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Artist of the Month
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August 2015
HMPH!
"Headrush
"
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Simply stated, the music of HMPH! could be described with a term like math rock or experimental jazz fusion. But these terms, while accurate, don’t paint a complete picture of the sounds created by guitarist Ryan Lee Toms and drummer Jonathan Thatch. “Just when you think you got the groove, we switch it up, add a few beats, or throw in a chord from another key,” says Thatch, whose mastery over the drum kit is jaw-dropping. And while rhythmically complex, progressive compositions have become a cornerstone of the math rock genre, HMPH! additionally incorporates elements of jazz, ambient rock, alternative, and metal.
 
On Friday, the duo will be releasing its debut album Headrush (Haymaker Records), a 36-minute instrumental effort that showcases HMPH!’s dedication to push the envelope while keeping its music interesting. Nine of the 10 songs clock in under 5 minutes, keeping a fresh, brisk momentum for the entirety of the album. The listener has a chance to delve in to each song, but is pulled out before it becomes indulgent or formulaic.
 
Many of the songs start with a basic guitar riff that is bent and twisted in multiple directions, meandering from its original shape but always returning to it. From a polite jazz lick to a climactic rising arpeggio, Toms designs unpredictable, jagged noises with his guitar. “The harder it is for us to wrap our head around a riff, the more fun it is to write and the more enjoyable it is to dissect as a listener.” His combination of intriguing guitar sounds with Thatch’s intricate drum work shows that they’re very much up to the challenge. “Sometimes it starts with a complicated polyrhythmic drum part from Jonathan and I’ll create a progression to that. Other times, I’ll zone out and write arpeggios while thinking of decrepit medieval castles that kind of remind me of all the video games I played as a kid. Then I bring them to Jonathan.”
 

At the same time, Thatch is creating his own variegated sounds with just a five-piece drum kit. He often provides a countermelody to Toms’ guitar, building upon dynamic layers with odd meters, polyrhythms, subtle dynamic shifts, and rhythmic intensity. “One quality we strive for is to keep people guessing,” he says. This even includes retooling songs on the spot. “Our songs tend to keep evolving over time. We might be playing a song live and try something new, and we like the new sound so we keep playing it that way. Sometimes we don't even talk about it; we just both know how it goes now.” 

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scene blog

Album review: The Quivers - Gots To Have It!

Album review: The Quivers - Gots To Have It!

(Photo by Steve Gardels)

The Quivers' new EP, aptly titled Gots To Have It!, serves up 13 minutes of raucous music that you can dance to, straight up!

Track 1: “Blue Light”
Abe Haddad’s push and pull Stratocaster guitar intro on “Blue Light” is like the turnover of an old dormant Studebaker that has finally been untarped for a summer of hot, late night love runs. Bernie Dugan’s backbeat sets the idle on this Midwestern tavern dance number that also reveals lead vocalist/bassist Terra Peal’s ability to blend her strong, soulful voice—which somewhat resembles Pat Benatar’s—with her patent banshee screams that could have crumbled the former Iron Curtain, had it not been for David Hasselhoff’s embryonic Berlin Wall performance…

Track 2: “He Had It Comin’”
With its reserved country pickin’, hip-poppin’ diner waitress vocals, and county fair carousel keyboards, “He Had It Comin’” will keep your feet movin’ and your hair swishin’ back and forth, even if the lyrics aren’t really appropriate for either. Haddad’s honky-tonk guitar work, Todd Grantham’s playful keyboard licks—all infused with traces of soul—make delightful, each time the refrain comes around so you can sing, “He had it comin’… He had it comin’…”

Track 3: “I Sleep Here”
“I Sleep Here” may musically sound like some kind of mash up of Huey Lewis, Booker T., and Tommy James & the Shondells, but it very much stands on its own as pure Quivers' canon…and a song that you can’t help but grin ear-to-ear and wiggle to. Grantham sings lead on this ‘upbeat’ ballad, assuring us, “It’s pretty clear. I live alone with bravado, and ignore the phone.” And yes, that is Terra Peal growling out “Lordy, lordy!” in the background, tougher than Billy Idol ever was. That redheaded vixen sounds very much capable of damaging something if provoked.

Track 4: “What Went Wrong”
Peal struts her country vocal sensibilities to the pattering player piano saloon riffs in “What Went Wrong,” a song that will surely leave a dance floor full of boot scuffs and whiskey splatters. When Peal confesses, “I’ve been bad all my life,” it can make for some anxiousness, because her singing lends to many desires in the minds of many. Musically, perhaps the most contemporarily solid track on the EP, The Quivers show off their prowess and versatility, yet again.

Track 5: “Gots To Have It!”
“Gots To Have It!” bursts forth in purely fun, sock hop n’ roll fashion. Heavy snare hits (surely with some drumstick points toward the crowd), jogging keyboard chords, stacked vocals, and a tipsy rockabilly guitar solo that gets all up in your face and absolutely gets it done. This closing number burns a candle in the Church of Eighties Ending Credits Movie Songs ... Wait. It didn’t appear at the end of a John Cusack movie? Well, it should have!

The Quivers play rock n’ roll that is sometimes soulful, sometimes rockabilly, sometimes country, sometimes…well—sometimes it’s hard to classify just what they do best! One thing is for certain; they are the perfect entertainers for pretty much any given night. You will smile, and you will quiver, when that band—the one straight from the garage on Sex Appeal St.— thrusts upon you when you – Gots To Have It!

You, too, can be rocked by The Quivers tomorrow night, August 15, at Aftershock for the KC Wednesday Night Jamboree. They'll be performing with The Cave Girls. They'll also be playing at Greaserama on Sunday, September 2.

--Christian Anders Liljequist

Christian is a freelance writer. He will graduate from UMKC in the spring of 2013 with a BA in Communication Studies (Journalism & Mass Communication).

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