Tag Archives: Conor Hooley

Kingman Brewster – Kingman Brewster

Kingman Brewster – Kingman Brewster

reverbnation.com/kingmanbrewster

With their self-titled debut, local hybrid outfit Kingman Brewster set out to show that rap-metal can still work, but results are mixed. To KB’s credit, theirs is a gritty, guitar-laden sound closer to vintage Rage Against the Machine than the genre’s lesser artists. Veteran MC Nonsense brings a commanding presence and a number of solid verses; none better than on “My Mind’s Playing Tricks.” But more often than not, the group’s rap/rock contrast clashes rather than coheres. The music is simply not a good match for the MCs. The songwriting also needs work: the hooks have a palpable clumsiness, and the conceptual tracks like “Simple Plan” and “Miss Right” are so simplistic that there hardly seems a point. Though not without its strong points, Kingman Brewster is an unmistakably awkward debut.

–Conor Hooley

Owner of Avogadro’s Number Made Healthy Switch from Ice Cream to Independent Music

Owner of Avogadro’s Number Made Healthy Switch from Ice Cream to Independent Music

By Conor Hooley

Part bar, part restaurant, part music venue; Fort Collins’ Avogadro’s Number has operated for four decades just south of Old Town – becoming a linchpin of the local music scene.

Since 1980, it has been under the care of one Rob Osborne, a man who came into ownership of Avo’s thanks to…ice cream.

It’s true. Osborne spent the latter half of the 1970s running a Mountain High Ice Cream parlor on Boulder’s famed Pearl Street Mall. The then-owner of Avo’s, its fourth since opening in 1971, also had his own Mountain High parlor, which is how he and Osborne were introduced.

When the two met to discuss frozen dessert-related matters in September of 1979, Osborne incidentally found out that Avo’s was for sale. Osborne raised the needed funds in a weekend and got out of the ice cream game.

“The figures looked good,” he recalls. “I liked [the former owner] and I liked the business. I never thought of it as a long-range plan – I didn’t realize I was going to be doing it for the better part of my life.”

The man who stabilized ownership at Avo’s sees it as being wholly unique. In terms of food, the kitchen serves a comprehensive menu, ranging from pizza to homemade tempeh. Regarding ambiance, Osborne describes the venue’s atmosphere as having always been very feminine in a way he can’t quite describe. Musically, Osborne sees Avo’s as a “stepping-stone” venue – and he couldn’t be happier.

“Avo’s is a 100-person (200 when the patio’s open) venue, so for musicians that can draw in that range, it works well,” he observes. “But eventually if they need a larger venue they can move on. So we kind of help them along the way, and that’s something I feel very good about.”

Perhaps it’s fitting then that Osborne has seen a lot of growth in the local music scene in his time in Fort Collins – in many ways, he’s helped cultivate it.

And he’s all too happy to see more, offering nothing but praise for large-scale local music festivals like NewWestFest and the upcoming FoCoMX.

“Those are huge things, just amazing,” he says. “A really nice way to draw attention to local artists.”

Unsurprisingly, Avo’s will have a full slate of live music all day Friday and Saturday for FoCoMX. Lineups and schedules will be available at avogadros.com.

Language Love – Amor Creador

Language Love – Amor Creador

languagelovemusic.com

The cosmic side of bass music is where Amor Creador takes place, a ten-track trip of druggy, psychedelic glitch-hop. Less concerned with dance floor appeal than creating an ethereal aesthetic, Language Love laces most of the tunes here with otherworldly synths and exotic samples undercut by the obligatory bits of wobble. At best, you get the sitar-laced funk of “Dream Space” and the subterranean intensity of “Crush.” At worst? Well, nothing here is bad, really, but the album loses steam fast, going from banging to boring in a hurry after the aforementioned tracks. Creador’s middle is notably overindulgent, wrought with six-minute tracks that eat lots of space and add little substance. The way that the album tapers off makes a sit-through listen difficult, however it does not negate its stunningly surreal opening.

–Conor Hooley

Wasteland Hop – Mother Acre

Wasteland Hop – Mother Acre

By Conor Hooley

wastelandhop.com

Dystopia’s at the doorstep all over again. Packed full of bleak moods and visceral lyricism, Mother Acre is a thoroughly apoplectic debut for this fledgling, five-piece, live hip-hop group. The fate of the six-song disc ultimately falls to frontman MC Mickey Kenny, who resides somewhere between Sage Francis and Saul Williams on the spectrum of poet/rapper hybrids. Impressively, his lyrical acumen proves to be worthy of all of the EP’s angsty ambition, and, though there are truly too many standout lines to list, “Oceans to Eyes” is a good enough starting point for those interested. The synergy between Kenny and the band feels lacking at times, and things occasionally get a tad melodramatic, but all told, this is high quality prog-hop.

Qbala – My State of Dementia

Qbala – My State of Dementia

By Conor Hooley

myspace.com/qbalamicskillz

First impressions aren’t everything. Although My State of Dementia begins jarringly with two songs that should never have made it past the cutting room floor, Qbala finds her footing toward the middle, delivering a handful of solid tracks one after the other. The jazzy beats found on “Lust” and “Smooth Transitions” suit Qbala best, and she in turn delivers confident, cutting rhymes with a winning combination of aloofness and swagger. Elsewhere, however, the tough-talking MC seems wanting for inspiration, and can only piece together pseudo-rhymes and exaggerated lewdness that serves to irritate more than amuse. Nonetheless, fans of smoky beats, conscious rhymes and, yes, perhaps even gratuitous penis jokes should definitely lend an ear.

Kingman Brewster: Creating Fake Parties & Real Buzz

Kingman Brewster: Creating Fake Parties & Real Buzz

Photo by Joel Decatur

By Conor Hooley

Kingman Brewster is certainly not afraid to be brash. The six-piece, self-styled rap-rock outfit (named after one of Yale’s most visionary – and incendiary – presidents) is making itself known in style.

Following the release of a five-track EP, Brewster placed third at Scene’s 20th Annual Battle of the Bands, finalized a full length debut album and got its Twitter account suspended for promoting a fake New Year’s party; one that would be thrown at a certain 1600 Pennsylvania Ave address located in our nation’s capital.

“I mean, it was obviously fake,” recalls bassist Brian “BGOLD” Goldstein, who authored the inflammatory tweet and, like the rest of the group, still can’t help but laugh at the situation. “Apparently you can’t use the White House’s address in the way we did.”

The band’s Twitter account was suspended for two weeks. Despite being placed in the Internet’s version of time-out, however, the group’s real-world exploits haven’t suffered. Quite the opposite, in fact.

The band finished and released their self-titled debut album in January.

“Every song on here has been involved in a several step process. We really thought everything through,” says keyboardist Elvin “mAsKeRaId” Holderfield.

Kingman Brewster’s sound is a refreshingly raw blend of determined rhyming and rugged guitar riffs, with the occasional electronic ambiance weaving in and out. “The sound developed because we all have our own musical tastes,” says Holderfield. “Tim’s into metal, Mike, Rich and Darryl* are into rap, and I was only exposed to classical and dance music. So we fused it together.”

Like its sound, the band’s roots lie in the friendship of drummer Mike Marsh and MC Rich “Nonsense” Johnson, who have known each other since their college days at Fort Lewis.

“We always made music, but separately, says Johnson. “And then I moved to [Fort Collins] and Mike moved to Loveland, and we decided to get a band together.”

Marsh then went to Craigslist and listed an ad for a guitarist. Tim Johnson answered, was accepted in and recommended Holderfield to join. The two had known each other from their time together working on undergrad degrees in classical music.

“We both got our Bachelor’s in piano performance,” admits Holderfield.

“Didn’t you guys play some duets together?” prods Goldstein.

“No, man,” he replies. “Tim sucks at piano.”

Another ad brought Goldstein into the fold, and finally the group was completed when Johnson reached out to Darryl “D.G.” Gallegos to join the group as a second MC.

“And with that, these weird groups kind of came together,” says Holderfield.

But above all, Johnson insists that the tie that binds the band together is a shared passion for music, not arbitrary circumstance.

“I think we all have been doing this for so long and all have so much passion for the music that we’re making,” he says. “It’s a lot more than just calling someone up on Craigslist and hoping it works out.”

Things seem to be working out so far. Let’s just hope their days of throwing fake parties are over.

Find out more about Kingman Brewster at kingmanbrewster.com, or find them on Facebook.

*Editor’s Note: Darryl’s name was misprinted as “Derek” in the print version of this article. Our sincerest apologies, Darryl!

Sal D. – My Fate Has Been Adjusted

Sal D. – My Fate Has Been Adjusted

By Conor Hooley

My Fate Has Been Adjusted is Sal D’s would-be ticket out of Fort Collins. He says so himself: “I’m trying to move to New York to spread my music… That’s why I recorded My Fate Has Been Adjusted, so I can have a professional album to take down there.”

That’s nice and all, yet My Fate is very much an amateur’s work: occasional flashes of brilliance mired by excess volume, shoddy cohesion and puerile lyricism. The sequencing is the biggest letdown, as the disc unfolds with the kind of scatterbrained logic and narrative apathy only paralleled by the Now: That’s What I Call Music! compilations.

20 tracks are included, making a front-to-back listen taxing. Take, for instance, songs like “Jessica Alba” and “Charlie Sheen.” They are posed as lighthearted, comical tracks, but done in such a half-handed way that they can’t help but feel like filler. As ever, we must return to the wise words of the GZA on such matters: “Keep it brief, son. Half short and twice strong.”

However, there are bright spots. “New York Minute” is a genuinely heartfelt rap about Sal’s brief visit to NYC and poor showing in an MC contest. Over a well-fitting chipmunk soul beat, he makes it work with an earnest, workmanlike swagger. “This One’s on Me” is high quality club material, and “Fourth Kind” works as an energetic closer.

My Fate is flawed, but shows some promise. And who knows, with the ever-decaying state of NYC hip-hop these days, maybe Sal D. has a puncher’s chance.

reverbnation.com/sald

By Conor Hooley

Leading up to their sophomore release, Crazy As It Seems, local rappers Diverge and Ethix decided to expand their duo into a trio, bringing vocalist Natalie Ray into the fold and christening the new outfit DnE. And, yes, one might see an inherent Fergie/Black Eyed Peas parallel there, but fret not – in this case, it worked for the better. And this stellar, eight-track maxi-EP is proof.

Together, DnE have forged an inviting, upbeat aesthetic that is catchy and punchy enough for the club, but still packs plenty of replay value. Opening with “The Return,” Diverge and Ethix come out blazing with lively flows over a blistering slice of modernized boom bap from producer Abstrakt (credited with six tracks here, nearly all of them good). The hook is even better, as the rappers’ synced delivery perfectly overlaps with Ray’s soulful, resonant vocals in the backdrop. The harmony is almost unusually captivating, and the song is one of the strongest tracks from a local artist this year.

But the highlights don’t stop there. “Shock Therapy” features a beat that bangs with an energetic, slightly unnerving quality that compels your head to nod along.

“Crazy as it Seems” shows Diverge, Ethix and guest MC Improv getting adventurous with their styles over the album’s toughest beat (courtesy of Zion I’s excellent Amp Live), and it’s a stripped-down success.

Lastly, Mountain’s remix of “Pristine” closes with ethereal, Foreign Exchange-esque electronic hip-hop.

With a cameo from the always on-point Zumbi and reverent verses from all, it’s a rather convincing piece of pro-Colorado propaganda.

dnemusic.com

Aklock – 8 Years and Running

Aklock – 8 Years and Running

By Conor Hooley

We all have our limits. Rappers are no different. But in hip-hop, for better or worse, “limited” is far from a death sentence (see: Too Short’s entire career). Of course, sometimes it is. And Aklock’s 8 Years and Running is a thoroughly limited product, where bland rhymes and basic beats conspire to test the limits of your attention span.

Aklock’s best quality as a rapper is his earnestness, and his willing to share his life on record makes him relatable. That’s important, but it’s hardly compensation for the rapper’s awkward delivery, infantile lyricism and painful lack of charisma. When listening to Aklock rhyme, you’ll hear no creativity, no innovation, no real sense of fun or entertainment at all. At its absolute best, Aklock’s rapping is barely run-of-the-mill, and the album’s guest spots, which are far from great, come as all-too-welcome distractions.

Worse yet, the uninspired rhymes get beats to match on 8 Years and Running. The production quartet of Dank, Dominic Deadbeat, Kid Kearn and Noj Rettort submit work that is simply lazy, looping boring samples and lifeless drumbeats in a way that makes four minutes feel like forever. Simply put, this stuff would have sounded tired in 1991 and is downright catatonic twenty years later.

And the best beat of the bunch, “Change,” is a straight jack of Big Pun’s “You Came Up” – but, somehow, with weaker drums. Seriously, how does that happen? If you’re going to steal a 12-year-old beat, have the good sense to not make it worse. Why sacrifice integrity for a setback in quality?

reverbnation.com/aklock

More than Music: Local Imprints Defy Conventional Labels

More than Music: Local Imprints Defy Conventional Labels

Chad Golda of Writing Records (credit Sam Ruiz)

By Conor Hooley

Who would run a record label in these times? From a business standpoint, it defies logic. Anyone with even a vague understanding of the music industry knows that it has been locked into a state of perpetual decline. Less people are buying music than ever, and things have never looked bleaker than in 2011.

And yet, a myriad of independent labels are keeping their heads above water – thriving, even, in some cases. Fort Collins has its fair share of “indies,” which seems interesting for a city that doesn’t even have a proper record store (and no, the likes of Wal-Mart and Best Buy most certainly do not count). Then again, the people who run these labels are obsessed with music, and got into it for everything but their bank accounts.

“I don’t really like working on random projects for people,” said Chad Golda, creator of upstart Fort Collins label Writing Records. The eleven-month-old imprint label has released two of Golda’s solo projects, and is geared toward song-based instrumental music. “If I’m going to record someone’s music, I have to really like the project. That’s what made me want to start a label – I can find an artist, produce their work and sort of put my hands into it, which is what I like.”

Matt Sage of Patient Sounds

“I think a huge part of it is that I am a control freak, so I wanted a hand in every facet of getting my music and my friends’ music out into the world,” said Matthew Sage, who runs Patient Sounds, which releases punk, indie and ambient music both in digital and cassette formats. “I take a lot of my ethical inspiration from the punk dudes, namely Ian Mackaye, who ran their labels so they could f*** up the system from the inside. That is art to me. There are no absurd amounts of money to be found running a tape label, and anyone who says as much is a liar or a drug-dealer.”

Patient Sounds has gained an impressive amount of notoriety for selling its music in, of all things, cassette format (releases are also available as free digital downloads on the label’s website). The idea seems a bit absurd – who was using tapes in 2001, let alone 2011? And yet, somehow, anachronistic and out-of-touch as it may seem, it’s working. The label now has 14 releases to its name, has backed artists on tours and was even the subject of an NPR piece in October of 2010.

“Pretty epic for a little blogspot label,” said Sage.

On top of that, Patient Sounds has broken even financially – a fact that might not make the pages of Forbes, but is certainly a lot better than the good folks at major labels are doing these days.

To begin the year, Billboard saw its “record” for lowest-selling #1 album broken not once, not twice, but three times – in the span of four weeks – eventually reaching a nadir with the paltry 40,000 sales of Amos Lee’s Mission Bell. Perspective: A decade before the release of Lee’s new album, The Beatles’ first greatest hits compilation was midway through an eight week run at the top of the charts, averaging half a million albums sold every seven days. Jennifer Lopez’s J. Lo would follow it, moving over 272,000 copies in its debut.

Majors may be floundering, but indies everywhere are now responding to the challenge of selling physical (i.e. non-digital) units in innovative ways. These days, selling music means more than just selling, well, music. Labels and artists are going the extra mile to add personal touches that will hopefully add a unique sense of value to the product. And, as these local labels are showing us, that means a whole lot more than just an insert with some liner notes.

Golda took a unique visual design to Writing Records’ releases, implementing a sparse, hand-drawn, black-and-white style for the label’s artwork. He plans for all releases to follow that template, hoping to create a uniform image Writing Records that is visually distinctive and easily identifiable:

Writing Records logo

“It’s unique,” said Golda. “This is my thing, not someone else’s layout of something I did.”

For Sage’s Patient Sounds, it of course has been a tale of the tape(s). Sage credits his choice of format to his affection for cassettes, which he prefers to CDs and MP3s, as well as the cost effective process of physically producing tapes. And, knowingly or not, Patient Sounds’ relative success typifies the new way of thinking for indie labels. And it’s hardly the strangest example.

While Patient Sounds offering cassettes might seem quirky enough, compared to other approaches it’s downright conventional. For instance, ever-eccentric indie pop stars The Flaming Lips self-released new material on a USB drive earlier this year. It just so happens that the flash drive came packaged inside the center of a life-sized candy gummy skull. Fans literally had to eat through the skull to get to the music. The band plans to continue releasing music accompanied by bizarre, highly distinct items. Lead singer Wayne Coyne recently claimed they were considering another gummy-embedded USB release ­­– this time using a fetus instead of a skull.

But what of those indies who don’t already have the established fan base of The Flaming Lips, or even the meager means of producing a unique physical product like Patient Sounds? Many such artists and labels have turned to offering some, if not all, of their catalogue for free, hoping that the giveaways help them gain notoriety. Pretty Lights is one example, self-releasing their entire discography free of charge on their website, prettylightsmusic.com.

Golda has adopted such a model for Writing Records, essentially taking the crawl-before-you-walk approach. Everything released on his label is available at no charge through its website writingrecords.com.

“You might as well give [your music] out to everybody,” admitted Golda. “If nobody knows who you are, they’re not going to buy your music. It’s better if people can find it and hear it accessibly and then get to the next thing.”

Golda does sell CDs of the label’s music at shows, but knows that there is still a ways to go before he can start making money off of it. He’s also hoping to use the label as a multimedia platform that extends beyond music, and is currently planning to publish a volume of his poetry under the Writing Records imprint.

“It’s in the early stages now,” said Golda. “The way I look at it is that a label is a venue for artists’ music first and foremost, but it can also become their own publishing company for something else.”

Whatever their labels become, both Golda and Sage are content with the experience, and, even in these financially-troubled times for the music industry, both are content to release material as long as they possibly can.

“My long term plans are to be able to keep the ship balanced enough to keep sailing as far as we can on the wind we can get,” said Sage.

Anchors away.
***

Find out more about Patient Sounds at patientsounds.blogspot.com. Learn more about Writing Records at writingrecords.com. Also, check out “The Black Mountain Ramble,” a monthly performance for Writing Records artists and friends at Wild Boar Coffee (1510 S. College Ave.) every third Tuesday of the month.