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Esoteric Rock: Amethyste, Avenpitch, Drumbo, the Jingle Kings, Spirits of Ambience

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AMETHYSTE: Shimmer (CD on AMAdea Records, distributed in USA by PeaceWork Music)

This release from 2008 features 73 minutes of new age rock tuneage.

The vocals are by Amethyste; the music is by Gunner Spardel (of Tigerforest), with assistance from Steffan Krampitz, Steven John Mihaljevich, and Sleepwalker.

Stately melodies conspire with soprano female vocals to produce a selection of dreamy tuneage.

Delicate electronics share the stage with traditional instruments (drums, strings, bass, and such) to produce a compelling sound that is as much chillout as it is rock. Keyboards contribute sweeping riffs which drift like shimmering fields of ionized gas.

Percussion is involved, but not a lot. When appearing, the rhythms are robust but suppressed to boost rather than overwhelm the tunes. These percussive instances are often employed to intensify the drama of passages.

The recurrent application of violin sections generates an orchestral flair that excellently compliments the musicís dreamy disposition.

The vocals are rich and powerful, whether presented in a lyrical manner or a choral fashion. The lyrics deal with aspects of beauty and gracious romance.

While the compositions display a distinctly idyllic motif, the music is laced with rock elements, resulting in a lush fusion of tender and gripping sensibilities. The overall consequence is one of understated passion creeping up on the listener.

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AVENPITCH: Cast Off (CD on Dance School Records)

This release from 2009 features 34 minutes of hard-edged punk music.

Avenpitch is: Todd Millenacker (on vocals, guitar, programming), Darren Siaw (on guitar and background vocals), Paul Hudalla (on drums and background vocals), and Sarah France (on keyboards and background vocals).

Unbridled power is keynote in this music, transforming pop tunes into vigorous rockíníroll with lots of teeth.

The guitars wail with bestial character, delivering riffs of bewitching scope. Double-tracking the guitars achieves a tasty sonic assault.

The drums are robust and aggressive, generating power rhythms seething with compelling allure.

The vocals are earnest and entertaining, blending punk shouting with pop tune crooning.

The keyboards provide a fluid counterpart to the hostility characterized by the other instruments. Their soft sweeps act as endearing aspects buried amid the growling guitars and the compulsive tempos.

Everything is subjected to a delightfully relentless digital distortion, mutating things even more, plunging the songs into a zone squeezed between New Order and the Pixies.

These compositions are energetic and catchy, merging elements of punk, pop and rock to produce a rewarding dose of fun. Where a lot of punk fixates on complaints, the temperament of these songs tends to be more celebrative, forcing a good time on the audience.

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DRUMBO: City of Refuge (CD on Proper Records)

This CD from 2008 features 49 minutes of hot boogie music.

This reunion project by the members of the Captain Beefheart Magic Band features: John French (aka Drumbo) on lead vocals, harmonica, saxophone and drums, Bill Harkleroad (aka Zoot Horn Rollo) on left channel guitar, Greg Davidson (aka Ella Guru) on right channel guitar, Mark Boston (aka Rockette Morton) on bass on one track, and John Thomas (no aka) on keyboard bass. Rather than a tribute effort, this album features new material composed by Drumbo with the intention of breathing fresh life into the Magic Band.

The guitars are snappy and searing, belting out crisp riffs that smolder with inventive animation.

Keyboards contribute slippery backing as well as sobering piano plays.

The drums are intricate and demonstrative, providing more than just locomotion, they serve to embellish the melodies as beats bolster the other instruments.

The bass growls with animal ferocity, generating a suitable rumble deep in the mix.

Drumboís vocals are a satisfying homage to Captain Beefheartís style: a strange mixture of guttural and shrill that transforms syllables into a bluesy cadence. Articulate and evocative, the lyrics delineate topics as visceral as just desserts and as timeless as obvious loyalties.

Squealing harmonica injects a Cajun flair to the tuneage. Saxophone wails enhance this disposition with their soulful outcries.

Each instrument is afforded ample opportunity to deliver hot solos, from blazing guitar to cooking mouth organ to boiling basslines.

These compositions superbly extend the heritage forged by the Magic Band back in the Seventies. Rather than relying on nostalgia, the tunes strive to bring that sound into the modern world, appealing to those who seek good-time boogies.

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THE JINGLE KINGS: Kinky Dreams (CD on Such a Sound Records)

This release from 2008 offers 56 minutes of fun electro rock music.

The Jingle Kings is Jeffrey Bridges.

A host of clever electronics generate a lively dose of tasty tuneage boosted by spry percussion.

The electronics are sinuous and especially glutinous, flowing like sonic honey around the other sounds, cementing everything together into enticing compositions. A full range is utilized, from keyboard riffs to expansive sweeps to chittering effects. A surging presentation often bestows sounds with an alluring otherness, transforming prosaic into exotic structures that glisten with high appeal.

Hints of numerous conventional instruments appear (either in their actual form or synthesized), fleshing the tunes out with rumbling bass and rollicking horn sections and artificial choirs and sighing accordions.

The percussion plays a major role here, seasoning the music with strident rhythms measured to appropriately propel the songs. The tempos are lively, crisp and straightforward, yet communicate a novel demeanor in their emphasis of the musicís electronic nucleus.

These compositions ingeniously combine a stately posture with a sense of joviality. The musicís real charm comes from its smirking delivery, producing sprightly melodies that sway and cavort with a certain jubilant character. Happy-time tuneage full of alternative charm.

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SPIRITS OF AMBIENCE: Sahara (double CD on Aurora Blue Records)

This release from 2008 offers 108 minutes of Middle Eastern music.

Spirits of Ambience is: Mark Peacock (on guitar, keyboards, santur), Charles Adelphia (on dudek and baritone saxophone), Scott Breadan (on percussion), Lanny Cordola (on guitar and balalaika), JíAnna Jocoby (on viola and violin), Mile Land (on drums), Roxanne Morganstern (on vocals), Michael Tovar (on guitar and cuatro), and Chuck Wright (on fretless bass).

This release defies classification. While possessing visible rock aspects, the music is heavily laced with ambient and chillout sensibilities, then everything is focused through a Middle Eastern lens which bestows an exotic flair on the music whether the pieces are atmospheric or overt.

Agile guitars and an assortment of ethnic string instruments conspire with steadfast drums to generate flowing tuneage designed to evoke desert vistas. The dreamy vocals drench this far-flung tableau with exotic overtones, a flavor that is further enhanced by mournful violin.

The guitars establish softly searing riffs that drift with lazy comportment. Their resonance seeps through the music like shimmering oil. The ethnic strings lend a foreign edge to that liquidity.

The percussion is sharp and determined, yet performed with restraint so that the rhythms embellish without being in-your-face.

The female vocals are of a non-lyrical nature, contributing choral threads that undulate like a vaporous serpent.

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Violin strains waft in the mix, generating a melancholic demeanor. The bass exhibits a geological buzz lurking deep in the tunes.

These compositions impress an Arabic seasoning on all genres of music, producing tuneage that is at once accessible and exotic. Strong rhythms blend with flowing harmonics, effectively enlivening a dreamscape with upbeat properties. Western fans of Eastern moods will thoroughly enjoy the bandís unique mixture of styles.

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