Melkbelly Album Release Show

Melkbelly

Melkbelly was birthed one night from the frozen head of a Midwestern god. Since then this noise-rock outfit has become notorious for its frantic arrangements, toothed melodies, and blaring live show.
The group is comprised of four friends, Miranda W, Bart W, Liam W, and James W, each weathered veterans of the Chicago scene, and at only three years old Melkbelly has honed a kinetic voice all its own.
With these kinds of technical bonafides you might not expect the depth of Melkbelly’s lyrical ability, but lead singer Miranda Winters is no mean poet, and delivers her lines sometimes in gentle melody, other times in a full throat scream.
They’re very loud. They’re very tall. You’ll never see them coming.

The Hecks

Chicago’s The Hecks -- Andy Mosiman (guitar, voc), Dave Vettraino (guitar/voc) and Zach Hebert (drums/voc) -- have been skulking around Chicago's DIY scene for some time now honing their unique twin-guitar sound, weaving tense and beautiful sonic passages of dissonance and harmony into weird and infectious compositions.

Throughout their debut album, The Hecks find different ways to remake/remodel pop songs through an art-rock lens - the descriptor “post punk” applies, but isn’t quite accurate. The Hecks manage to cram knowledge gleaned from years of absorbing sounds and tones both ugly and
beautiful, hitting all the wrong notes in all the wrongs ways to deconstruct sound into their own vessel. Noise drones like “Landscape Photography” and “Tea” sit comfortably amidst the more ‘traditionally structured’ tunes like “The Thaw” & “Trust and Order” as well as the apocalyptic mid-album belter “Favor” which sound like something akin to the heavens falling. The mood is perfectly represented by the cover photograph by Chicago architectural photographer Richard Nickel of a scaffolded building bathed in an otherworldly light, giving the image a surreal semblance, skewing perspective & giving the impression of the image tumbling toward the viewer.

The album was recorded by the band at guitarist Dave Vettraino’s house between July 2014 and January 2016 (on assorted tape machines of varying degrees of quality and working order.), and they worked to create an album that exists independently from their identity as a performing group, purposely juxtaposing content and non-content so that a listen through is an engaging balancing act between space and chatter. - Trouble in Mind Records

The Funs

Genres extract music and artists' work from the direct, immediate experience of music. Instead of describing sounds, genres often connect to fashion movements (punk), derogatory journalistic slogans (shoegaze, rhythm and blues), or confusing statements about distribution ("commercial pop," "indie rock"). When we're writing about music, we can insert these types of abstract categories into our work, but they often have the effect of separating an artist's album from their habitat, leaving much unsaid about what we experience when we are listening.

The Funs provide an exceptional challenge to the music writer. First and foremost, since the band rose through the ranks of Chicago's illegal and underground venues, the simple fact is that experiencing the band's recordings separates the listener from the band's "natural" environment. Secondly, like most independent, outsider pop bands in recent years, The Funs' music is really without genre. You could call them a punk band, but that's not quite right – their songs are often chugging, slow, and tempo-shifting. Yet, the band isn't really noisy or crazy, either — they don't mash effects pedals, they don't play with signal noise, they don't manipulate tape, etc. And, as muddy the band might sound, this certainly isn't what you'd recognize as grunge. So you see, we have a full gamut of ill-fitting categories for The Funs.

The seemingly omnipresent Manic Static released The Funs' self-titled début on cassette in 2012, and the limited edition vinyl version has hit the streets just in time for summer 2013. Throughout this album the duo streamlines their arrangements to the barest of elements. There's hardly a fuzz pedal on this one, as a guitar and booming drums propel each hazy song into its neighbor.

I've never seen The Funs live. Beyond their song-writing and recording aesthetic, that seems to be the most relevant fact of my review, so it is biased from the outset. I can crank my stereo as loud as possible, dump out all the beer I own onto the floor, and roll around in dirty laundry, and I still won't be able to accurately report the feeling of this band. There's a disconnect between reports about their shows and their recordings — this isn't a bad thing, it's simply a matter of whether or not one has the necessary trappings to enable them to touch the music. How does one appreciate party music outside of a party?

Midrange celebrations abound on The Funs. Aside from any genre signifier, the sound of the band falls squarely into the middle of the sonic spectrum. One might say that the recording is lo-fidelity, but that's not really true: individual elements are perfectly clear, it is simply that their range converges. For example, this influences the guitars, which sound clean enough taken on their own terms but bleed together with the drums so profusely as to form a heavy layer of sonic grit.

Without crazy effects or tape manipulation, Jessee Rose Crane and Philip Jerome Lesicko use tempo shifts and dynamic responses between their guitars and drums to build textures and accompany their chugging chord structures. On "Reality," the outcome of a slithering arpeggio is dirty hypnosis, and steady, thwacking drums on "Dead Days" slice right through a jangling chord sequence.

Whether pieced or sequenced together, The Funs reaches a level of intensity through its changes of pace. "Moon" is strangely similar to "Dead Days," for example, but after the slower "Dead Days," The Funs immediately kick- start a series of blissful, driving sequences to build the plot of the release. Abrupt stops or endpoints characterize the songs: suddenly, "Moon" just ends, there is a palpable silence… then "Memory" resumes at an even slower pace. Back and forth, these changes become entrancing.

In the end, pop music endures through the beauty and power of its experiences. The Funs' début ultimately supports the argument against genres and classification, instead preferring straightforward statements. If you've seen The Funs live, this review probably does little justice to their approach to pop music; if you're like me and you can't see them live, their recordings showcase simple sounds suitable for basements, bars, and illegal venues. From their midrange haze, the group hypnotizes their listener while hiding nothing in their sleeves.

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