Minnesota pop-punks Vera Zero find chart success…in Australia?

October 8, 2008 at 8:01 am (Alternative Rock, Punk, Punk Rock) (, , , , , )

Interview by Julian Wilson

Vera Zero is one of the hottest indie punk acts in Australia. The only thing strange about that is they’re actually from the U.S. Based in Minnesota, the group (actually singer/songwriter Rob Kerr and hired musicians) break through the cookie-cutter grip of pop-punk with a higher degree of wit and intelligence.

Julian Wilson: “War & Peace,” the title track of Vera Zero’s latest EP, hit No. 2 on an indie chart in Australia. How does it feel to get your work recognized millions of miles away from where you currently reside?

Rob Kerr: I was very pleased!  We have a nice following down under and I hope we can get over there to play in the near future.

Wilson: As far as alternative music classification goes, Vera Zero fits squarely into the pop-punk mold. Are you an old-school punk rock fan? What affection does the genre have for you?

Kerr: To be honest, I never have been a punk rock fan,  I like melodic rock but I also like to go very hard rock like with the title track of the EP War & Peace. I think it’s this marriage of melodic and hard rock that gives me the pop-punk label.

Wilson: How long have you been at this? Has the style of Vera Zero differed from what it was like in the beginning?

Kerr: Yes! I have been working hard at this for over 10 years and Vera Zero is much more polished now. I really didn’t have much of an idea of what I wanted to sound like in the early days, and it takes a while to mature as a writer and producer and to come up with your own definitive style.  I feel like I have finally developed a “Vera Zero sound.”  

Wilson: Do your lyrics play a role in what the music will sound like? Or do you come up with the riffs first, then fit your lyrics into the arrangements?

Kerr: I usually start with the title and then the lyrics.  Then I get the guitar out and put it all together.  But it doesn’t always work that way; I was watching a football game on TV one time and the announcer mentioned that for one of the teams it was “feast or famine” and that led to the lyrics in “I Bleed.” And on another occasion I came up with the riff for “War & Peace” first and then came the rest of the song so there is no hard and fast rule to songwriting for me.

Wilson: What artists have had the biggest impact on you as a songwriter and musician?

Kerr: I have had many influences, but the biggest ones would be Paul McCartney and Gary Numan.



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Sexy Seattle synth-rocker Farchild finds inspiration in heavy metal

August 25, 2008 at 12:28 am (Alternative Rock, Industrial) (, , , , , , )

Interview by Julian Wilson

With an icily sexy synth-rock sound that is more Sheffield, England than Seattle, Washington, Farchild slashes perceptions of the Emerald City’s aging global image of Grunge Central. Like Santogold, Farchild is opting for a retro-futuristic makeover of pop music, uniting alternative rock, hip-hop, and electro-pop in darkly alluring fashion.

Julian Wilson: Your music strays dramatically from what has been viewed as “the Seattle scene” for nearly twenty years now. Is it harder to develop a following for a decidedly electronic-based style in the Emerald City?

Farchild: Ha. Well, I’m not really from Seattle so technically I’m allowed to deviate from the norm. That is a valid question, however. It definitely might be more difficult to develop a Seattle following for electronic-based music; but then again, that’s not really going to stop me from creating the music I want to. I think there’s a balance to be attained when it comes to satiating your own artistic needs & satiating the needs of “the public.” In that respect, I guess I’m a bit selfish. In the studio, I prefer to let things take shape naturally, without a formula, and without worrying if “the public will embrace my style or shun me.” In essence, I do want I want.

Wilson: How long did it take to you to develop your style?
Farchild: Still developing, actually. I’m pretty new to the biz. Starting producing on a very hobbyist level about three years ago in college on “Cakewalk” with a computer microphone. Things kind of snowballed from there. Taught myself guitar, got back into piano (took classical lessons as a child), bought a little synthesizer keyboard and started cranking out tunes and programming in my dorm. Having few options as far as sound capacity/ equipment forced me in a certain direction, kind of molded me into a one-woman band.
Wilson: Of all the new artists currently, who do you have the most artistic kinship with?
Farchild: I have unwavering respect for Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, or really any artist who produces their own music. Seems to be a bit of a lost/ non-existent art in the mainstream. I also like Reznor’s business model. He’s rather hands on, to say the least. I’m also a fan of female artists/producers Bjork and Imogen Heap. They’re quite talented as well. At the end of the day, I find myself having the most fun locked away in my studio producing and songwriting, turning knobs, layering sounds on Pro Tools, writing lyrics – pursuing music in it’s purest form. Can’t get much better than that.
Wilson: Are your lyrics based on your personal experiences?
Farchild: Yes. Writing/poetry is incredibly therapeutic. I have a lot to get off my chest. I personally feel compelled to write about things I’ve been through, keeps things honest. When I settle down one day and get rid of all my young adult angst, then maybe I’ll start telling other people’s stories. 
Wilson: What artists are your least obvious influences and in what ways did they inspire you?
Farchild: Metal! I love metal! I wouldn’t categorize Farchild as metal at all, but I think I’ve been influenced by the genre. I just love gritty, angry, guttural music. A friend in middle school turned me onto Korn and something about the genre just resonated with me. It was pained. Twisted. Beautifully ferocious. I’m a big fan of Linkin Park, Slipknot, Rage Against the Machine, Otep, System of a Down, Tool. I love melodic metal: Metallica, Dream Theater, Lacuna Coil. My music is tends to be melodic and a bit on the dark side so that influence is there


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Housman’s Athletes bring literary punk rock from Phoenix, Arizona

July 14, 2008 at 3:54 am (Alternative Rock, Indie Rock, New Wave, Punk Rock) (, , , , , , , , )

Interview by Derek Jensen
Phoenix, Arizona is not the first place you think of for the latest cutting-edge punk rock, which might give the locals Housman’s Athletes an element of surprise in a now overcrowded and strangely competitive genre. Unlike many of their contemporaries, too, Housman’s Athletes are not some brainless brats; besides being more musically versatile than other young acts also proclaiming themselves to be punk, they are literary as well, taking their name from a poem by A.E. Housman.

Derek Jensen: I’m getting an Orange County vibe from Housman’s Athletes although you guys are from Arizona. Were you influenced by a lot of Southern California punk rock such as NOFX, Bad Religion, and Pennywise?


Chris Foley: Some of us more than others. I think we all, for the most part, had our phases, but I’d say that Eric [Epps] has a greater tie to that scene.


Eric Epps: Well, yeah. When I moved to Arizona from the Midwest suddenly there was all of this West Coast music available that was new to me and fast and fun. I love NOFX, Pulley, and so forth, but I feel music shifting with the coming up of bands like the Gaslight Anthem, A Wilhelm Scream, and the now-ubiquitous Against Me! Phoenix is often overlooked as a music town, but there is some great talent here.


DJ Foley: We are all influenced, to some degree by the So-Cal scene, and I’m sure anybody that has ever been to Warped Tour is, also. Our primary influences, however, range all over the board from bands like Neurosis and Amen to country acts like Waylon Jennings and alt-rocker Ryan Adams. We also listen to electronic artists like Assemblage 23. They just did a remix of our song, “Save Me, Destroy Me” for us, by the way.


Jensen: There’s no genre classification of “punk” noted in your CDBaby entry. Was this a conscious decision to remove yourselves from the current punk stereotypes?


Chris: I personally think that punk has become just that, a stereotype, and we don’t feel that we fit in it. Punk is first and foremost a state of mind, a way of living. It seems today that everyone has put the ethics of punk at bay and chosen to focus more on brand names and mohawks.


DJ: Well, we definitely don’t want to pigeonhole our sound, as it covers a wide spectrum of genres. I don’t think you could call songs like “Four Cheers For Innocence” or “Feet Dangling & The Color Purple” punk songs, necessarily. By no means are we ashamed to be included in the punk genre, but we’re a fucking rock band.


Jensen: Lyrically, Housman’s Athletes strike a more serious, thoughtful tone, less politically caustic than Bad Religion but certainly a group which can carry flags with Against Me! Has this songwriting for Housman’s Athletes always been this mature or did it simply evolve into that later, much like what Green Day did?


Eric: It always seems like bands are put into one of two camps: Either they write songs about girls, or they write political songs. We’re not afraid to do either, but we don’t want to feel tied to a specific subject matter. We tire of boring minutia. When I write, I write the things that are on my mind. For example, “Things No One Wants” is supposed to inspire people to do anything other than sit on a couch and stagnate, and I wrote “Four Cheers for Innocence” immediately after I finished reading the novel Atonement. I think our “mature” songwriting, as you call it, stems from the fact that we are educated guys that work to better ourselves each day.


Jensen: The band credits the video games “Guitar Hero” and “Dance Dance Revolution” as inspirations. Are you being serious?


Eric : Not really. I finished tracking vocals for our pre-production at 6 a.m. after 30 hours of straight recording, an hour before I got on a plane out of town, and I sent a text message to the band (they left a few hours before me) that said ‘Guitar Hero’ and ‘Dance, Dance, Revolution’ are having a hot baby and it is going to be our record.” From there, it just sorta stuck. We thought it was funny.


Jensen: The group is named after a poem by A.E. Housman. Do you see yourself quitting at the top of your game?


Chris: Not necessarily, but I would like us to be remembered at our best.


Eric: Yeah, in the poem, the “athlete” dies right at his prime, and as a result, he is revered by everyone that knew him. That’s a great alternative to fading away and becoming lame or whatever. We’re not trying to die or anything, we just want to find some sustainability when we hit our stride.


DJ: And it all depends on where the top of our game is. If it means we’ve accomplished everything we possibly can as a band, then yes. I’m not looking to be a part of the music business to half-ass it. I don’t think any of us are. I also don’t want to do what a lot of bands have done and give up too soon. Many groups I’ve loved over the years had a lot of life in them and parted ways just before creating what could have been their best stuff.






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Waxapples deliver summer fun on ‘Glitter & Grime’

June 18, 2008 at 5:08 am (Alternative Rock, Indie Rock) (, )

Artist: Waxapples

Album: Glitter & Grime

Rating: 9/10

Official Website: http://www.waxapples.com

Written by Sabrina Tinsay

What time is it?! The season is here, the weather is starting to shift, and the flowers already have finished blooming. It’s summer time!  There’s time for everything, especially time to chill and listen to catchy tunes while driving down a nearby freeway listening to Waxapples on a hot summer day. In the song “Look Out,” one may be reminded of past memories, encompassing a cherubic voice along with the inviting artistry of the band’s instrument playing is worthwhile. Listening to Waxapples may be a whiff of fresh air; in the song “Lucky Stars” and “Over Again,” the band features their ability to intertwine rock, grunge, and great guitar riffs. With fun tunes such as “Hollywood,” and “Tush,” what more could one want to listen to during
the summer?


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Wake Robin wake up sleepy Oregon indie scene with Pearl Jam passion and vintage R.E.M. quirks

May 30, 2008 at 5:47 am (Alternative Rock) (, , , , , , , )

Interview by Derek Jensen

Oregon has become the forgotten stepchild of the Pacific Northwest underground scene. Once blooming with possibilities because of the smash commercial attack of Everclear in the mid-’90s, nobody in the hipster network of college rock even namedrop Oregon anymore as a place of interest. Hopefully, Wake Robin will not be ignored like their peers. Brimming with the explosive passion of Pearl Jam but with the enigmatic hooks and stream-of-consciousness mystique of vintage R.E.M., Wake Robin cut through the haze of cookie-cutter indie blahs with something unique and exciting.

Derek Jensen: In the mid-’90s, Portland, Oregon was abuzz with breaking alternative acts such as Everclear. I’m sure there was an A&R invasion there at the time. How would you describe the underground scene in Oregon right now?

Joel Albrecht [drums]: Well, it’s sort of depressing or depressed right now. There are a whole lot of bands, many of them very good, and not a lot of people listening. Most of the clubs have music four or five nights a week so its hard to get people to come out and get interested in what you are doing even if you are the beat band in town.

Jensen: How did Wake Robin form?

Brody Lowe [vocals]: [I] had been on the search for local players to form a band. [I] created flyers and placed them in all of the local music and coffee shops. On [my] last music store stop (Valley Music), [I] started to talk to the owners Kurt and Guy about the flier I was posting up and they mentioned that the person standing next to them was a bass player. That was Mr. Matthew Slaughter. I played him one song, and Matt agreed to start something with him. After a few practices they decided to include a friend of Matt’s to play drums; his name was Steve (forgot his last name).They had practiced for a few months before [I] booked their very first show in 2003 for a local television program put on by Oregon State University called Locals Live. The reception was very nice, thus the Brody Lowe Band was formed, a moniker created out of necessity rather than imagination. During the course of BLB trying to find its sound, they also found a keyboard player (I can’t remember his name); however, the keyboard player came into the mix just as the drummer decided to move away. Thus [my] first practice happened to be the first practice with new drummer Joel Albrecht, who came in to fill in a spot because there were a couple gigs already booked. After playing a couple gigs Joel decided to stick around, the keyboard player said goodbye…more like he decided just not to show up to practice anymore. This “power-trio” played through out the years of 2004-05, doing well and selling as many albums as possible. Then around then end of 2005, we decided that it was time to have a fourth member. There was no goal as to what type of instrument it would be; piano was more preferable. After trying out a few unsuccessful prospects, they met Mr. Kris Gillmore, a recent New York transplant who was working at the brand new Hilton Hotel as a chef. Kris’s guitar styles and personality matched so well that he couldn’t leave even if he wanted to. After playing with Kris for more than a year, it was time to release a new album. This time the name “Brody Lowe Band” didn’t seem to fit the new sound that was created; they were more of a band than a singer/songwriter and a backup band. While recording the initial tracks and drum tracks at Don Ross Productions, they decided to undertake the task of finding a brand new name. Over 300 band names were shared between the band members.

Jensen: Where did the name come from?

Albrecht: Brody decided we needed a new name and we couldn’t come up with anything. We sent e-mails back and forth with lists of hundreds of names and every rehearsal we would try to decide on something, but nothing sounded right to all four of us. Something would sound good to some of us but not to the others or maybe three of us, but we wanted it to be a group decision so finally we hit on Wake Robin, and it just stuck. Do you want the whole answer? Like what is a Wake Robin? Well, that wouldn’t be very mysterious would it?

Jensen: What is the more happening indie scene currently – Portland or Eugene?

Albrecht: Between Portland and Eugene I would have to say Seattle.

Jensen: Describe the songwriting process in the group. How did the tracks on The Taker come about?

Albrecht: Brody brings in songs that are very close to being done and we proceed to mess ’em up. He seems to like what we do so we just keep doing it and it becomes more of a group effort all the time.


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First-time author reveals concert misadventures in ‘No Air Guitar Allowed’

May 14, 2008 at 7:17 am (Rock In Print) (, , , )

Interview by Derek Jensen

Author Steve Weinberger has written the ultimate primer for attending rock concerts, a giggle-a-page marathon called No Air Guitar Allowed. As its tongue-in-cheek title suggests, this is a rundown of every silly behavior or bizarre character you’ve ever encountered at a rock show, categorized and described in an achingly real yet wonderfully loving away. At a time when rock & roll is becoming way too serious for its own good (re: emo), Weinberger dares to poke fun at it all, including himself.

Derek Jensen: There are so many different characters in No Air Guitar Allowed, and just about every one of them I’ve seen through the years. How did you keep track of them all? It seems you got all of the bases covered.

Weinberger: When I think about certain shows, the characters I saw at those shows always seem to come back to me. I would stand back before and during the intermission and just watch people. The way they dressed, talked, acted…it became an obsession almost. Classic rock tended to really bring people out of the closet along with some awful clothes. Women trying to get into the same outfits they wore 20 years ago and guys wearing that to tight tour shirt.

Jensen: What have you written prior to No Air Guitar Allowed?

Weinberger: This is my first attempt at a complete book. I have nothing written to report so you can pretty much call me a first-time author. I really wrote this book with a screenplay in mind. I can picture a Christopher Guest type mockumentary.

Jensen: You’re a very funny man but your writing has a pretty sarcastic undertow that could only come from someone who is also well-read. Who are your influences as a writer?

Weinberger: It is more TV and film that has influenced me the most as a writer more than say books. Seinfeld is my favorite show of all time along with The Office, King of Queens, Family Guy, and a few others. Christopher Guest movies obviously, Woody Allen, and Napolean Dynamite are some other people and films I enjoy. I also get good comedy from dramatic pieces as well.

Jensen: What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done at a concert? Actually, for the enjoyment of our readers, confess a couple.

Weinberger: Actually, I am pretty well-behaved at shows. I did almost get in a fight because I snuck down and sat in front of people who refused to stand at a Fleetwood Mac show. I said,”This is a concert. How can you sit down while Lindsey Buckingham is tearing it up.” He said, “Dude, those are not even your seats.” I will get you kicked out of here right now.” We sat down! One time I spilled a beer on some huge guy’s girlfriend and then ran never to be found again. I really was not controversial at many shows.

Jensen: Of all the characters in No Air Guitar Allowed, who is the most like you?

Weinberger: As boring as this sounds, I am like the Time Cop. I have been all the other characters at least one time or another, but I hate to be late at a show. I get real tense and feel like I missed the rhythm of the night. I need to camp out early, see the people, digest them, and get a feel of what could happen. Walking in late or missing part of the headliner kills me! To me, it is like walking into a movie and missing the guy getting killed in the beginning.


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An Interview with DOTMIG

April 18, 2008 at 2:33 am (Alternative Rock) (, , , , , )

Written by Kyrby Raine

Believe it: One of the most intoxicating, absolutely infectious albums of the year is the beer-splashed and crazily versatile Sexy-N-Lean from DOTMIG, otherwise known as New Yorker Steven A. Mignoli. Leap-frogging from heavy metal to blues to Americana, Sexy-N-Lean reinvents the rock & roll wheel, bravely shifting musical styles without jarring the listener but instead reeling us in for a night of non-stop entertainment. DOTMIG recently spoke to me about his career and emotionally rejuvenating CD.

Kyrby Raine: What does DOTMIG mean?

DOTMIG: A wall street term I consider as  hot commodity.
Raine: Or represent?
DOTMIG: [And] will develop into a hedge fund.
Raine: Your music is incredibly eclectic, shifting from one genre to another. Where does this versatility originate from?
DOTMIG: I went to a lot of concerts; my girlfriend’s father owned a big ticket agency.
She had every venue in the tri-state area for free and kick-ass seats for  every show.
My zodiac sign of Sagittarius plays a large part in my versatility. Always going on impulse and not looking over my shoulder enough. When I was hanging out with my friends I grew up with, it was classic rock: the Rolling Stones, the WhoLed Zeppelin. Then came Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Posion, etc. But with chicks it was dance, disco, Bryan Adams, Bruce Springsteen. I couldn’t help it. I just love all types of music. But back then, you don’t tell your friends you like club music unless they were Hispanic. My high school was made up predominately of Cuban descent. So club music was born, and DOTMIG likes to dance.
Raine: How has the music scene in new york influenced your work?
DOTMIG: Not so much the music scene. My style is unique and fueled by New York City, but not influenced by other bands in the area. I’m not bragging at all. Talent is everywhere. It depends on how you market your product. Big city big dream living in the mecca, a metropolis of art and culture. Creatively influenced is the easy part. Getting published is the hard part.
Raine: What songs on Sexy-N-Lean have the most meaning for you?
DOTMIG: OK, let’s start with anger management. “Back With A Vengeance” gave me a chance to really express how I was feeling inside. I had so much anger built up and frustration. So I started the first verse with my mom and my sibling and blasted them in the lyrics. Followed by the pre-chorus and then the hook. “Back With A Vengeance” is my anthem to the music industry as well. I’m here to stay. “Going to the Top” has always been my motto: If you  want the best in life, you have to earn it – there’s no free rides. I’m still paying for mine. I work real hard in every project I start so “Going To The Top” is where I plan to be. “Dive Bar” has a comical theme and a business background I grew up in. My dad took me to work at a young age in the beverage industry, which is still owned and operated by my family. We have Dive Bar accounts in downtown Jersey City, and I have been to every one of them since the age 21.
Raine: There seems to be an interesting tale behind “She’s My Muse.” Who — or what — is it about?
DOTMIG: This is my tale of who my muse was?  I met a girl from California named Diana who believed in me. I was not in the music industry when we met. I was producing a cable commercial for the family business. Hoboken Beer and Soda outlet in Hoboken, New Jersey. Diana helped with the script, and we incorporated a rock scene. She insisted for me to play the lead. It went well and gave me confidence. Diana was by my side for the next four years, and DOTMIG was born.

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Mike Press captures poetic songcraft of Jeff Tweedy with Beck’s quirks

March 27, 2008 at 7:07 am (Adult Album Alternative, Indie Rock) (, , , , , , , )

Derek’s New Music Bin

Artist: Mike Press

Album: Keep Your Head

Rating: 9/10

Official Website: http://www.mikepress.com

Written by Derek Jensen

Singer/songwriter Mike Press casually tosses out more great lines than most of his peers are barely able to piece together. Keep Your Head is basically moments of genius stitched together. It’s not a smooth ride, certainly, and it took me repeated listenings to appreciate Press’ style in full. In fact, that is the best way to experience this record, in one large gulp, over and over again, letting Press’ rambling, off-the-cuff observations and desert-dry wit into your subconscious.

“Our love was a train wreck in the stars,” Press sings on “Tears of Goodbye (Wayward People’s Hearts),” recalling the poetic imagery of Jeff Tweedy of Wilco. Obviously, Press is fan of the Americana segment of the indie-rock population; however, he isn’t too enamored of it in the sense that he is afraid of reaching beyond it. In fact, the influence of Beck and his stream-of-consciousness wordplay is just as pronounced here as the traditional roots-rock elements found in “Short Supplies” and “Taboo.”

I never heard of some of the groups – Drunken Boat, Sticky, etc – that Press used to be in so I’m curious as to how his work has progressed through the years. He certainly has something going for him here.

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The Libertines US offer flashback of pre-Nirvana alternative rock

March 7, 2008 at 7:51 am (Alternative Rock, Indie Rock, New Wave) (, , , , , , )

Derek’s New Music Bin

Artist: The Libertines US

Album: Greatest Hits

Rating: 8/10

Official Website: http://www.thelibertines.us

Written by Derek Jensen

It may be hard for those who didn’t discover alternative rock until Nirvana or, God forbid, emo, but there was a period of time when just about everybody in the indie scene wanted to be R.E.M. Worshipped by Rolling Stone magazine and the crowned princes of campus stations worldwide, R.E.M. ruled the underground for nearly a decade before their inevitable mainstream breakthrough. You need to read that history lesson to fully understand the Libertines US.

With their continually ringing guitars and enigmatic lyrics (the most straightforward is probably “Everybody Wants to Be My Sister,” which says it all), the Libertines US were among the best of the R.E.M.-alikes. Unfortunately for them, they weren’t like R.E.M. enough. While most R.E.M. clones settled into the same jingle-jangle-jingle-jangle format track for track, the Libertines US skidded in other directions like Goth punk rockabilly (“Voices from the Past”) to neo-psychedelia (the Church-ish “Firetruck”) to, well, proto-grunge (“300 Moons”). However, what may have seemed confusing two decades ago fits perfectly within the electic jukebox of my iPod. Like the Velvet Underground, the Libertines US were way ahead of their time. My only problem with Greatest Hits is that it seems to toss in everything the group has recorded, and not all of it clicks for me. Nevertheless, the many tracks that do – more than half of this CD – make this a must-buy. Get it while it’s still in print.

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Wolff could be rock’s first tuba hero

March 5, 2008 at 8:46 pm (Electronica, Industrial) (, , , , , )

Derek’s New Music Bin

Artist: Wolff

Album: Addition by Subtraction

Rating: 9/10

Official Website: http://www.wolffandtuba.com

Written by Derek Jensen

The day that the tuba becomes a primary instrument in rock & roll is when you know progress has finally been made, that the cutting edge has been sharpened once again. Wolff is seriously ahead of the pack. While industrialists like Nine Inch Nails don’t know where to go anymore, Wolff has clipped on guitar pedals to his tuba and is taking us to sonic terrain previously unheard, at least from my ears. The title cut is oppressive and claustrophobic, recalling Dessau and Ministry and other dark, machine-like European bands from the late ’80s to the early ’90s. However, those acts relied mainly on synthesizers and drum machines to pull off those cyborg effects, not a tuba. “What I See” and “Screaming Tuba” will leave you similarly bruised.

Wolff never loses momentum or his sense of rhythm; Addition by Subtraction moves along fairly quickly and always keeping our interest. Not everything is grim, either. “Broken Words” is actually danceable. Too weird for you? Maybe, but perhaps not. I was actually surprised at how melodic this record turned out to be. It’s not too far off from the experimental sides of Depeche Mode and New Order.

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