Archive for Narrows

Review: Narrows

Posted in Reviews with tags , , on May 27, 2012 by Magadh

Narrows Painted Deathwish

I have to admit that I kind of come to each Narrows record expecting to hear Botch. This is unfair. The only direct connection between the two acts is Dave Verellen, and while the vocalist does a lot to give a band its own peculiar feel, it is really the guitar (at least in most cases) that is decisive in terms of the sonic topography produced. In terms of heaviness and dissonant elements, Narrows guitarists Jodie Cox and Ryan Frederiksen play in a style that does bear some similarities to that of Dave Knudson. That the careful listener will never mistake the former for the latter should not be taken as a criticism. Listening to Botch, especially their live shows, had a vertigo inducing quality. Narrows can write some complex tunes, but they are the kind of band that it’s easier to bob your head to.

The first thing you’re going to notice about this record is that it’s a lot more straightforward in terms of tempos than previous Narrows releases. Narrows are sometimes classified as “math rock” or “math core.” One could debate the justice of those designations, but in any case this current release is likely to cost them their union cards in United Math Rockers Local 3.14159265 (if indeed they ever had them). All of which is not to say that the time changes and dissonance that characterized their previous releases have been completely abjured. On Painted, they have been harnessed to an attack that relies on pounding and bludgeoning the listener, rather than leaving them wondering what time signature it was all in. Fans of previous releases, and of Botch, will be pleased to note that one thing that hasn’t changed is Dave Verellen’s gut-wrenching vocal style. As on previous releases, he sounds like he is slicing chunks off of his soul with a butcher knife, his fearsome roaring lending an urgency to the proceedings which manages to retain some of the unsettling qualities of earlier Narrows discs.

“Under the Guillotine” opens the action with hammering riff that wouldn’t have been out of place on a High on Fire record. This sets the tone. While their music is often challenging in terms of presenting the listener with square progressions or comfortable melodies, their bread and butter is an uncompromising wall of sound. “Absolute Betrayer” reinforces this point with a series of jackhammer riffs over which dissonant notes float like a halo. “Greenland” starts off with three minutes of weird noise that sounds like it was recorded off Pinhead’s home stereo before mutating into a bombastic, slow burn. From there, matters return to the familiar, punishing furrow that had been plowed through the earlier parts of the disc.

There is a lot to like about this record, and its very existence is impressive given that the members don’t get to spend a lot of time together. What is also impressive is that they keep managing to come up with material that is fresh and compelling. If Painted is more straightforward than earlier Narrows releases, it is also the case that they have managed to harness what at times seemed like an anarchic fury into a focused aggression that demands repeated spins.

Magadh

On Gypsies and Gentlemen: Marcus Kuhn’s Series Profiles Some of Our Favorite Artists

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 24, 2012 by Magadh

The residents of the 1000 Trivialities bunker all agree upon the indisputable radness of tattoos and tattoo culture. Most of us started marking ourselves up at a fairly impressionable young age and all have continued to do so apace.

I first learned about Marcus Kuhn’s excellent, “The Gypsy Gentleman” series while in Austin, Texas. Following Narrows last show at SxSW, Rob Moran arranged for several of us to be tattooed at Rock of Ages by his old friend and amazing artist Steve Byrne. We took Steve out to dinner when we were all done and the conversation turned to Vice’s series Tattoo Age . Steve mentioned that Marcus Kuhn had recently been in Texas filming a series of his own and that he and his business partner (the equally talented ex-Concrete, WA resident Tony Hundahl) were featured in the 2nd episode.

Each episode of “The Gypsy Gentleman” features different cities, themes and artists. Kuhn’s old stomping ground, New York City, kicks off the series.  Virginia Elwood and Thomas Hooper  accompany Kuhn as he talks a bit about the life of a traveling tattoo artist. Daniel Santoro of Smith Street Tattoo Parlour and Black Gold Records also makes a brief appearance. Episode 2, embedded below, sees Kuhn exploring the evolution of American tattooing following the end of the 2nd World War. His partners in crime are Steve Byrne and Tony Hundahl. The most recent episode finds Kuhn in San Francisco. He enlists the aid of Jason Kundell and George Campise  to discuss the current Renaissance in American tattooing.

The series also does an admirable job of introducing the viewer to unique attractions and unforgettable characters beyond those in the tattoo game. While Dan Santoro’s antique and record store is easily featured due to Santoro’s work as a tattoo artist, many of the others standout all on their own. Kuhn introduces a man who creates a cathedral from junk, an old friend who trains police dogs as well as taking the viewer on a tour of a museum devoted to old carnival pianos and fortune telling games.  While each is unique they also inform the viewer as to the spirit of the city.

Kuhn ends each of the episodes with he and the featured artists collaborating on a theme which is then translated into a series of glorious tattoos. The quality of the artists speaks to the strength of the end product but, more than anything, the theme is effectively transmitted into the tattoos. Marcus Kuhn’s “The Gypsy Gentleman” is well worth your time, long may it continue!

– Captain of Games

Burning Bridges: Narrows Occupy SxSW

Posted in Gigs with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 23, 2012 by Magadh

Drink deep, it’s just a taste, and it might not come this way again,
I believe in moments, transparent moment, moments in grace when you’ve got to stake your faith

– Rites of Spring

South By Southwest has become a self-parody; any vestige of promotion for independent artists and labels has been rapidly replaced by a soul-crushing circle jerk of payola and corporate scheming. One need only see a stage (named the Jacked stage no less) in shape of a giant Doritos vending machine to think that, perhaps, the human experiment has run its course. 

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 Yet, it was there I found myself in the company of dear friends Narrows  (who were themselves accompanied by tour manager/roadie/merch lord/fantastic human Rich Hall) as they hit Austin with tourmates and force of nature, All Pigs Must Die. With the exception of the Power of the Riff/Southern Lord/Brooklyn Vegan showcase, my primary motivation was to watch Narrows lay waste to all before them as they played 5 shows in 3 days (and to get tattooed by Steve Byrne). It’s funny how things work out.

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Brooklyn Vegan/Chaos in Tejas have, for several years running, promoted a guerilla show at 2 a.m. on the Lamar Pedestrian Bridge. The shows on the bridge have been something of an Austin tradition, and I was perplexed but rather pleased to find myself surrounded by 400 kids as Regents started their 2 a.m. set powered by a gas generator and purloined city power. Regents feature ex-member of Sleepy Time Trio and Maximillian Colby, and I’d had the pleasure of seeing them at a BBQ earlier in the day. They dashed through their four-song set (the maximum allotted to each band) and we set about switching equipment so Narrows could keep things moving. Narrows were, in a word, amazing — because the setting itself was amazing. Anything I write won’t do it justice but I’ve included photos from Shawn Scallen which perfectly capture the night. It seems fitting that the man whose photos graced the pages of Heartattack and inserts of Ebullition albums would be there to do the job.

Austin’s finest showed up following Narrow’s set and the show, unfortunately, ended there. But that 20 minutes…ah, that was perfect. Drink deep ladies and gentlemen.

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– Captain of Games