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Vow of Volition Make the Final Round of the Battle for Warped Tour

The Vans Warped Tour was the first festival for many of us back in the day. As young'ns, it's likely we didn't necessarily think about all that went into figuring out the bands to book and play the whole shebang. Part of that process, at least locally, seems to be through a series "battle of the bands" style competitions specifically for landing a spot on the fest. Quite a few Portland bands have been furiously playing against one another for said spot, and djent/prog metal act Vow of Volition are one of the acts that made it to the finals.

Warped Tour was always the type of festival that included much in the realm of pop punk, punk punk, emo and metal, so Vow of Volition's advancement to the final round is no surprise. Their incredibly technical, at times jazzy metal stands out in Portland's pretty linear popular music scene, and is much worthy of the attention its getting.

Those that want to support Vow of Volition in driving home the permanent spot can go to the Battle for Warped Tour finals Saturday at the Hawthorne Theatre.

Trace Amount

Trace Amount isn’t really a phrase you want to hear too often as in “your bowl of Lucky Charms may contain a trace amount of toxic heavy metals and/or rat feces” or “you failed your drug test due to the trace amount of THC in your Maui Melon CBD gummies.” The same goes for "trace amounts" of highly contagious and equally toxic sociocultural and biological viral agents, which under the right/wrong conditions have the potential to spread unchecked and infect an entire body or body politic. Not that we'd know anything about any of that lately.

Brandon Gallagher’s industrial music project Trace Amount takes this notion of the toxic trace amount and translates it into sound and image. Following up on his debut 2019 EP Fake Figures in the Sacred Scriptures with a second EP Endless Render released two months ago, Gallagher describes the latter project as “about all of the uncertainties and varying levels of anxiety that were felt during the times of quarantine, the feelings about the recent upsurge in police brutality and political injustice, and first hand encounters of other people’s ignorance regarding basic human rights in general.” 

The track “Pop Up Morgues” is a perfect example of how industrial music, with its characteristic harshness and fatalism and fury, is a good antidote to help with purging at least some of the toxicity hanging everywhere in the air today. As John Lydon once put it, before he was totally embarrassing, “anger is an energy.” But then on the flip side laughter can be good as well for dealing with crazy shit and exposing real-life absurdities. Trace Amount has us covered here too given that Gallagher happens to be a graphic designer/video artist which is a side he brings to the fore in recent collaboration with BTKGOD where they riff on the classic apocalyptic "War of the Worlds" alien invasion scenario whilst bringing an agreeable synthwave vibe to the mix musically.

Speaking of collaborations I’d be remiss not to mention Trace Amount’s latest project that came out just last week, which is a fully re-imagined remix of his first EP undertaken by Blake Harrison, yes that Black Harrison the one from East Coast grindcore legends Pig Destroyer, retitled Under the Skin in its new form. And while listening to the remixed EP may not conjure up Scarlett Johansson in alien form ready to f*ck your brains out and submerge you in oily viscous goo, it does at least include a remix of the track “Scarlett Johansson” (retitled, you guessed it, "Under the Skin") which may at least count for something for all you craven maniacs.

And finally, speaking of maniacs, you should know that Trace Amount/Brandon Gallagher is also one half of grungy-sludgy bi-coastal hardcore-sters Coarse, alongside Ryan Knowles, whose latest EP features “The People of the State of New York vs. Coarse,” a song inspired by the two bandmates being arrested by the NYPD in late 2018 for putting up wheat paste posters around lower Manhattan. And on the musical side the song was inspired in part by the Cure’s epically bleak/seminally goth LP Pornography (1982) which leads us to the perfect outro as witnessed in the video above, Trace Amount’s rather awesome cover of a rather awesome Cure track originally off that very album. (Jason Lee)

Ania debuts razor-sharp single "Tuesdays"

Embracing the riveting rhythms and soul-piercing crunch-chords of alternative rock is Ania’s creed, showcased in the final visual of her 2020 EP Ania in Chains titled “Tuesdays.” Powered by Ania’s slithering guitar riffs and reverb-lathered vocal chorus runs, “Tuesdays” is a sonic style pin that she shows proudly. The track runs at the pace preferred by the Los Angeles singer/songwriter (fast) but flexes wavy interludes that are as pleasant as the rapid rhythms that follow. Ania culminates her EP with the same edge as she began it and prepares for a year filled with promising possibilities. Check out the visual for “Tuesdays” below for a razor-sharp start to the weekend.  - René Cobar

Palberta launch Palberta5000 upgrade

There’s a certain frisson that happens when a talented collage artist juxtaposes a number of disparate elements and makes you see all the individual parts anew as a result, which serves as a kind of an expressway to the center of your skull aka the unconscious mind. 

On their fifth full-length unveiled today by Wharf Cat Records titled Palberta5000, Palberta has installed a system upgrade to the art-damaged post-punk haikus heard on previous releases. Self-reportedly digging into a buffet of Gen X alt rock and Millennial Disney pop ranging from Liz Phair to Avril Lavigne for inspiration, this instrument-rotating three-piece has written a bunch of punchdrunk new numbers that occasionally break their usual one-to-two-minute time limit and that place a new emphasis on their exquisitely shaggy girl group harmonies. 

The result is an album full of misshapen pearls of avant-rock-pop that fills the void of there being no existing No Wave Meghan Trainor or Justin Beefheart or Taylor Shaggs (please stop me before someone gets hurt) in the world up until now. Take a listen and consider your void filled.

In this blogger's modest appraisal other standout tracks include album-opener “No Way,” “Summer Sun,” and the Arthur Russell/Loose Joints quoting “All Over My Face” which is nearly five minutes (!) long. (Jason Lee)

95 Bulls live set on FLTV

First, a shout out to all those musical acts who choose to use defiantly G**gle proof name. Some of these acts have been profiled in these pages recently such as Navy Blue, Woods, and Slut Magic (ok not so much the latter tho’ that particular phrase does have an Urban Dictionary entry which sounds totally bogus but I digress) and now we can add 95 Bulls to this special list.

In theory, anyway. Maybe it’s only because the Big Googly Eye In The Sky knows me too well but the band’s Instagram account came up as a first page search result, plus another first page hit courtesy of our good friend(s) at Bands Do BK who in late October premiered the 95 Bulls’ two-track debut single “Big Fight”/“Crazy” and shared vital stats on the band's origins (basically an indie rockin' punk rawkin' bartender and barback and barfly supergroup formed at Our Wicked Lady) and motivation for formation (quarantine-itis).

Maybe it’s got something to do with the latter but I'd respectfully submit that 95 Bulls could furnish an appropriate soundtrack for any of your potential choices in a game of “F*ck, Marry, Kill” (well dunno if you'd wanna get married to any of their songs but they've got good tunes for people you wanna f*ck or kill for sure). This F*CK/KILL duality comes across even more strongly on stage where the band members flirt and rage musically in equal measure like if you can imagine a more aggro B-52s--plus the groovy-warbly Farfisa keyboard makes this comparision even more apt and ups the dance ante significantly--or maybe they're more like a Great Dane getting overly frisky and thrusting his snout deep into your crotch to the point where you get kinda turned on but fear for your genitals at the same time. Anyway I've used up my allotted number of analogies so will leave it at that.

And yeah you heard right I said *on stage* because you can at this very moment watch a live set and an interview with 95 Bulls as part of Footlight Bar’s “FLTV” series filmed under safe conditions at Brooklyn’s Starr Bar. Check out the link HERE where for a small fee you'll not only see the last-danceless Bulls play live and hear some of their unreleased songs like “Red Nails,” “Trichotillomania,” “Young Love,” “Golden Tooth,” and “Your Father’s Watch,” but you'll also witness exclusive footage of the band drinking heavily in the recording studio and also a couch-based convo with sparkle-masked host Kendra during which intimate thoughts are shared on penguin orgasms, band Tinder accounts, getting twerked on at Covid testing sites, meeting depressed divorceés In New Jersey, and the ultimate dream of receiving a Popeye’s sponsorship. (Jason Lee)


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