Tony Kill - Love High Speed

By Phillipe Roberts

A genre-less expanse of frayed ideas, Love High Speed is a series of sonic detours taken with giddy abandon. Conducted by Washington D.C.-based artist Tony Kill, the EP presents seven smeared tracks that play right into the enigmatic presentation of their creator, offering little to no clues as to who, or what, we’re listening to beyond fragmented voicemails, clipped field recordings, and twisted singing that phases in and out of audibility. Let the constant distortion wash over you for the first listen, however, and you find yourself in a rich sonic world that makes a virtue out of misdirection. It keeps ambitions high even as the fidelity crawls deeper and deeper underground.

In contrast to the rest of Love High Speed, opener “Dolin Blanc” whistles its way in and keeps things smooth, much like the sweet vermouth that serves as its namesake. A sensuous bassline rumbles under gently splashing drums before dislocating from the groove entirely, playing against ambient swirls of guitar as the scene dissolves away from the pleasant morning reverie. Suddenly, a pen scratches out a signature, and a desk attendant asks if you need help with your bags. You’re fully checked-in to his surreal hotel now, and Tony Kill is free to really let loose for some twisted fun. Because for all of the sweetness and order of “Dolin Blanc,” it’s the rough-hewn weirdness of the rest of the EP that allows Tony Kill to really shine, unhinged from the expectation of providing anything for you to comfortably grip onto.

With the bouncing bass from “Dolin Blanc” still present as a holdover, Tony Kill begins his descent on “Heaven Sent,” charging through church organ swells with a chorus of Tonys proclaiming “You’re Heaven Sent” ad nauseum. Other indistinguishable vocals pour in, crying out with a kind of impassioned religious ecstasy that crashes over the main vocal in waves–a brilliant effect that sounds like watching someone have a mental breakdown in the middle of Sunday service.

Crafting these sharp moments of emotional tension is something that Tony Kill does remarkably well across the EP. Particularly so on “Drive,” where distorted shouts pile on top of a screeching guitar solo, which mellows out into a light, bluesy twang, before erupting again in chaos in a perfect mirror of the lyrics–“Intruder alert / Intruder alert.” But with all of this dissonance, Tony Kill isn’t afraid of a satisfying groove. Like the aforementioned “Dolin Blanc,” much of the EP ruminates on stretching simple ideas out into flavorful instrumentals. From the undeniably catchy krautrock pulse of “Gotta Turbo (Truck Stanley),” which almost sounds piped in from a Stereolab or Broken Social Scene rehearsal, to the industrial throb and burbling vocals of “I Am This Close,” it’s clear that Tony Kill knows exactly where to turn on the head-nodding charm.

Love High Speed ends with the instrumentally slight and vocally dissociative “Anyone.” Tony unspools a yawning manifesto, “I don’t fear anyone,” just twice over a creeping groove that hardly shuffles past the one minute mark. Thought it follows the disorienting, dubbed-out odyssey that is “Suddenly Unknow Everything,” “Anyone” feels like the perfect place to conclude his latest adventure–fearless and unphased, laughing in the face of any potential detractors before they even get a chance to respond. Love High Speed keeps you on your toes–and is well worth the disorientation–but don’t expect any congratulations from Tony for making it through to the other side. He’s above it all, distinctly unimpressed that you’re finally on his level.

REVIEW: Renata Zeiguer - Old Ghost

Raquel Dalarossa

You may have already heard Renata Zeiguer even if you haven’t heard of her just yet. The Brooklyn-based multi-intrumentalist and singer has, in the past, lent herself to bands like Mr. Twin Sister, Quilt, and Ava Luna. She grew up playing violin and piano, composing music from an early age. But despite releasing an EP in 2013 and one or two standalone singles since, Zeiguer has largely stayed out of the spotlight, choosing instead to debut some of her original songs through an outfit called Cantina. Now, at last, a full-length, solo album has arrived, and it feels like an instant classic.

Old Ghost tracks Zeiguer’s musical past, forming a sonic introduction to the artist that feels both whole and wholly compelling, as though listening to it is, indeed, knowing her. There’s a mischievousness that runs through the album, a product partly of the natural guile of her singing voice, and partly of the spunk she creates through very danceable rhythms combined with gritty and fuzzy instrumentals. There’s a raw quality to the recordings, though her vocals always sound close to the ear, like she could whisper without ever being drowned out by the music. She is part Rita Lee and part Kim Deal.

“After All” is a highlight on the album and a wonderful example of all these qualities coming perfectly into play. Here, a Habanera rhythm is paired with a playful, psychedelic discord as Zeiguer tangos with her own paranoia, while offering a nod to her Argentinian background. The lyrics seem to obliquely address the routine and ritual of social media (“Picture that and tag me in, I want them all to know…Counting all the affirmations helps to make it grow”), eventually untangling the mental consequences of it all (“Part of me is disappearing”). The dramatic, musical back and forth serves the lyrics deliciously well, as she sings “It’s all in my head, after all,” but as her voice fades to an echo and the noise melts away, we’re left only with a sadly sweet guitar riff that imparts the loneliness of being stuck in one’s own anxieties.

Zeiguer’s brand of pop is often both comforting and challenging at the same time, taking unpredictable melodic turns before giving your brain what it wants. “Bug,” for example, is immediately catchy but pulls back in the refrain, building up to a chorus of “aah”s that releases all the tension. The frenetic percussion in this song and throughout the album keeps things light even as the lyrics explore themes of aloneness, powerlessness, and regret. The title and final track reveals the “old ghost” that haunts Zeiguer to be a “voice repeating all the things I can’t undo.” Over rueful strings and an ambling bassline, she quietly confesses to feeling that she’ll never be able to shake this specter. But through repetition, the line “I’m never going to lose” evolves to take on a new meaning: that perhaps, she can resolve to overcome that feeling.

Over the course of just nine songs, Old Ghost sees an artist struggling to, but ultimately succeeding in finding her voice. One hopes releasing the album was an act, too, of releasing the shadow at her back, but the music itself won't fade from memory any time soon. 

REVIEW: Jaakko Eino Kalevi

Kelly Kirwan

There’s a pattern shared among many artists as they start their careers. They occupy the outskirts of the mainstream, developing ideas and observations until their work sparks a following. Then comes the switch, from overlooked to revered, and suddenly they're seen as pushing the very boundaries they once idled beside.

It’s a story Jaakko Eino Kalevi is at least somewhat familiar with; having worked as a tram driver in the Finnish capital of Helsinki, scribbling down thoughts and lyrics in a kind of driving-induced fugue state throughout the day.  Then in 2013, his EP Dreamzone broke through, establishing Kalevi as a talented multi-instrumentalist to put on the watch list. After that he relocated to Berlin, a kind of haven for the artistically eccentric and eclectic (not to mention the electronically-inclined), and just recently dropped a self-titled titled LP under the Weird World umbrella.

The reason Jaako Eino Kalevi gravitated towards an eponymous album is twofold: this record will likely introduce him to a wider audience, and too often is his name misspelled or butchered in pronunciation. Perhaps that’s why the first track off the album was given his initials “JEK,” with a repetitive chant-like chorus of his name to sink in for listeners, right off the bat.

Kalevi has a kind of bored, baritone delivery that reminds me of the ennui that so often affected alternative rock of the 90s. He alternates between speaking in Finnish and singing in English, a pattern he admits was unintentional but perhaps a result of moving abroad—“you bring out more of your national features.” For this LP, Kalevi took a hiatus from Berlin for a taste of New York’s own avant-garde indie scene in Brooklyn. There, he collaborated with producer/mixer Nicholas Vernhes, whose past credits include The War on Drugs, Dirty Projectors, and Deerhunter (to name a few). While their joint efforts may not have been completely simpatico, the duo managed to create a textured, percussion-laden album whose tracks cover a wide range yet still feel like a connected ensemble.

In fact, this was one of Kalevi’s requirements, admitting to The Quietus that he wanted the album “to have a feeling that it could have been made in one session…like a band record.” As Kalevi is essentially a one-man band he was able to pull this off, playing all the drums acoustically to add to the “one session” feel.

Tracks that particularly stand out are the funky synths of “Say,” whose beats are impossible not to move to—even if it takes a minute to realize the lyrics are a bit dark (“They say that you rot and shatter…”). Then there’s the upbeat “Hush Down,” with Suad Khalifa’s soft vocals acting as a sweet accompaniment to Kalevi’s straight-faced delivery (she also makes an appearance on “Double Talk,” “Deeper Shadows,” and “Room”). In all, Kalevi’s newest album is a far-ranging, electronic-influenced entity, with foot-tapping beats and pensive lyrics. And perhaps most importantly, it seems that he's accomplished exactly what he set out to do: make us remember his name.