Saturday, March 24, 2012

Finally, from the King of Trash Pop

Nearly a decade into his ambitious project Dance America Dance, Monrovia's musical mad scientist Desmond Thesman, 25, has finally let slip a bit of his progress. The title track, featured here, is not strictly new. Though this is the first time it's been released, the song was among the first Thesman conceived when he began planning his genre-bending assessment of the state of music in 2003. Since then, Thesman - who has referred to himself as King Dez, King Thez, The sMan, and other permutations of his name - has devoted nearly all of his time to creating what he promises is not just a pop masterpiece, but "the pop masterpiece." Dance America Dance is to be a quadruple album that deconstructs the last 80 years of American popular music and reimagines it through his vaguely dancey, trash pop lens. His endless devotion to the Dance project has become a source of constant worry for his family and friends, however. "There were several nights when... he simply did not sleep," says mother Bethany. "He developed a serious caffeine addiction [and] when he got withdrawals it was terrifying." Eugene, a friend of Desmond's, recalls a particularly low point during which Thesman rode his bicycle naked around Library Park. "Even after all these years he's locked himself away," says Eugene, "he's still the best cycler around. The cops couldn't catch him for days." There was also the issue of recording. If Thesman was unhappy with any part of a recording, he simply destroyed it and began again, a practice that eventually led to an astronomical sum spent on cassettes. Despite these difficulties, Thesman was able to send us this song as proof of his progress. The artwork, of course, is the same that was released in 2008 much in the same spirit, though we're still unsure whether this is the definite cover for the album. What is certain is the engaging nature of this song. "Dance America Dance" is most likely a take on the disco era, though from another universe where disco groups recorded strictly onto cassette, and it invites one in to search among its contents for hidden treasures. This is too broad a work to reduce it to one description, thus we will leave it up to you to analyze in the comments. Get ready to enter another dimension:

Catch Desmond Thesman this César Chávez Day at the Brass Elephant's Banquet Hall at 8PM. We'll keep you in the know on any new developments on Dance America Dance.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Fresh Sounds: Jared Valenzuela's "Sleepless Nights"

Winter seems to have just woken up and grabbed its coffee, and yet some are already anxious for summer to amble over once again (though The Heepers probably aren't among them). This seems to be the sentiment behind the new track "Sleepless Nights" from six-stringer Jared Valenzuela. A supporting member of his previous band Toma, which was a crowd favorite at the most recent Monrovia High Battle of the Bands, Valenzuela shows here that he is just as comfortable taking the spotlight alone, weaving layers of guitar into beautifully emotional soundscapes. His latest is a tender track that evokes a sense of nostalgia for the peace that follows a fun summer day spent at the beach. Much like the sound of waves that bookends it, the song has amazing soul-soothing powers. Together with Jee Wallis, this may be the start of a new era in Monrovia folk. Start applying your sunscreen now:

As always, we'll keep you up to date on any new developments.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Monrovia Nightlife: Mystery Alley

For the crowd that filled a nook of apartment buildings deep in the heart of Monrovia on the 4th of February, the night was nothing short of pure, unfiltered joy. Those gathered had the great fortune of being a part of what could be described as a "life-changing experience" or "really cool." This was the second performance by the presently-titled Mystery Alley, a collective that may prove to be the hottest band of 2012. At the core of Mystery Alley is the ferocious trio of local legend/guitarist Will Cragoe, amateur astronomer/bassist Maximo, and fish expert/drummer Jonathan Hastings. These three craft meticulous modernist-pop masterpieces that take the audience on a tour of the emotional spectrum, often within a single song. Also of note is the band's strict professionalism, rigorous training schedule, and low-carb dieting. For all its perfectionism, Mystery Alley has so far at each of its shows collaborated with spontaneous performance artists: a mysterious noise-slinger named Danny whose postmodern style of guitar playing provides a startling counterpoint to that of Mr. Cragoe, and an unknown character who performs tape collages and tone poems from somewhere behind the band. This tension only adds to the already-enormous amount of excitement the band generates in its witnesses. There are more shows soon to come, so make it a priority to catch them at least once, if not twice. The band has also informed the Monrovia Renaissance that a demo is in the final stages of production and will soon be released; rest assured, we'll bring it to you as soon as it leaks.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

State of the Renaissance

My fellow tune-addicts, keyboard ticklers, twangers, boppers, hipsters, hopsters, headphone heroes and all the rest, I assure you:
the Monrovia Renaissance lives on.

I owe you an apology, dear readers, as I had ceased updating my humble blog without notice or, until now, an explanation. My love of music in all its wild forms has carried me away from my hometown once more. For two months now, I have traveled with my trusted musical mentors across sea, land, and air in search of exciting new sounds. Needless to say, the expedition has proven most rewarding. Do not, however, take this as a sign that I have quit my role as self-appointed official scribe for the Monrovia music scene. This is not the case. I have simply taken a brief hiatus from which I will soon return with more tantalizing reviews, interviews, overviews, and rearviews. After all, we still have a lot to talk about.

As always, stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sounds From the Little World

As sad as it can be to have a good friend go well out of reach, it makes it that much more exciting when that friend sends you a bit of their craft. Such is the case with the little demo we received from Monrovia's own musical knight-errant, Jee Wallis. Jee's wild spirit brought him infamy among the town's more traditionally-minded (some would say "closed-minded" or, better yet, "boring") musicians, his music as well as his onstage persona being like a raging beast refusing to be tamed. While his abrasive music may have been an acquired taste, an intense feeling of satisfaction always awaited the listener at the end. That same infamous, wild spirit recently carried Jee away from home, to the misty mysteries of San Francisco. Whether it was to provide inspiration or a more like-minded audience, Frisco would be the perfect place for Jee to temper his craft. What we did not expect, however, was what he sent us only a month after his arrival. Jee Wallis' most recent demo, titled "Daly City",  sees a radical change in his approach. The gentle acoustic strumming heard here washes over the listener like the waves of a nearby beach. Though the emotions may be different, peacefulness replacing discontent, the intensity remains. That same satisfaction greets the listener, and will very well greet more than before due to the new, welcoming sound. We can't say just yet where Jee's music will go from here, but it will be sure to please. For now, take in the soothing sounds of San Fran:

Click here to download "Daly City"

We'll keep you updated on any and all of Jee Wallis' goings-on.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Post-Teens With HEEPS Of Talent

Summer is just about over, and that means it's time to start packing away the sunshine melodies and bring out the sad stuff. Luckily, a new band has just the thing to slap a wistful look on that sunburnt face. The Heepers, made up of guitarist/vocalist Ethan Felding, Jr., bassist Lenora "Lenny" Walker, and drummer Cameron Culan, weave tales of woe sure to leave you with bittersweet longing. This should not be a surprise considering the band's history, however. Legend has it that Felding decided to start his new project the very morning after a catastrophic Valentine's Day left him without either a girlfriend or a band. His frustration fueled a flurry of songwriting, and he began taking his fledgling songs to coffee shops to help regain his confidence. A month later, he was noticed by Lenny Walker and Cameron Culan, who were on their way back from a trip to Santa Cruz when they stopped at Sierra Madre's Bean Town - just in time to catch Felding's performance. After the show, the two approached Felding and asked whether he was looking for a world-class rhythm section. "Or you could settle for us," quipped Walker. Soon enough, The Heepers were rocking every house, coffee shop, and garage that could hope to contain them. As for the name, none of the members are sure what it means. "We had a brainstorming session that turned into us just saying random sounds," recalls Felding. "Then out of nowhere we were all just saying 'heep!' over and over again. We must have gone crazy for a second." We're pretty crazy about The Heepers right now, so we invited Ethan Felding, Jr. over to our studios to cut a single. The first song is a new one for those who have been keeping up with the band, "My Pall Malls," which Felding is still in the process of writing. It features Felding's signature haunted narrator, this time leaving his presumed lover under unknown circumstances. The B-side is a cover of Beat Happening's "I've Lost You" that works lyrically as a continuation of the story. Head on over to the Singles Series page and get ready for some depressing goodness.

Click here to go to the Singles Series page and listen to The Heepers

Be sure to keep a keen eye out for shows and recordings from The Heepers (they don't have any websites yet).

Friday, September 2, 2011

Into the Planisphere: The Tale of Freak Funk

You cannot call yourself a true Monrovian if you have not heard the wild, infectious rhythms of the genre taking our beautiful city by storm: freak funk. For several years now, our young ne'er-do-wells have been feeding rock and roll to the dog to make room for an exciting, imaginative dessert. Freak funk began with The Star-Town Troubadours, one of the most famous bands to flourish in the Monrovia musical underground. Their approach was simple: take the rhythm section of funk, which almost dares listeners not to flex their groove muscles, and add to it the eccentric experimentation of psychedelia. The effect is something that excites both band and audience, which in turn creates more excitement. As uncomplicated as this combination may seem, there could be no denying its success. The Star-Town Troubadours had a top-selling album with their 2002 debut, Our Sunday Clothes. Soon enough, other artists were taking on the approach as well as adding their own personal flair. A small psych-pop outfit called Little Yogurt had found only moderate success until they teamed up with a rebellious young man from Finland who had a dual passion for James Brown and Sun Ra. After their legendary two-month "pure magic nonstop jam," Herb Bombgarden and the Little Yogurts (pictured) took the stage in the summer of 2009 to deliver one of the most dynamic concerts in Monrovia history, reinterpreting funk standards in their own hyperactive image. Sharing the stage that night were fellow legends Time Machine Modulus, who have since rejected being labeled as a freak funk band. Yet they need not be so defensive. There are currently hundreds of garage bands keeping the genre alive, some of whom, like The Wild Freak-Outs, Atomic Giants, and Boog, have worked tirelessly to expand on their forefathers' truly revolutionary visions. While this may just be a fad about to fade, it's an amazing ride for all who dare to explore the outer reaches of music.