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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: Drek - Drek Happens

Album review: Drek - Drek Happens

 
If you haven’t yet had the chance to listen or watch Kansas City’s own Drek, its release of Drek Happens may be the perfect time. With in-your-face instrumentals and mean vocals, this is a band that not only makes your head bob while listening, but makes your whole body move when you see them live. Drek’s latest album dropped March 30and is heavy, dirty, and will make you rethink the whole rap-rock genre.
 
The first four tracks on the album showcase the band’s heavy side of as it delivers killer guitar riffs and hard-hitting bass. “Deep Breath” lets you more into the lyrical side of Drek and reminds of the power music has on influencing mood. Drek doesn’t allow you stay in the mellow mood too long, both live and recorded. From the ballad-y feel of the previous track, “So I’ve Been Told” moves to heavy drum and guitar sounds. This track sets the mood for the rest of the album, but when you finally hit “Yup, Yup, Yup Uh Huh,” you won’t be able to keep yourself from grooving. This track goes back to early 2000s rap-rock music with a real funk-based groove to it, which is probably why it was the album’s debut single.
 
“Dirtier” delivers more of a hard southern rock feel, with a “Yee Haw” included and a funky guitar part during the verses that will get you into it. Drek wraps up the album with “The Price,” a testament to all of those who threaten you but never to the face, and I think we’ve all had those. Drek offers a nice surprise for the fans by offering a bonus track. This cover of Cypress Hill’s “Hits from the Bong” is pretty legit and gives just enough balance to the original against Drek’s hard-hitting instrumentals. Overall, you can really feel the energy of the band coming through the speakers. If you get the chance to see it live, you will see just why Drek has one of the biggest and most loyal fan bases in Kansas City.
 

This Saturday, May 11, Drek will appear at The Roxy in Overland Park with Mad Libby, Unwritten Rulz and Cronus for a fundraiser for a girl named Izzy, who is battling leukemia. Facebook event page.

--Cassiopia "KC Cassi" DeMars 

KC Cassi believes that with true local music support, you can do great things. I grew up somewhere that way and have been in Kansas City since 2005. Music can change the world and support can help spread the jams.

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