Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Stats and Music Reviews

So this week I've been doing prep work to build the pitch for Oh Well, Whatever, Nevermind. In order to demonstrate my marketability to my potential new publishers, I started digging up the download stats for the novels of The Omniverse, namely The Unearthing and Through Darkness and Stars.

Based on preliminary numbers (I'm still waiting on a couple of websites to report in) both novels are doing better than I'd anticipated!

Unearthing has been fully downloaded more than 12 000 times and Darkness some 5600 times.

Does that translate into as many unique readers? That's where the numbers get a little fuzzy, but at the very least my work has been checked out nearly 20 000 times since I've made it available online.

And for that, I can only say THANK YOU to everyone who's read these novels; you made this happen! about those music reviews from CONFRONT Magazine?

cbThe Chemical Brothers: Further

This one isn’t quite as in-your-face as previous efforts by the veteran Big Beat Electronic virtuosos. There are trippier qualities to the music here; mellower vibes are incorporated into the 8-song continuous mix CD, along with almost classic 1960’s style Psych Rock elements.

The promo release and second track on ‘Further’, “Escape Velocity” is an epic 12 minute dancer, incorporating lots of signature Chemical Brothers sounds and techniques, along with a sample of what sounds like some classic Styx riffs.

Best on this album though is “Dissolve”, which applies the sound and feel of the Chemical Brothers music and grafts it to a skein of Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd sounding Acid Rock. But the whole album is enjoyable, and with multiple formats and exclusive tracks now popping up online, there’s actually a lot of good supplemental music out there to add to the short tracklisting.

Further’ is a trippy, danceable all-out electronic freak-out, eminently enjoyable and essential Chemical Brothers listening. While I could have done without being shut out from exclusive tracks available only to iTunes subscribers, I can’t really fault what I listened to.

The Chemical Brothers: Further
Steve’s Rating: 8/10

revucd001Deadmau5: At Play Vol. 3

The third compilation in Progressive House virtuoso Deadmau5’s ‘At Play’ series seems mainly composed of tracks off of 2006’s ‘Vexiliology’, and 2008’s ‘Random Album Title’. Everything here is instrumental Prog House / Ambient sounds that we’ve heard before, just recycled here for the sake of a third installment.

Disappointing to me is that I’ve heard all this before – long before Deadmau5 was spinning wax. I have to go back 10 years in my music collection, but Astral Projection’s ‘In The Mix’ and Paul Van Dyk’s ‘Out There And Back’ from 2000 could easily be the templates used by Deadmau5 when crafting this 10-song mini compilation.

There are, nevertheless, some good songs here. The versions of “Lai”, “Bounce”, “Templar” and “Whispers” are worthwhile. However, it must be said that the generic nature of the music as compiled here just make it very hard to be in any way enthusiastic about the album. The music here just seems uninspired, not very innovatively handled and just not quite up to my expectations from Deadmau5.

Deadmau5: At Play 3
Steve’s Rating: 7/10

revucd002The City Streets: The Jazz Age

I don’t know what it is about Canadian Rock acts being so morose or melancholy, but we’re so good at it up here! Relying on heavy treble, their music spliced from Blues and Grunge Rock, ‘The Jazz Age’, the City Streets’ third album in 5 years is firmly rooted in the deepest tradition of mournful Rock.

Opening with the poetic and poignant lyrics of “Midnight Sun”, the tone is quickly set on this album. This is going to be music about heartache and regret, of romance and pain…of everything that has made good music since Mankind started singing.

It isn’t all depressive ballads. The weirdly funny and TMI-rife “Irish Rose” takes a bit of a Brian Setzer / Stray Cats detour around Bluesville, giving us quirky little two-step of a tune. “Young Runs Out” has got to be my favourite here; just for the way the imagery of the lyrics blends with the ebb and flow of the subdued guitar on the piece.

The whole of ‘The Jazz Age’ makes for a very powerful, albeit understated and low-key album; one made for serious music fans that’s still accessible to casual listeners. Definitely going to be a darling of the Coffee House scene, but don’t hold that against this one.

While ‘The Jazz Age’ might be the most assertive album you’ll listen to this year, it’s well worth picking up; play it when you have some quiet time in a chair with a cuppa something warm…see if you don’t enjoy it as much as I expect you will.

The City Streets: The Jazz Age
Clamour Records
Steve’s Rating: 9/10

revucd001(2)Jon Butler Trio: April Uprising

Launched in March in Australia, the latest from the Jam Band from down under only crossed my desk just over a week ago. Since then I’ve been listening attentively, if only because I’m not completely sure what to make of ‘April Uprising’, Butler’s 5th studio album in 12 years.

The 15 tracks are all enjoyable, but ‘April Uprising’ feels uneven, somehow. From one song to the next, Butler and his ensemble change musical styles and thematics. While this demonstrates the trio’s versatility, it also leaves this album without any real sense of cohesion.

The songs on here run the gamut from the contemplative “Revolution” to the infectious and energetic “Come On Now”, to Folksy Bluegrass, on “Ragged Mile”. There’s even a Hip-Hop infused track, “Don’t Wanna See Your Face”. My personal favourite on the album is the closer, “A Star Is Born”, a love ballad from new father Butler to his newborn son.

Taken individually, the music here is capably produced and enjoyable, even if they don’t quite work well enough together as an album. The music here is nevertheless worth your while.

The John Butler Trio: April Uprising
ATO Records
Steve’s Rating: 7/10

revucd001(3)Dangermouse and Sparkplehorse: Dark Night of the Soul

Dangermouse is, of course one of the most prolific DJ/Musicians out there, having been the driving force between several successful solo albums, including ‘The Grey Album’ remix of Jay-Z’s ‘The Black Album’; the formation of Gnarls Barkley; he produced The Gorillaz’s ‘Demon Days’ and Beck’s ‘Modern Guilt’, and recently formed up with James Mercer of the Shins to create Broken Bells.

Sparklehorse were one of the best Alternative/College Radio bands of the last 15 years, producing, among other works, the brilliant albums ‘Good Morning Spider’, ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ to name but two.

‘Dark Night of the Soul’ was to be the only collaboration between Dangermouse and Sparklehorse. Mark Linkous, Sparklehorse’s lead singer, committed suicide earlier this year. ‘Dark Night of the Soul’, which was to have been released last year, has languished in legal limbo until recently. What has finally been released is nothing short of brilliant.

The album opens with the haunting, trippy “Revenge”, which could easily pass for unreleased John Lennon. Farther in on the album is “Jaykub”, a scathing ballad directed at the eponymous loser of the title. What sets the latter apart is the beautiful flow of contemptuous imagery juxtaposed into an almost anthemic ballad. Personal favourites on this one include the intense “Little Girl”, “Pain” (Which features vocals by Iggy Pop), the shuffling “Everytime I’m With You”, the 60s-trippy-dippy sounding ‘Daddy’s Gone” and “Grim Augury”, which is easily the most unsettling song on the album.

This one must be listened to in order to be appreciated. It’s also, simply put, essential listening.

Dangermouse and Sparklehorse: Dark Night of the Soul
Steve’s Rating 10/10

revucd002(2)Kilmore Place: What Happened?

With Light vocals and stripped-down-to-basics Pop-Rock instrumentation, the latest EP from Kilmore Place shows us a more sophisticated band; they have honed their craft and sound from their previous, self-titled EP.

There’s already a single “Lost at a Wedding” which is very reminiscent Grunge-era Coffeehouse Rock, a la early Third Eye Blind. Best on this oh-too-short EP is “Bag It Up”, which demonstrates that despite the mostly upbeat sound of the EP, that Kilmore Place are capable of the kind of driving, rocking intensity that is a hallmark of good Rock diversity.

‘What Happened?’ isn’t the question I was asking after listening to the seven meager songs here…what I was asking myself was, “When’s the full album coming out?” Because the thing about ‘What Happened?” is, once you listen to it you’ll want to hear much, much more from Kilmore Place.

Kilmore Place: What Happened?
Steve’s Rating 9/10

Monday, July 12, 2010

Movement on Project Nevermind

Okay, so I have made no small amount of progress lately towards my goal of selling Oh Well, Whatever, Nevermind.

In a few weeks I will be meeting with a consultant to help prepare my pitch to sell the book. As the story is set in and around Montreal I want to pitch it to some local publishers first.

Right now I'm gathering data to back up the marketability of my writing, including the number of places from which and total number of downloads of the first two volumes of The Omniverse (Or, as it's known for the sake of avoiding branding issues, Steve Karmazenuk's Omniverse), The Unearthing and Through Darkness and Stars. I'm also polishing up my creative resume, linking back to the many articles, interviews and reviews I've done for CONFRONT Magazine, as well as my work in other media.

Likewise I've contacted Nicole Decaria, the artist who provided me with artwork that was to have bookended each chapter; she is on board to complete those illustrations, should the book be picked up.

In other news I am diligently at work on Aeon's War, the third book in the Omniverse series. I've had the story planned our for years and in the third volume, things REALLY start to get intense! But, I don't want to say too much...

Anyway, that's all for now; I'll be posting a music review backlog soon!