Thursday, March 5, 2015

Bombay Harambee On The Dotted Line

Bombay Harambee has grown to appreciate its status as post-punk underdog. The band originally began to coalesce in 2012, shortly after Alexander Jones (guitar/vocals) and David Aspesi (bass) started jamming together on a regular basis.

They didn't have much at the time — just a few tunes to toss about and a couple of venues willing to let them set up in  around Little Rock, Arkansas — two hours from Memphis and five from Nashville or Dallas. But somehow it all started to click after getting over their first false start, especially when they added Uh Huh veterans Trent Whitehead (guitar) and Jason Jones (drums).

That's not to say it all clicked perfectly well. Listing to their self-produced You Know Better EP can feel like a bit of a chore at times. And then again, listening to it also demonstrates how far the band has come in the short span of a single year. Their newest release is an enigmatic gem.

Bombay Harambee puts out a double-sided 7" vinyl debut.

Hoping to gain some momentum for their first proper LP after putting out a hodgepodge tape-only collection of remastered work, the four tracks that make up Check, Check, Checkmate/Dotted Line encapsulate some of the band's best work. While it's still nowhere near perfect, it doesn't need to be.

This double-sided release from Wiener Records opens with Check, Check, Checkmate (a fuzzier version of the track titled CCCM on the Wolfman Fellowship collection). The post-punk track immediately feels one part messy and another part throwback. It's also not the greatest showcase of vocals from Jones, who mostly rambles though the lyrics before opening it up to something bigger.

Although he has been compared to Michael Stipe before, it seems the matchup might be more convincing if it were filtered through John Darnielle first. There is a mildly cracky unpleasantness to it that is also oddly interesting and even compelling. It really sticks with you after the third pass.

Dotted Line is a bit different. Jones sounds great, slightly gravelly, with significantly more confidence, making this the one that truly catches the direction. It's the track that says to listen up.

Alongside Check, Check, Checkmate and Dotted Line, the band is playing its retitled party rocker Blue Ballon and Enjambement, a piano piece that plays out a melody over instrumental ghosts in under two minutes. The contrast is decidedly effective. It ends the single and teases the album.

Overall, Check, Check, Checkmate/Dotted Line is a convincing introduction in that it refines some of the band's past work while introducing what could be a more haunting and heady album as Dotted Line suggests. Given Dotted Line is lyrically sharper in talking about the choices we have to make and also a better match for Jones as a developing vocalist, the full length has some real promise.

Dotted Line By Bombay Harambee Signs On At 5.7 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

The four piece from Little Rock is very adept at writing crunchy party rockers but it's the turn toward a headier post-punk vibe that had piqued our interest. Prior, Jones had said the band was looking to write post-punk songs with a pop songwriting sensibility so they stick in your head. Now it seems they want to do one better than getting stuck there. Some of it is starting to noodle around.

The band's upcoming LP, Goldmine, is slated to be released in the months ahead. In the interim, the band is taking its first mini-tour outside Arkansas with stops in Tennessee up though New York before returning home. The new double A sided 7" vinyl is available via bandcamp. You can also catch the self-produced You Know Better on iTunes.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

On And On Is An Emerging Artist Pick

Some time in the spring of 2012, three musicians found themselves at the tipping point — not as their band Scattered Trees — but as a new indie trio splitting their time between Chicago and Minneapolis. Nate Eiesland, Alissa Ricci, and Ryne Estwing are now charting a stronger course as On And On.

The result was something of a creative jolt with accomplished producer Dave Newfeld (Broken Social Scene, Super Furry Animals) at the helm of a new approach to writing and recording. Their previous pursuit of polished pop has been thankfully put behind them for something infinitely more listenable.

"We really wanted to get away from the sterility of our previous approach to recording," says Eiesland.

The change up plays nowhere better than the latest single, Drifting, from Roll Call Records. The track, which was recorded as part of a new album with legendary producer Joe Chiccarelli (Spoon, White Stripes, The Shins) shows something considerably more haunting than anything the band had done before.

Drifting was inspired by falling asleep behind the wheel while trying to forget unforgettable things. The band calls the song the most "naked" sound they have ever produced, pushing the sonic bar set by their debut album Give In when the band was trying to establish a new sound.

The result was something of an enigma — experimental pop compositions loaded up with synthesizers and scattershot electro beats. The guitars, bass, and drums were often included only as ambient afterthought.

One of the notable exceptions was their pace-setting single Ghosts, which de-emphasized the electronic splash of the album and pushed the instrumentals as well as Eiesland's vocals to the forefront. And if Drifting is any indication of what to expect from the sophomore album, then the evolutionary split seems to occur with Ghosts in mind.

Ghosts, much like Drifting, underpins the band's insight into coming to terms with the traps that life frequently springs upon the unsuspecting. And it's often in these themes that the band sizzles with a fresh electricity and unnerved openness.

Where Drifting and the upcoming album sets itself apart is in the year-plus of experience that the band picked up on tour and at festivals all over Europe and the United States. When they returned to Minneapolis to begin writing their new album, they knew precisely how they to expand and where they wanted grow sonically and as a band. Much of the new album features collaborative writing and experimental live tracking, and perhaps a little less reliance on filling every stitch of space.

Drifting By On And On Goes On And On At 7.9 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

On And On can be a little trickier to pin down than some artists. Give In was largely discovered on SoundCloud, where fan listens drove several singles to the top of the Hype Machine Popular chart. It was their success on SoundCloud that prompted music producers to invite the band to play at various festivals around the world.

Drifting is currently being offered as a free download from the band's website. An email address is required to download the track. To hear a sampling of songs from their debut album Give In, visit Roll Call Records. The band also supports a Facebook page, which lists upcoming show dates with Big Data.

The tour will likely be the first opportunity to hear the sophomore album in full. The release date is currently to be determined. The best guess is that it will land in the summer, a few months after the band makes an appearance at SXSW.