone and Chicago, as well. Check this out at cosmojr.bandcamp.com, and be a pal via facebook.com/cosmolot.
IMAGINARY THEMES: Composer Andrew Steck released his new album Theater a few weeks ago. The goal of these compositions is to replicate, or at least imitate, a night at the theater, and Steck reports that individual pieces were thought of as “instrumental one-act plays,” with the shorter tracks serving as “set change” music. Each piece is a grand affair with instrumentation ranging across a wide swath of techniques. That said, it can be a lot to take in one sitting, but don’t let that aspect dissuade you from checking it out. Steck is a monster talent, and this work deserves an audience. This is available as a compact disc, too. Find it over at andrewsteck.bandcamp.com, and keep up with Steck at facebook.com/andrewsteckcomps as well as the home of his label Arfus Records at arfusrecords.com.
BRING IT BACK: I have no idea when experimental musicians Rachel and Grant Evans sleep. It’s as if whenever they’re in danger of running out of work to do, they think up 20 new things to keep themselves busy. To wit, although they shuttered their old label Hooker Vision several years ago, they’ve restarted it, at least temporarily, with a new cassette split release between the pair. Grant’s side is under Modern Lamps, which is an old collective moniker of his. This side of the tape is a single track named “Cutlass Obscura.” It’s pleasantly rhythmic and, if allowed space to breathe, nicely meditative, filled with synth, guitar, strummed piano and percussion. Rachel’s side is under her long-standing Motion Sickness of Time Travel banner and is titled “Extrasolarity.” Functionally, it is equally enrapturing and soothing as Grant’s piece but through a significantly different approach. Grant’s piece is based on acoustic instrumentation and, as a result, sends the listener on his or her way with a naturalism that isn’t present in Rachel’s piece. Her side is electronically based and—perhaps this is simplistic on my part—brings a relaxing level of retro futurism to the table. It’s been quite a while since I heard keys and synths being used in just this way, so this was a nice respite. Each side is over 40 minutes long, which is plenty of time to lose oneself in these. If you want the full release, you’ve gotta pony up for the tape, but samples are available at hookervision.bandcamp.com.
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