Sunday, November 25, 2007

Hawthorne Heights Guitarist Found Dead

Hawthorne Heights Guitarist, Casey Calvert, 26, was found dead on Saturday, November 24. Rather than say too much more, we're going to repost the message from the remaining members of Hawthorne Heights regarding this most unfortunate occurrence.

Today is probably the worst day ever. Its with our deepest regrets that we have to write this. Casey Calvert passed away in his sleep last night. We found out this afternoon before sound-check. We've spent the entire day trying to come to grips with this and figure out as much as possible. At this time we're not sure what exactly happened. Just last night he was joking around with everyone before he went to bed. We can say with absolute certainty that he was not doing anything illegal. Please, out of respect to Casey and his family, don't contribute or succumb to any gossip you may hear. We don't want his memory to be tainted in the least. Casey was our best friend. He was quirky and awesome and there will truly be no others like him! His loss is unexplainable. As soon as we know more we will let you know.


Hawthorne Heights JT, Micah, Eron and Matt

Thursday, November 15, 2007

DJ Kenneth A :: The Enemy Within

DJ Kenneth A :: The Enemy WithinArtist :: DJ Kenneth A
Album :: The Enemy Within
Label :: DIY

Play This Cut First :: The Destroyer

In a Word :: Inspiring

When we started Blog Rockin' Beat, one of the main things we wanted to do was give indie artists without label support some attention. Album's like DJ Kenneth A's The Enemy Within are why. Musicians who are not facing label pressure for new records or vigorous touring schedules have more time for the creative process. And when that happens, you can hear the music mature from release to release. From his previous effort, Saint Elmo and the Osprey, to his latest offering, The Enemy Within, the progress is almost staggering.

One of the most noticeable aspects of Saint Elmo and the Osprey was the eclecticism and range shown. The Enemy Within is not as eclectic. Instead, DJ Kenneth has taken some of the most captivating elements from his previous efforts and developed them even further, such as: lush string arrangement, haunting piano melodies, and production values that sound crystal clear in a small set of earbuds or pumping through a 1000-watt system.

DJ Kenneth AAdding to the strings and keys that sound remarkably like VNV Nation at times - check out the opening cut,"From Here to There Without Looking Back" for the best orchestration VNV Nation never wrote - DJ Kenneth A has brought new percussive techniques into the mix, such as breakbeats and elements of glitch in the beats, pads, and lead lines. The results fits comfortably in the realm of BT, Hybrid, and The Orb. What you are hearing is the genre of symphonic breaks starting.

Another pleasant surprise is the use of vocals. On The Enemy Within, DJ Kenneth A gives us vocals from other indie artists: Jason McGovern (on "Damage Control playing below", Chad Wys (on a remix of Chad's "Dust in My Eyes"), and his own voice on "Like and Ocean". The last is particularly daring as most DJs would ever put their own voice on a track.

The thing that makes The Enemy Within a must have, however, is the overwhelming sense of honesty and genuineness. By reducing the spectrum of sounds and styles, this disc has a depth that his other's have hinted at, but not have fully achieved. He nails it this time, though. And it doesn't matter if it is the slow and ethereal "Like and Ocean", or the the glitchy drive of "The Destroyer", or the Eastern-vibe hip-hop of "Silence Part 6", every cut on The Enemy Within develops patiently, captivating your attention and delivering its spirit right into your heart...where the best music gets a new life in the listener.

Best cuts on the album :: Damage Control, The Destroyer, Silence Part 6.

The bottom line :: On The Enemy Within you are hearing the sound of one of contemporary music's best kept secrets. You are hearing what happens when musical integrity maintains focus for an entire album. You are hearing music the way it should be. You are hearing DJ Kenneth A.

Ministry Says "C U LaTouR"

On the heels of their final studio release, "The Last Sucker," released September 18, 2007, MINISTRY announces their final world tour, "C U LaTouR," with Special Guests Meshuggah and opening act Hemlock. Ministry kicks off the North American leg of "C U LaTouR" in Vancouver on March 28, 2008, stopping in a limited engagement 33 major market cities through mid-May, ending the U.S. leg in Ministry frontman Al Jourgensen's home town of Chicago. Ministry then heads off to play the principal European festivals as well as choice club dates beginning late May stretching through to July.

Exclusive pre-sale tickets for the North American "C U LaTouR," offered by Music Today, go on sale this Thursday, November 15 and can be purchased here as of Thursday. Exclusive Special Limited Access VIP tickets will also be available for purchase via the pre-sale, offering advance doors, seating, meet & greets and souvenir 13th Planet gift bags.

The "C U LaTouR" touring line-up features Ministry's founder Al Jourgensen being joined onstage by guitarists Tommy Victor (Prong) and Sin Quirin (Revolting Cocks), keyboardist John Bechdel (Prong, AoTW, False Icons), and drummer Jimmy DeGrasso (ex-Megadeth, Suicidal Tendencies, Alice Cooper). Static X's Tony Campos has recently stepped in to fulfill bass on behalf of the recently departed Ministry/Killing Joke bassist Paul Raven. Joining the Ministry clan as Special Featured Artist will be Fear Factory/Ascension of The Watchers vocalist Burton C. Bell. Main support is Swedish experimental metal Meshuggah and opening act is the U.S.-based Hemlock.

To coincide with "C U LaTouR," Jourgensen's indie imprint is scheduled to release Ministry & Co-Conspirators "Cover Up," a 12-track covers release featuring artists from the 13th Planet Records family, as well as other special guests. "Cover Up" is scheduled for a late March/early April 2008 release.

For its spectacular two-and-a-half-hour "C U LaTouR" set, Ministry will perform tracks from "The Last Sucker" as well as songs that revisit the band's rich and provocative 30-year musical history. Archival Ministry videos plus other visual elements of alchemy, Christianity, politics and other topics aligned with Ministry will be incorporated into a special video presentation, produced by "Wicked Lake" director Zach Passero (with whom Jourgensen is collaborating on the soundtrack for the feature film) that will change night to night. And, as is expected from a Ministry show, you just never know what surprise guests will jump on stage for a song or two.

"A Ministry tour is a traveling circus," states Jourgensen. "When we roll into town, everyone hides their daughters, but the freaks roll out the red carpet and a friend or two pops up on stage to add some spice and mayhem to the show. We never know who's gonna walk through the dressing room door at sound check. We rehearse a bunch of 'extra' songs just in case so-and-so shows up..."

With more dates to be added, confirmed dates for Ministry's 2008 "C U LaTouR" are as follows:

28 Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver, BC CANADA
29 Showbox SoDo, Seattle, WA
30 Roseland Theatre, Portland, OR

1 Fillmore, San Francisco, CA
2 Fillmore, San Francisco, CA
5 House of Blues, Los Angeles, CA
6 House of Blues, Los Angeles, CA
7 House of Blues, San Diego, CA
8 Marquee Theatre, Tempe, AZ
9 House of Blues, Las Vegas, NV
11 The Great Salt Air, Salt Lake City, UT
12 Ogden Theatre, Denver, CO
15 La Zona Rosa, Austin, TX
17 Palladium, Dallas, TX
18 Verizon Wireless Theatre, Houston, TX
19 House of Blues, New Orleans, LA
22 Jannus Landing, St. Petersburg, FL
23 House of Blues, Orlando, FL
24 Tremont Music Hall, Charlotte, NC
25 Masquerade, Atlanta, GA
26 Rams Head Live, Baltimore, MD
27 Palladium, Worcester, MA
29 Fillmore at the TLA, Philadelphia, PA

1 Irving Plaza, New York, NY
2 Irving Plaza, New York, NY
3 Metropolis, Montreal, QC CANADA
4 Koolhaus, Toronto, ON CANADA
6 Agora Theatre, Cleveland, OH
7 Emerald Theatre, Detroit, MI
8 House of Blues, Chicago, IL

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mark Farina :: Live in Tokyo

Mark Farina :: Live in TokyoArtist :: Mark Farina
Album :: Live in Tokyo
Label :: Om Records

In a word :: Momentous

There are some names that are synonymous with the genre they've helped to build. I say Juan Atkins; you say Techno. I say Aphex Twin; you say IDM. I say Mark Farina; and you damn well better be saying house.

From his Warehouse days in Chi-town alongside his brother-from-another-mother, Derrick Carter, to his migration to San Francisco and his work with Om Records, Mark Farina is a staple of house music. From minimal, to deep, to mid-tempo, there's nothing he can't (or won't) spin a set around. And he is a DJ who spins a lot.

The normal progression in DJ culture if for artists to cut their teeth spinning vinyl and building a name that way. After awhile, when enough people know him, said DJ will cut a record of original material and go that route. Some even go so far as to abandon the DJ set altogether to make their own tracks. Mark Farina is not your normal DJ. And he never has been.

Mark FarinaWhile he has some of his own tracks out, Mark Farina is a DJ first. He enjoys international fame for spinning records, because he does it better than most anybody else. Could he put out albums of his own material? Sure he could. He'd probably sell a respectable amount, too. But that is not his game. He doesn't transcend into that realm. Rather, he is a Bodhisattva of the beat, bringing other artists into the spotlight where they can get noticed. And for a house artist, being in a Mark Farina mix that gets released is like being on Oprah. He takes talented artists and puts them in the spotlight.

He makes the magic happen. He is the DJ.

But why? Why is he so good? What is it about Mark Farina, out of the thousands of DJs in the world, that makes him stand out? I'll give you a clue, the answer is closer than you think. It's because he's a lot like you and me. Before he is a DJ, he is a music fanatic.

You know what it's like when you have friends over, and you've got this disc you want them to listen to because it is so good and you know they haven't heard it before, and they absolutely have to hear it! But before that song is done, you are already excited because you just thought of something they else they have to hear! And the kicker is that you know they aren't enjoying it as much as you are, because they just don't get it. They are not music fans, like Mark Farina. It's that familiarity in a Mark Farina mix. He gives you stuff you've never heard before and does it at a time when you need nothing more in the world than that track.

And he does it mix after mix, never the same mix twice.

That's the magic. That's the DJ at work.

On Live in Tokyo, Mark Farina delivers again. This time he does it like you haven't heard him on a release before. In the past, I've enjoyed his work as it slowly builds, wave upon wave, peaking then rescinding. This time, however, it's different. Taking a mid-tempo groove and weaving it through different house genres like glitch house and soul house, the whole disc slowly builds until about 3/4 of the way through when cuts like Ken ECB's "I Heart Bougie (Toka Project Mix)" and Daniel Cummings's "Deep Heat" are pumping, you feel the crescendo of the mix building. No tempo changes. No key changes. Just a steady increase of intensity that is the DJ making his magic in time.

It's rare that a mix CD really seems to capture the energy of the live show. Then again, Mark Farina is a rare DJ. And Live in Tokyo rare is mix.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Portugal. The Man :: Church Mouth

Artist :: Portugal. The Man
Album :: Church Mouth
Label :: Fearless

In a word :: Infectious

Play this cut first :: Bellies are Full

There has been much buzz swirling around Portugal. The Man lately. And rightly so. They are the rare breed of band that, like a hive, creates its own buzz. The type of band that, as you listen to the CD, you think, "I bet these guys kick all kinds of ass on stage."

PTM draws comparisons to Led Zepplin, but not for the same reasons every other Zep clone does. Nope, you are not going to find the thunderous Bonzoid beats. No pulling Pages from Jimmy's big book of riffs. Instead, PTM accentuates those other elements: the momentum in John Paul Jones bassline and the legato melodic tendencies of Robert Plant.

Further, there is the same disregard for traditional song structures. At times, these cuts meander like a sonic explorer pushing further into the lo-fi wash to pull out flashes of melody and the occasional boot-stomping, beer swilling, Delta-blues groove. Just when you think the whole show is becoming a lesson in improvisation, the sweet balance of blues-flavored familiarity returns.

For all of this, they still draw comparisons to The White Stripes. Sure, they may share similar influences, and PTM frontman, John Baldwin Gourley, has a similar charismatic quality to Jack White. That, however, is where the similarities rightfully end. PTM's rhythm section has a fluidity that Meg White's ham-fisted drumming can't even approach, nor will it likely ever.

This elevated level of musicianship offers PTM a palette of options. In all honesty, the only other band that really operates on this level at the moment is The Mars Volta.

Now Playing :: Bellies are Full

And for all that is unpredictable about Church Mouth, the CD as a whole has a collective sense of movement, solidifying into a throbbing, breathing mass about three quarters of the way through. By the time we hit cuts like "Bellies Are Full" and "Children", the sound congeals, almost like entropy before fading into the final serene sounds of "Sun Brother (excerpt)".

The Bottom Line :: Church Mouth s built upon the willingness to take chances; to let tape roll; to be imperfect if it means being interesting. It's the album where the musician meets the performer. And it's an extension of the rock bands that made the genre credible and jazz musicians who cared just as much about pushing boundaries as giving you hooks you could hum for years.

Best Cuts :: Bellies Are Full, The Bottom, Church Mouth, Sugar Cinnamon