Vincent Parker makes music akin, by turns, to sandpaper and silk. Sometimes the compositions on Parker’s Bit Rocker—digitally soldered collections of rhythmically tuned buzzes, bleeps, bass notes and more quotidian source material—sound like music for a hazy summer afternoon in the hammock (“For All Those…”). Other tunes, like “klis” and “Pure (Featuring Deceptikon),” take a dingier turn, sinking into liquid tar bubble baths that evoke industry, its byproducts and our ingestion of same. Parker displays considerable craftsmanship in his assemblage of vivid textures from the indifferent binary components of electronic music. Such material dexterity supplements a nearly matching mastery of emotional malleability, manifested in one shape for the frigid dirge “Ice Caps” and another entirely in the synthesized breakbeat dance “Electro Revival Squad.”
At its best, Bit Rocker mutates effect and states of matter in a single song, as in “[Wake],” a tune that begins with sparse, introspective chimes and muted staccato beats before developing a centrifugal momentum that presses the listener’s attention toward a dense and populous exterior world.
Electronica done well tinkers with audible quanta, constructing melody from potentially dissonant building blocks of sound. Bit Rocker executes just such fine-grained manipulation with congruently fine results. (Jason Wiener)
Vincent Parker performs with Winnie the Shit at 10 PM on Friday, July 21, at The Loft, 424 N. Higgins Ave. Venishka and Tyler open. $6.
Echoes of Decimation
No offense to death metal, but sometimes the incessant growling seems more comical than scary. That’s not to say a band like Origin isn’t good at what it does, but when you find yourself reading along with what’s been termed “cookie monster vocals” just to understand the meaning, it’s hard not to chuckle a little bit.
Origin’s latest, Echoes of Decimation, has all the trappings of death metal: blast beats, chromatic progressions and a lyrical fixation on, you guessed it, death. It’s a technically strong album with almost classical arrangements, albeit with screams and double-pedal bass in the place of cellos and timpani. For instance, the time signatures of “Designed to Expire” create engrossing texture to go with choice lyrics like, “I spit forth derision to all the prophets of man.” The last track, “Echoes of Decimation,” is the most diverse, beginning with a Star Wars Evil Empire-inspired intro, speeding up, then slowing down into a sludgy molasses breakdown and finally ending in what could best be described as the sound of a space jungle—if you can imagine.
Despite its potentially serious intent, Echoes of Decimation is cartoonish, but there’s enough accomplishment in the musicianship to make it worth a headbanger’s listen. (Erika Fredrickson)
Origin plays The Other Side Tuesday, July 25. Doors open at 8 PM. Nocturnal Emission, The Four Horsemen and Capitalist Casualties open. $10/$8 in advance.
Heathens Like Me
The New Heathens are technically a New York City-based band, but they’re rooted in Montana. The liner notes picture a Montana license plate and a glimpse of a Bob Wire & the Fencemenders T-shirt, and one of the songs is titled “July 1 Near Helena Montana.” The local flavor comes courtesy of head Heathen Nate Schweber, the one-time renegade tuba player in UM’s marching band and local writer who’s now found a bigger playground to fool around in with this loose roots-rock quintet.
It’s not just Schweber’s local connection that makes him stand out. His vocals are rough in a road-weary, bar-rock way that makes it easy to sing along, and his lyrics are impeccable. Every line is memorable on the standout “When She’s Wasted,” right up to the twangy chorus: “I smell the whiskey on her breath, she’s getting faded. ’Cos she hates me when she’s sober, but she loves me when she’s wasted.” “Back to Jesus” is a hilarious confessional in the form of a rockabilly rocker with verses that jump from praising Allah to finding religion in hallucinogens. Throughout, the writing is satirical and smart and, in more serious turns like “Goodnight Paterson” and “Kansas Romeo,” heartbreakingly real.
Heathens Like Me is a devilishly good debut, one with enough sustenance to satisfy Big Sky locals even if it does arrive via the Big Apple. (Skylar Browning)
Hot Buttered Rum
The newgrass ensemble Hot Buttered Rum (formerly Hot Buttered Rum String Band) is perhaps more famous for touring in a biodiesel bus than for their music. That’s almost a shame, because the quintet boasts musicians of skill and imagination, but it’s also apropos due to the overabundance of earnestness that seems to be the group’s biggest obstacle to effectiveness on its second studio release, Well-Oiled Machine.
Overlong songs afflict the album, with improvisational forays best saved for the stage routinely making it into the mix. It’s the exuberance of youth played out in a track listing; hopefully, with discretion and forbearance, it will pass.
For now, though, listeners will have to do the forbearing, enduring the overwhelmingly pedestrian rhythmic, melodic and lyric choices of a tune like “Always Be The Moon” in order to enjoy the straightforward sensibility and musical virtuosity of “Idaho Pines” or “Waiting for a Squall,” a tune that skillfully splays the tested theme of working men endangered by their labor across meticulous picking and tightly-tuned harmonies.
When HBR sticks more strictly to capturing the excellent execution of which the group is capable, they’ll have made one heck of an album. It could even be their next. (Jason Wiener)
Hot Buttered Rum plays The Other Side at 10 PM on Wednesday, July 26. $12/$14 under 21.