Rock Back: Stronger Than The Storm –  Various Artists (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Rock_Back_-_Stronger_Than_The_Storm_(cover)It has a been a difficult year for those living in coastal regions and areas prone to flooding and other climatic backlashes, and that certainly applies to those communities that found themselves in the path of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria which devastated the Caribbean and the American gulf coast this year. In response to those tragedies, Philadelphia based Patetico Recordings have renewed their altruistic efforts and gathered a host of like minded musicians, record labels and supporters from the creative world to help raise funds to aid those affected.

The concept of the Rock Back compilation series was born in 2011, when disaster hit Japan, and Tom Lugo, Patetico Recordings’ label owner, acted upon his empathy for charitable causes and non-profit organisations by reaching out to the community of artists he had in his network. Rock Back compilation albums have gone on to raise money for devastated communities around the world as well as for notable non-human charities.

The result this time around is a collection of 56 tracks from artists across the globe which represent some of the most interesting acts to be found working in the musical fringes today. They lean towards genres that start with suffixes such as alt- and post- but then so many of the bands pushing the right creative agenda and generally moving music forward have always been found in such places. Obviously any such a collection of songs is far too vast an array to cover effectively in a review but even on an album of wonderful, new, exciting and challenging music there are a few stand out moments.

Ummagma contribute Human Factor, a song which punctuates muscular alt-rock urges with a downtempo groove and chiming Dave Gilmour-esque guitar motifs with buzz saw blues and Sounds of Sputnik take things into a darker dreamscape with Shades of The Cosmos. But if nothing else it is an album of light and shade and My Favourite Things deliver a hazy, Neo-psychedelic wash with A Little Closer and The Raft channel an almost retro pop vibe as they wander sub Beatlesque landscapes and 90’s alt-pop climes with Glad I Don’t Know.

Parson Rocket Project also wander similar paths as The Sundays or Mazzy Star blending dense musical texture with pop accessibility as shoegazing and stargazing clash on Exit Launch and the whole affair rounds off with the dark and majestic, eerie and effervescent sound of Panaphonic and the suitably named After The Storm. As I said, this is not an album which is quickly or easily captured in written review form but it is an album you should buy not just for the fact that all money goes to a good cause but also because if ever you wanted a sampler of what new music you should be watching out for, which bands are really challenging the status quo…and indeed Status Quo…who will be making the headlines amongst the discerning bloggers and tastemakers very soon, this is basically a road map, a check-list to keeping one step ahead.

Never have worthy causes and excellent music been more in harmony that on this must have record.

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PREMIERE: Parsons Rocket Project debut EP

a1995128190_16With all those textured and ambient sonic dreamscapes that seemed to go hand in hand with the explosion of the small independent record labels back and riding high in the modern zeitgeist, Parsons Rocket Project are the perfect band for the moment. They both pull nostalgic heartstrings and point the way towards a bright new dawn and their self-titled debut e.p. is the perfect record for these post-genre times.

Out on New Texture label today, these Atlanta sonic dream-weavers and space cadets thread post-punk threads through drifting washes and walls of guitar effects to narrate a chilled space–opera story line. It chimes with 60’s psychedelia, 70’s prog, 80’s shoegaze and more contemporary ambient indie and nu-gaze that later referenced those stalwart scenes.

The e.p. is less a concept album, more an album of concepts, ones that fit together sonically and lyrically to take us on an adventure both physically and in a more metaphysical sense. Through analogy and actuality it takes us far out into space and then back into the very depths of our own heart. It builds tension and texture though synth washes and a clash of guitar gorgeousness and jarring dissonance, the beauty and the beast joined as one.

But not only is this a journey in the narrative sense, sonically they collect, harness and alchemise genres, shift moods and subvert expectations and constantly evolve, not only from one track to the next but within the songs themselves.

In short, this is the sound of shoegazers become stargazers.

 

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