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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 Lucky - The Lucky (EP)

Album review: The Lucky - The Lucky (EP)

The Lucky does not waste anyone’s time getting into the nitty-gritty of its self-titled EP. A four-count of fast, punky guitars drives you straight into the opening track, whimsically titled “Lalalalike You,” a cute little diddy about—not love—simply lalalaliking someone. Lead primarily by the vocal work of Jason McKee, his female counterpart Camilla Camille, chimes in every now and then to boost the anthem into a high-speed duet.

           
“Lalalalike You” is promptly followed up with “Owl & Me.” This song slows things down a bit… but only a bit. Camille’s sensual, breathy vocals on the verses transmute into a full-blown rocker-chick sound for the chorus. “Can’t Shake You” is next. Again, Camille voices this song. It’s equally as charming as the first song. With a chorus of “la la la’s,” the song quickly anchors itself into that part of the brain where songs tend to get stuck.
 
The final track, “Mad One,” brings up the lively grungy guitars every loves (to some degree). A classy guitar solo spins the song into something that can easily be taken as a single. This song is easily a depiction of what The Lucky is all about.
 
I have yet to mention drummer Jonathan Thatch’s work on these tracks. The drum work is as simple as you’d want it to be—consistent throughout the entire four-track EP. Executed flawlessly to maintain the powerful punk sounds of the songs, the drums add a powerful element.
 
If you’re not listening for it, you won’t miss the bass riffs. The band is simply a three-piece, omitting the bass. The guitar work keeps the listener at full attention. The album sounds ultimately lo-fi, in terms of recording quality. But you wouldn’t want to listen to The Lucky any other way. The fast-paced rock ‘n roll songs are boosted with a lo-fi sound, making it seem as though The Lucky is performing right in front of you, at a bar or in your garage; a more intimate sound for the band.
 
The Lucky’s self-titled album was recorded by Paul Malinowski at Massive Sound and mastered by Duane Trower at Weights and Measures Soundlab.
 
The Lucky will release its debut EP tomorrow night, Friday, February 15, at recordBar. The Lover’s Rock show begins at 10:00 pm with The Heavy Figs, followed by The Lucky, and rounded out by Schwervon!. Tickets are available at the door or purchase here for $7.

--Steven Ervay

Steven is the intern of Midwest Music Foundation and The Deli - Kansas City. He can't go to 21+ shows yet and that bums him out.  

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