Review: A.M. Vibe "Capricorno" (Self Released) by Dave Cromwell
It was my good fortune to get hold of a copy of the band A.M. Vibe’s latest release, titled ‘Capricorno’. For the uninitiated, A.M. Vibe are a three piece based in San Diego, California.
Their roots, however, look as much to the UK (with England being their most well-known country) as anything produced on the left coast of the USA. Quite simply put, Capricorno is a flawless collection of 12 songs that flow perfectly from one to the next.
The opening track, “Superstar” sets the immediate tone and mood. “I saw you walkin’” sings vocalist, guitarist and principal songwriter Lisah Nicholson. Against a clean, lean strummed guitar, with bass and drums immediately locked in to drive the groove along. The song is powerful as is builds from soft to a rising passion. With lyrics that hint at alternate relationships (“wonder if you’ll tell her, all of the truth, will she ever hear about, me and you”). The bridges are big and bold, with powerful hooks that immediately grab you. “Come and rest your bones, right by my side,” coos Lisah. “I’ll look after you, I always do”. Who can resist such an offer?
The second track “Open Road” begins with that clean driving single-guitar sound that brings to my mind what Sonic Youth used on their early albums (pre-distortion). Lisah’s vocals are sung here with the cheery/enthusiastic style of Kim Deal on the more uptempo Breeders (and Pixies) songs. “Riding in your car, everything seems really far, I don’t even care, just get me away from here” is the impassioned plea.
The drums and bass join in and Lisah continues, “I want to get out of here, do as you see fit, I don’t really give a shit, this that those and these, there’s something for everybody’s needs, I’m not understanding all this greed.” Suddenly the voice is shifted and processed, to give the impression of wind-whispered lips pressed against your ears “But there’s an open road ahead, go that way again.”
Lisah continues, “could it be” (rising step vocal line – as in ‘1 – 2 – 3’) “you don’t see that thing you need (things you need)” At this point the guitars have morphed into another Sonic Youth style – the more familiar “wall of bees” sound. “Leave it out, it to me is nothing else (nothing else)”
At this point there’s a big power chord break – almost bombastic, metal-superstar break – then thunder driving guitar chords and piston pumping tom-tom fueled drumming. Lisah now sings – “Dis – a - pear -- everything is so unclear (so unclear) “Scream and shout – silence hears you come out (coming out)!” It ends brilliantly on that sonic and emotional peak!
Following that is “Hold On” which rises out of feedback and distorted guitar intros to quickly deliver a forceful power chord - followed by snaredrum roll leading off a full band rhythm propulsion. Bassist Michael Porter and drummer Mark Vernon are particularly masterful in blocking out a big time rock progression. “Hold on to something, let go of nothing,” Lisah implores. “Freedom for someone” is then sung in a dual harmony. More hooky guitar melody lines soar over clean drums and cymbal patterns. With vocals out of the way, the song then veers off into unexpected (but always welcome) instrumental coda that features more emphatic stuttering drum breakdowns, then to a quiet, bass guitar driven plateau with undistorted (then distorted) guitar stylings over top. The clean ride cymbal and snare drum returns as some sort of otherworldly “woosh” sound pads the landscape. Soon to be joined by guitar chords blocking out the melodic pattern once more. It rises higher and higher in sonic intensity. A lovely passage that ultimately ends the song in an gentle trip to outerspace.
The fourth cut of this collection goes by the simple (and somewhat mysterious) title of “V”. Two bass guitar notes that alternate with a tambourine hit begin this one, as dreamy guitar chords glide over top. The hooky melody line is introduced, which consists of an irresistible bended guitar note. “Hold the wings - of the birds and the bees - from the top of the trees - what do you see love?”, sings Lisah. These alternating vocal lines are recorded with a unique technique where the vocalist clearly has sung them at different times - - creating a charming point-counterpoint style giving the impression the vocalist is singing a “duet” with themselves. “Make them understand, make them understand this please!” Lisah sings with both whimsy and charm. Rubbery, undistorted guitar licks ride over top of it all, adding solid musical weight to the overall cheery Sunday afternoon feel.
“Don’t Wanna Stay” changes musical direction, as the feel is more “bluesy” with lyrics that reveal unresolved struggles. “Pushing on a brick wall, it’s not moving - no one should ever feel like this.” The rhythm is heavy and forceful, while guitar melody cries out in tortured fashion. “I ran and I fell, and its harder than hell to breathe,” Lisah shouts out. “Swimming up this river, feels like drowning” the distressed tale continues. Its sad, yet beautiful in all its sonic glory.
As the title would suggest, “Lullabye” tones down the overall mood, creating a more relaxed groove consisting of alternate percussion sounds against a classic velvet underground two-chord progression. “In masses, we stand alone” is the catchphrase that resonates as the song continues to swell and build. With the passion and upward movement that brings to mind The Jesus & Mary Chain’s “Some Candy Talking” Lisah continues to layer reverberated guitar and backing vocals that lift the song to its ultimate denouement.
“BMF” switches gears again, as this is clearly their big, fuzzed-out rave-up song. “Who do you wanna be? You wanna be like me? I’ll show you lots of love - all the things in heaven above,” Lisah sings. “And if you bring me down - baby, baby, baby what’s that sound!” The rhythm is just a straight on buzz saw, with slashing cymbals, throbbing bass guitar notes, and full fuzz pedal rawk guitar creating a wall of sound.
The next track is, in my opinion, the best one on the record. “Simple Disaster” begins with gentle reverse-looped guitar sounds that are quickly matched with mystical tom tom drums and brushes-on-snare percussion. The bass guitar enters moody and deep. “All alone in this sea,” Lisah whispers “nothing here but you and me” she promises. Then right to the hook - “Oooh. It’s coming to you, maybe right through you, to check you out” as the pulse gets stronger and more pronounced. “Ooooh - Its coming faster - simple disaster - to take you out”. Back to the moody interlude before the story continues. “Is this your life?”, Lisah asks. “A thousands days, a million lies,” is the conclusion. Back to that big, beautiful hook. The end out is nothing short of epic.
"Black Dogs” initially finds Lisah’s voice accompanied by a single acoustic guitar as it begins. “Take all the bad news and get out of town,” she sings. Soon the full band and full on production arrives as we’re told the tale of how “everyone feels the loss and pain”. A nice sprinkling of organ is present, as an almost JAMC “Stoned and Dethroned” era semi-acoustic feel is established. The layers of vocals on the end-out is nothing short of pure lushness. “Down, down, down - too far” Sleighbells begin to chime and the nod to Phil Spector is complete.
“Countdown” sounds to my ears, like a direct decendent of the music Billy Corgan made with his one-off band Zwan. No surprises then, when I discovered A.M Vibe actually did shows with them. Clearly this is a nod and wink to those days. It’s a beautiful song where the “fool on the hill” lyrical theme is taken and twisted just when you think you might know where its going. This song is actually about how the “suicide solution” is nothing more than “counting backwards”. Lisah’s vocals have never sounded so sweet, passionate or emotional than on this very track. Of particular interest is the (again) end-out. She really runs with it here. “Oooh, yeah” over and over - “almost there” I swear I almost get there too, every time I hear this.
“Sea Song” is a gentle lullaby, where vocals are paired against a lightly strummed guitar and distant reverberation. A clever vocal reference to the classic Beach Boys song “don’t worry baby” is imbedded into its coda.
The album concludes with the track “Jaded”, which to my ears, appears to be yet-another homage to one of the great bands of the 1990’s - The Sundays. Breaking from the 4/4 time signature mold, this song features the waltz-like pattern of 3’s. A lovely and somewhat lengthy instrumental intro that leads to Lisah singing, not so much actual verses, but more of echo-y and overlaid vocal impressions, or cut-ups of lyrics. That’s not to say there isn’t a strong buildup to a chorus-like structure. But clearly this is more of a stream-of-conscience, improvisational-style songwriting. “This cannot be real” is uttered. Maybe not the “voices in your head” - but this amazing collection of songs most certainly is.
This is a beautiful record that needs to be heard by anyone who truly cares about music.
Dave Cromwell has reviewed PSR's release "Keepsake" from Linda Draper read the review here
Mark Crozer (Jesus & Mary Chain/International Jetsetters)New
York City Interview
Prior to The Jesus &
Mary Chain’s second New York show (May 2007)in nearly a decade, Dave Cromwell
and Rob Dobbs sat down with the bands rhythm guitarist Mark Crozer,
for a casual interview in a local food and beverage establishment. The place was
The Village Pourhouse, located directly across the street from Webster Hall, where
the band would be playing that evening.
Photos courtesy of Rose Mortem & myspace.com/internationaljetsetters
Cromwell: Thanks for coming out, Mark.
Mark Crozer: Thank you for the invitation.
DC: So after last night’s show you went out, or did you do your partying at the hotel?
MC: We went down to a place – that way (points finger out wide picture window, down 11th street). A pub that used to be a club, but I can’t remember what it was called.
DC: Who all went?
MC: Everybody apart from Jim. And then a load of people followed us on down. We went in there and watched the Letterman show.
DC: Your appearance was on?
MC: Yes, it was on.
DC: No way. We were misinformed. They said it wasn’t going to be on until the 23rd (the following night).
MC: I was misinformed. Our manager told us it was going to be on the 23rd, but then they ran it last night. I didn’t get a chance to tell anybody.
Rob Dobbs: It was the new song?
MC: Yes. It sounded really good actually.
RD: How many times did you get the practice the new song before the Glasshouse show? I had heard on Jones’ Jukebox that it wasn’t really practiced.
MC: I think they’re underplaying it. We did practice quite a bit. We had two weeks straight, rehearsing in London, at the end of February, and beginning of March, when William came over to London.
RD: Did the new song just fall into place?
MC: Yeah, yeah. William had a demo of it – a song that he wrote. Actually he said he wrote it for Jim. As a sort of a bridgebuilding song. Which is really quite cool. Then we played it and yeah, it sounded really good.
DC: We think it’s great. It fits right in there with the rest of the set.
RD: The name of the tune – “All Things Must Pass” –matches the feel the song.
MC: I think it’s a really good song.
RD: Is it going to be on the new album?
MC: I certainly hope so.
RD: I also hear you have your own band.
MC: Yes, I’ve got my own band as well.
RD: What’s the name of it?
MC: I decided to call it “International Jetsetters”. Sort of ironic.
RD: And you’ve got Phil King in there?
MC: No, Loz Colbert. And another guy, a friend of mine from back home playing bass.
RD: So, who’s singing?
MC: Me. There’s one song I’ve got up on MySpace.
RD: I’ve heard that one. It’s good.
DC: Are you a London guy?
MC: No I live – do you know England very well?
DC: I know of it. I have a lot of friends in England.
MC: Well I live outside of Oxford, which is about an hour north of London.
DC: Right. But only an hour north, and not far north like Manchester or Yorkshire or anything like that. Because you sound like you’ve got a London bred accent. MC: Well, I’ve lived all over. I actually lived in Canada for ten years.
DC: Canada? What part?
MC: I lived in Montreal and Vancouver.
DC: Nice. Both coasts.
MC: This is the first time I’ve been to New York, and it kind of reminds me of Montreal.
DC: So, how long have you been at this?
MC: “I’ve been playing music forever. I guess it goes back to being a musician when I was in Canada . I played music out there – came back to the UK 4 years ago. I played bass with a Canadian band on tour in the UK . I booked a tour for them and they said you should book other Canadian acts in the UK . There are loads of people wanting to come over here. So I started doing that. I worked with a band from eastern Canada called The Heavy Blinkers. They had a record label in the UK , just up from where I live – Transistor Records. So I met up with the Record Label guys and started booking shows for Jim, initially. Then went from that, to going along and being the guitar tech. Then it was after a show Brighton – we were just talking – me, Phil, Jim and Jim’s wife – about the band – he wanted to get a band and I said ‘yes you should’ – ‘and I’ll play bass’ [Laughter] ‘and I’ll get a drummer. I know a really, really good drummer.’
DC: That was Loz?
MC: Yeah. I actually didn’t know him at all. But I had been a big fan of Ride and I knew he liked the JAMC, so I though that could happen.
DC: You knew it was an easy sell.
RD: So you were responsible for all of this.
MC: Well I wouldn’t say “responsible”.
MC: I played a part.
RD: Everyone is saying he’s the best drummer.
MC: Yes, he is.
RD: I mean, borderline, I say he has four arms.
MC: You say what?
RD: I say he has four arms. I have to double check every time. I send him e-mails asking ‘how many arms do you have?’
MC: So, then when Loz came along we just sort of jammed together.
DC: did you guys jam in a studio? Or at Jim’s house?
MC: In a rehearsal space. We played through some songs like “Song For A Secret” and “Dead End Kids”.
RD: “Dead End Kids” is great. I have that single.
MC: We recorded that at my home studio.
RD: Oh, really?
MC: We just did it one day. They’re both really fantastic songwriters. [William & Jim]
RD: They don’t really use MySpace enough.
DC: Actually, it’s starting to blow up right now. All of the sudden in the last month. Right when they announced the Coachella appearance.
RD: And the Glasshouse gig. The amount of messages I got off of that video I put up there was huge. That’s when I realized, after you guys did Coachella – when you did “Reverence” – right there – a whole new generation of fans – just from that one song. Because everyone was messaging me - I didn’t know these people. They were asking “what was that last song the band did?”
MC: Yeah, that one went great last night.
DC: Where did you stay for the Coachella show?
MC: The Hyatt right opposite the House of Blues
RD: I think that’s where Niina was staying. You know, the one who runs the message board for the band?
MC: Yes, of course.
RD: I think that’s where she was staying at that time.
MC: Well, I bumped into Trev and all that bunch of people at the hotel when they were standing there. He was almost in shock to see me.
RD: The House of Blues?
MC: Well, right in that area – when we did Coachella.
RD: Yeah, you see some people bumped into Jim, I think when he posted that picture on his page. Jim has a big giant smile on his face. Which is kind of weird as I expected him to give the snarl.
MC: They have this image of being bad boys and really mean, but they’re not really like that at all. That’s just what it comes across as
DC: That’s how their art comes out.
RD: So, are you just going to do one song, possibly with the Planting Seeds Records people? Or will there be a single and an album?
MC: I don’t know about all that. Its just the compilation were looking at right now.
RD: I mean in the long run.
MC: Yeah, it would be great. I’ve already done two albums on my own. They’re very different than what I do now. I’m planning on doing another one, with this band. So yeah, if anyone is interested I’d be happy to put it out.
DC: I see. You’d be willing to entertain all offers.
RD: What do you think about New York in general?
MC: It’s great. I really like it a lot, actually?
RD: How about California, when you were there. First time?
MC: Yeah, first time too. It’s so different from here. I actually prefer New York.
DC: What did you think of the crowd and audience for the shows here?
MC: I was sort of thinking people would be a bit more relaxed and a bit more calm than they were.
RD: If you noticed, there were people in their 50’s and then a lot of 18 year olds too.
MC: I saw quite a bit of age range, yeah. And it didn’t seem like it was mostly men. Seemed like it was 50-50, boys to girls.
RD: If you had three great concerts in any era you wanted to see, what would they be?
MC: Any era?
RD: Any era, any time, living or dead.
MC: Well, I’m a huge fan of The Beatles, so I would have loved to have seen them at any point.
RD: Two more. Anybody. Beethoven – Caveman, whatever. [Laughter]
DC: Cavemen can rock.
MC: I’d like to have seen Nirvana.
DC: Who wouldn’t want to have seen one of these shows?
RD: I actually saw them around ’90-91.
MC: Would have been great to see them right as they were breaking out.
DC: Yeah, the energy of those shows must have been great.
RD: So, your third choice?
MC: I dunno? Bob Dylan back in the beginning.
DC: Yes. Here in New York city in a coffee house. That would have been great to see.
MC: I can think of a hundred like that. To be there at the beginning when someone wasn’t big and a huge star. But just when they were starting out.
RD: If you could be in one band, put it that way – would it be The Beatles?
MC: That would be something, but I’m very happy being in THIS band.
RD: I know man, anybody would want to be in The Jesus & Mary Chain. We heard a rumor that Bobby Gillespie wanted to come back in. Was that true?
MC: Well he was interviewed on a website where he said if they asked him to rejoin he would have.
DC: He’s moved on so much anyway. He’s got his own band now.
MC: It would be difficult really – I think they would find it difficult to sacrifice Loz. (To which we all nodded our heads in agreement.)
At this point, Mark and their road manager Hugo indicated that they had to meet someone further downtown, before they had to come back and do the show. We bid our farewell’s, and began preparing ourselves for that night’s show.
To read all about what transpired at that show (and the previous night) read here:
To read the Parasites & Sycophants Mark Crozer Interview visit this link:
Planting Seeds Meets
PSR: Welcome Brian, thanks for taking a quick time out for this Q&A
BW: It's my pleasure. You look nice.
PSR: Thanks Brian, you're lookin' hip yourself! As a general introduction to our audience let's get to know The Voyces a bit. How long have The Voyces been performing and recording?
BW: How long have we been performing and recording. This is kind of tricky to answer. The Voyces have historically been more of a concept than an actual band. My old singing partner Laurel Hoffman and I started calling ourselves The Voyces in 1999 and about 20 people have been "in" The Voyces since then. I've been the mainstay. However, I think it's safe to say that the people I'm playing with now are here to stay. I hope so, anyway. Who knows though, what with the cruel hands of father time and all.
PSR: Who came up with the moniker The Voyces? Did the choosing of your bands name subconsciously try to follow in the footsteps of such classic 60’s bands as The Beatles, The Byrds, or even The Monkees?
BW: Oh, no. Not at all. The name came from the song 'The Voice' by The Moodly Blues. I'm not a fan really, but I love that song. I was staring at the record and I was thinking about how no one has ever really called themselves the voices. No one I'd heard of, anyway. So we were The Voices. Then we learned that there were some bands called The Voices. As a joke, we added a 'y.' It looked so sexy in the font we were playing with that we kept it. It was a toss up between The Voyces or The Happy Trolley. We might have made a mistake.
PSR: In your bio it states the band is originally from California – what part? What prompted the move to the east coast (New York City)?
BW: Southern California. Little town called Newbury Park. We moved to New York because we heard the weather was better.
PSR: From your press sheet/bio it appears you and vocalist Laurel Hoffman were the core of the Voyces along with previous bands Zelig and Majority DOG. Was it the classic reason of musical differences that led to her departure?
BW: All I will say is I hope she is singing, wherever she is.
PSR: Who are a few of your favorite artists and who would you say your biggest influence(s) are?
BW: The Eagles, Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, Peter Gabriel, Led Zeppelin and Simon and Garfunkel, to name a few. They are also my greatest influences. There are lots. The Darkness.
PSR: What was the first record you can remember buying with your own money?
"Sweet Talkin' Woman" by Electric Light Orchestra. It was a pink 45. I was 6. I still have it. I still love it.
PSR: We've noticed you are part of NYC's famed Antifolk scene, which features an eclectic array of artists: Adam Green (Rough Trade), Kimya Dawson (K records), Lach, Regina Spektor (now on Sire Records), Jeff Lewis (Rough Trade) and fellow PSR labelmate Linda Draper among others. How did the Voyces brand of melodic California folk/pop/rock get involved with the Sidewalk Cafe scene?
BW: When we first came to New York City, we started playing at the open mic there at The Sidewalk Cafe. They let anyone in that place.
PSR: Speaking of singer/songwriter Linda Draper – She was initially the one who brought us to your attention. A few years ago she was a member briefly of the Voyces. How did you meet her? She has been spotted singing onstage at various Voyces live dates and has even been appearing in press photos. Are there plans for her to rejoin the group in the future?
BW: She was kicking around at the same venues when she first came to New York. I went to one of her shows and she just blew me away. We sing together sometimes but there are no plans for her to re-join the group. She certainly doesn't need us.
PSR: With what you know of Planting Seeds - how do you think you fit in with the rest of the roster?
BW: How do we fit in....hmmm....well, have you ever seen an egg and how it fits into an egg carton?
PSR: In the span of several years you have built an impressive catalog to date - most notably your 2003 album "The Angels of Fun," 2006's PSR Tribute To Rick Nelson "Easy To Be Free", and your appearance on Jack Johnson's Original Motion Picture Soundtrack "Thicker Than Water." How did that affiliation with Jack Johnson come about?
BW: Actually, someone saw us playing at a little cafe in Newbury Park. They said, "can we put your music in a movie?" We said, "why, yes." We didn't know it would turn into anything like it did. Jack Johnson is doing pretty well, I'd say. And to think we only said yes to that gig because we got free hamburgers afterwards.
PSR: Staying with the topic of Motion Pictures - recently a couple of tracks from “The Angels Of Fun” - “Rebby’s Song” and “Theater Of Laughter” have surfaced on “National Lampoon’s Adam & Eve” - How did that pairing come together?
BW: I think it was just a carma thing. I adore those Vacation movies. Our friend from the Antifolk scene, Grey Revell, is in that movie, too. Hi Grey.
PSR: You are currently recording tracks for your new LP - working title “Kissing Like It’s Love” – We’ve already previewed the excellent track “Top Of My Lungs” - will the LP fall in the same vein as the work created on “The Angels Of Fun”? or will the CD go for an altogether different direction?
BW: I'm not sure. I mean, I had no idea how The Angels Of Fun was going to turn out. Originally it was a really weird and heavy record. It wound up being very folk oriented. You can't plan it. I guess you'll have to wait and see, like me. I will say that right now it's tasting like a Dave Brubeck/Black Sabbath crepe with a teaspoon of Cat Stevens.
PSR: From our understanding you will be writing, producing, and performing the entire record on your own? Will there be any involvement from outside musicians? We caught the Voyces live a few months ago and must say the live band rocked!
BW: It started with me playing everything because there really wasn't a band. But, like I said, there is a group now and they will be involved. They are spectactlar ~ all of them. Aren't they? I mean, Steve Dawson? His guitar playing? Please.
PSR: Are there plans to tour in support of your new LP due out in 2007?
BW: You'll be the first to know, babe. Literally. And you'll tell me.
PSR: We're definately working on it - hopefully all will pan out for all! We'll keep you posted!
PSR: Apart from being in a world class rock band - like most indie artist, do you have a day job?
BW: When we are not on stage somewhere our time is entirely taken up with thankless chores such as constantly having to explain to our butlers and maids how we prefer things cleaned, organized and cooked to our specifications.
PSR: A question we like to ask from fellow artists: What would you call your desert island discs - Your TOP 5 or 10 LP's of ALL TIME?
Queen ~ A Night At The Opera.
Judas Priest ~ Screaming For Vengance
Pink Floyd ~ Wish You Were Here
Electric Light Orchestra ~ El Dorado
Led Zeppelin ~ Physical Graffitti
PSR: And what's this we hear about you being a former Los Angeles Dodgers fan ca. late 70's/80's - I myself am a life long Dodgers fan - You are a die hard NY Mets fan? If the Dodgers and Mets meet in the NL Pennant any chance you'd root for old BLUE?
BW: I root for The Dodgers unless they are playing against my Mets.
PSR: Well thats a good thing to hear! Hopefully LA will get to the post season. Again Brian thanks for chattin, we look forward to all new Voyces projects.
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