In Notes From Left of the Dial this week, Nooga.com spends time with new music from VanWyck, The Begowatts, Phantom Electric and Makeness. What have you been listening to lately?
VanWyck, “An Average Woman”
Amsterdam singer-songwriter VanWyck doesn’t care much for categories or useless labels. Over the years, she’s studied as a classical pianist, become a keyboard player and developed into one of the first female rappers in the Netherlands in a jazz dance band—not to mention her work as one-half of a trip-hop duo. With her recent turn into more subdued sounds, she’s found personal revelation in the ideas of breaking free from social norms and challenging gender stereotypes. On Jan. 19, she’s set to release her new record, “An Average Woman,” due out on Maiden Name Records, and she’s looking to push back against the prescribed realities of the world and offer her own insightful perspective.
On her new single, “An Average Woman,” she delivers a passionate yet understated reflection on how you sometimes need to bury the “average woman” persona before your true self can emerge. Backed by glistening strings, brushed percussion and plucked guitar lines, her persuasive voice calls out to everyone to hold on during the darkness, to wait out the volatile emotions that we all weather from time to time. We’re witnessing the last rites given to a broken personality that will reappear in some grand display of emotion and sound. She talks about how there’s a need to be bold and even selfish when cultivating your identity, and “An Average Woman” allows her voice to reach people who desperately need to hear they can do anything.
The Begowatts, “Kids on Parole”
Midwest post-punkers The Begowatts first got together in 2012, and they built up a rabid fan base through relentless touring and ferocious live shows. Their early work built off classic rock rhythms, but they’ve shifted their focus a bit to concentrate on melding the past and the present into a searing melodic fusion that they’ve dubbed “21st-century electric rock ‘n’ roll.” It didn’t take them long to move from overcrowded basement shows to being a house band, and they’ve ridden this wave of success into the studio. The band is currently gearing up for the release of their sophomore album, “Grand Charade,” due out Sept. 29.
On their latest single, “Kids on Parole,” the band digs into their punk and classic rock roots to discover that the same emotional weight and vitriol that fueled the songs of bands like The Clash and Dead Boys are providing their music rhythmic gravity. The guitars seem to hit just a bit harder and the melody seems to stick around just a bit longer than anything on their earlier releases. Charged with political ideas but not overbearing in its perspective, the song feels like some late ’70s lost gem that you might unearth in some small record store. The band has perfectly blended the angst and anger of punk with the density and heft of Stooges-esque rock ‘n’ roll.
Phantom Electric, “Friends”
The work of Atlanta indie rockers Phantom Electric is steeped in dream pop rhythms and the vast musical history of founding member Nick Whitson. A California transplant, he took on work in a number of bands before digging into his studies in journalism at Georgia State University, although he dropped out in 2010 to focus on his career as a musician. He performed with artists Sara Rachele, Alchemy and Elevation, but he eventually broke off to center his creativity on his own songs and the formation of Phantom Electric. He paired up with Atlanta producer/engineer Kris Sampson in 2015 and recorded the first songs under that new moniker.
With their recent single, “Friends,” they offer up a six-minute anthem that creaks and rumbles, a soft murmur that grows until it’s a wail of hammered guitars and throttled percussion. By undermining our indie rock expectations, the band breaks free of the stereotypes that often cling to the genre. They dispense with the soft-loud-soft progressions, and soar when they want and coast when the need arises. All the members have extensive separate musical histories, and they bring these experiences to bear within the gravity of “Friends.” It’s raucous and complex, a multilayered pattern of stadium-sized melodies and intricate arrangements. Sometimes, you’re just in the mood for a great rock song, and Phantom Electric is more than happy to oblige.
Makeness, “Loud Patterns”
Makeness is the moniker of Scottish producer Kyle Molleson, and it’s the vehicle through which he explores a rumbling electronic aesthetic. Less wild eclecticism and more melody-focused, his work feels organic even when some of the source material is full of wires and cables. From his debut EP, “Rogue,” back in 2015 to a more recent single, “Other Life,” Molleson has been fascinated with the ways electronic music’s evolving boundaries react within a more rock-centric framework. To further these studies, he recently signed to Secretly Canadian and is getting ready to embark on a series of North American tour dates in the next few months.
On his new single, “Loud Patterns,” Molleson pairs a thudding Technicolor beat with electronic squiggles and rumbling bass notes. His voice slowly comes into the mix and moves everything to the side, giving his melodies their deserved moment in the sun. The sounds build, one on another, until the whole amalgam of noise is unleashed and storms through your speakers in an undiluted wash of caustic rhythms and neon-tinged theatrics. He manages to successfully explore these sounds within a synthetic landscape that owes as much to the structure of live instrumentation as it does to the warbling façade of electronic music.
Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.