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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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Album review: Clairaudients - I'm A Loudmouth, You're A Puppet (EP)

Album review: Clairaudients - I'm A Loudmouth, You're A Puppet (EP)

 
(Photo by Todd Zimmer)
 
Speaking personally, I’m a Loudmouth, You’re a Puppet has been on my list of most anticipated local albums for 2013. I’ve been a fervent fan of Clairaudients since their days under the moniker The Atlantic. I’ve seen the band add members to their lineup (Chase Horseman joined at the beginning of 2013), perform numerous times at numerous venues, and now I’ll see them through their first album release.
 
I’m a Loudmouth, You’re a Puppet has been in the works for quite some time. And after listening to the album several times, it’s easy to say that the wait was well worth it. The album has so many subtle intricacies and deep meanings that anyone can tell it wasn’t recorded on the fly—a lot of thought and heart went into the album.
 
Clairaudients introduces itself with a nearly four-minute song simply entitled “Intro,” a chilling, soothing number which serves its purpose well as a lead-off track. With nothing but harmonized vocals and twinkling guitars, you’ll get lost in the ambiance.
 
Keeping in style, the first track fades out and another calming track slide into slot two. “Like a Song” is full of metaphors, which in my case, are up for interpretation. It’s the kind of song that you can listen to to find meaning, or a song that you can just jam to.
 
The album picks up halfway through with “Cellar.” This song easily takes the cake for heaviest track on the album. Vocalist Patrick Robinson definitely brings out his angry voice here. Deep, gravely, and abrasive sounds pour out of his mouth as the rest of the band falls in suit, striking heavy chords and pounding big drums. 
 
And again, before you know it, the tempo slows back down with “Broken Mend,” a solemn track full of heart-melting lyrics. The last track opens up with a strong organ chord, and is quickly followed by a jaunty guitar tune. “Back to the Sun” is a seven-minute anthem, and seems to carry a much lighter attitude than that of the other four. It appears to be more laid back and cheerful due in part to the upbeat, intricate mesh of instrumentals.
 
As I’ve mentioned already, I’m a Loudmouth is a great piece of work. There is so much content and impact stuffed into a small five-song album. The incredible musical accompaniment that is created by this sextet is something to be in awe of in itself, with the added element of Robinson’s lyrics.
 
I’m A Loudmouth, You’re A Puppet was recorded and produced at Massive Sound Studios by Jeff Pickman.
 
Tonight is the long-awaited release party for I’m A Loudmouth, You’re A Puppet. Clairaudients will be celebrating at Davey’s Uptown this evening with special guests Not A Planet and we are voices. Doors open at 8, show at 9. This is an 18+ show; $12 if under 21, $10 for 21+. All attending ticket holders will receive a digital download of the album. Facebook event page.
 
 
--Steven Ervay 
 

Steven Ervay is super rad. 

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