It’s been a while since I’ve come to press with the Five Bands You Should Know, but with good reason. I wanted this piece to be more than just some monthly thing I generated; I wanted it to have real presence, to matter in a music world that largely doesn’t matter anymore. It took a few months for me to find five bands that I was so incredibly amped on that I was forced to share them with you. These are different bands, musically, texturally and not all of them are still around. Regardless, I felt you should know them and, more importantly, their music.
Sounds Like: Drum loop DJs on acid while playing with synths and soundscapes
For Fans Of: Ambient Weirdness
Label: IAMSOUND Records
Discography: EPs: Yes I Smoke Crack, Water LPs: King Of Night
The band has elements of noise, ethereal synth soundscapes and bad rapping. Yep, you read that right, bad rapping. The rapping is hidden beneath voice distortion and general sound manipulation so it comes off more as the ramblings of a crazy man put to drug fueled drum loops. To call Salem atmospheric would be an understatement, yet their not exactly experimental. They straddle a line between complete creative honesty and crafted image.
Those in-between spaces contain some of the most interesting and wonderful music I’ve heard in a long time. It’s like the soundtrack to Tron and Blade Runner as performed by John Carpenter during his Assault On Precinct 12 phase. Yes Salem gets monotonous and yes the band pushes the face of pretention to the breaking point. That being said, they’re still making really interesting music.
Solo Career: 2010
Sounds Like: Psychedelic singer/songwriter with a melancholy acoustic vibe
For Fans Of: Roky Erickson, Bob Mould, Iron & Wine, Devendra Banhart
Label: Tee Pee Records
Discography: LPs: Jason Simon
Hailing from D.C., Jason Simon is best known as the vocalist for psychedelic/stoner band Dead Meadow. In his first solo outing, Simon calls upon that love of psychedelic rock but filters it through a low–fi acoustic sound. This is honest singer/songwriter work at its absolute finest. Simon’s voice resonates with a world-weary melancholy that also calls in hints of Tom Petty and Devendra Banhart. His self-titled debut album exists in the grey area between folk and blues. It’s hard to pump out a unique sound with this genre but Simon does it in spades.
The production on the album is minimal, but without resorting to cliché “indie” ideas on it. Simon feels like he’s right beside you, singing his heart out. I also love how Simon busts out into these guitar parts that move outside what he’s doing without losing the style. It’s clear from this record that the roads of musical expression for Jason Simon to walk are limitless.
THE BUDOS BAND
Sounds Like: Afro-Funk, Latin, Soul, World Beat and African Tribal
For Fans Of: The Lafayette Afro Rock Band, The Bamboos, Booker T & The M.G.’s, Seventies Blaxploitation Soundtracks,
Label: Daptone Records
Discography: EPs: The Budos Band EP, LPs: The Budos Band I, The Budos Band II, The Budos Band III
With members stretching anywhere from ten to thirteen in number, The Budos Band are one of the best instrumental bands in a long time. Combining elements of Afro-Funk, Jazz, Latin Swing, Rock, Soul, and World Music, The Budos Band have created a sound that is nostalgically unique. At the same time you can feel a true seventies vibe to what they do, The Budos Band drop some kind of other influence in there that turns the song on it’s ear. Groovy rhythms mix with off time stuff, soulful horns blow through and funk keyboards hold everything together. What The Budos Band does is so intricate, so tight, that you never miss the vocals.
To use a bad pun, lots of people fake the funk. Not The Budos Band. These guys are as real deal as it gets, even if they do hail from Staten Island, not exactly the funk capitol of the world. There is no real “leader” of The Budos Band because that’s not what the band is about. What’s happening here is some of the best in mixing genres and styles into a world-class party. The Budos Band not only play the funk, they bring it.
Sounds Like: Electronic Drone Ambient
For Fans Of: Worm Is Green, This Mortal Coil, Coil,
Label: Editions Mego
Putting an end to the idea that nothing good comes out of Cleveland, I give you Emeralds. This is a band that focuses on instrumental drone and Electronica. At times artsy and buoyant, sometimes despondent and serious, Emeralds combine an obvious love of minimalism with some great songwriting. What Emeralds does has a structure to it, a quiet beauty that washes over you. It’s like sitting inside a car during a rainstorm, oddly calming while constantly changing shape and strength. Don’t get me wrong, this is synth pop Electronica stuff to the fullest, but Emeralds keeps it interesting with that intangible talent that makes all great bands what they are.
With over forty recordings to their credit, Emeralds is constantly reinventing their sound. The band’s newest work comes across like love themes for Daleks or the background music to an informative DVD explaining time travel and trips through other dimensions. Emeralds use a lot of colors and textures in what they do. I don’t say that to be pretentious (well, maybe a little) but because it’s true. If you shut your eyes you can see Emeralds music, you can also feel the textures going on. What they do is an all around artistic experience. They also opened for Throbbing Gristle, which is fucking cool.
Formed: 1981 (Ended 1988)
Sounds Like: No Wave, Afro Punk, Electro Funk
For Fans Of: Bush Tetras, The Peech Boys, The Lounge Lizards
Discography: LPs: Yo!, Jams, The Sound Of Konk, Konk The Definitive Collection
As part of the post-punk, No Wave and disco funk scene, Konk is a rare gem that too few have heard about. A masterful mix of weird No Wave sensibilities, pure funk and the 80s downtown art scene, Konk always seemed on the precipice of making it big but never got their shot. This is a band who knew how to write living music. Everything they did had breath and life to it, the kind of life that existed in downtown New York during the era when the area actually mattered. Konk made punk funk freak out music that people could listen to, dance to or just become entranced by.
Historically the band is no joke either. Conceived by avant-jazz artist Dana Vicek, Konk also enlisted conga player Angel Quinones who went on to play with Jimmy Buffet and Shannon Dawson who played with Jean-Michel Basquiat in the band Gray (as well as becoming Rasario Dawson’s uncle). Most well known was trumpet player Richard Edson who provided the drums for Sonic Youth’s first album before going into acting. Appearing in Stranger Than Paradise and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Dawson is best known as the sweet and amiable pizza guy in Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing.