Jan 31, 2010

North Peak Majestic Wheat Ale

I'm really wishing for summer. Not just for the obvious reasons like sun, sand, boats & bikes either. Here we are in the dead of Michigan winter and the beers tend to lean to the dark and thick persuasions and though some of them are the most stellar and incredible brews out there (after all this IS Michigan-the state where a place like Founders and New Holland make some awesome oatmeal stouts and what have you) but sometimes some of us get to a point of thinking "Man, we can't wait until the season is over so we can go onto the new spring and summer styles." Well, along comes Traverse City's North Peak Brewing earlier this winter unveiling three beers to the bottle market with this wheat beer being one of them.
In Smashin' Transistors previous review of their Diabolical IPA we already went over the whole cool retro feel of their bottles and label design so no need to do that already again except to mention that there's a flying squirrel on the label. Flying squirrels are always pretty cool but let's get right to the beer shall we?
Cloudy and dark gold in color which when held up to the light brings out a little sparkle from the bubbles. The initial head is about an inch this but fades fairly quick which isn't all that uncommon for American pale wheat beers anyway. The smell is somewhat earthy with scents lemon peel and grain.
Flavorwise it's very clean from start to finish. Some American brewers of wheat ales are always trying to amp it this way or twist it that way but this is just straight and simple. No need to get into any fancy descriptions of it because this isn't what this brew is about. A light wheat flavor all the through it with a slight tang, some glint of banana and a slight hop finish. The feel of the beer itself is firm but airy. Not too thick or sticky. I could see a bunch of these being drank while hanging out in a deck and basking in the sun. If you want something super fancy where every character of a wheat beer is turned up to some Nth level this wont be what you're looking for but if you want something with some nice but understated flavor that you could enjoy all day and into the evening this is one you might want to keep an eye out for.

Jan 25, 2010

(((SUNDAY SONANCE))) Feb. 7th at the Raven Cafe in Port Huron

Join yours truly aalong with Franck Nowak as we dig through our crates playing who knows what. Free Wi-Fi, decent sized tables to sit at, comfy couches, good food, cocktails and all ages. So bring your laptop, board games, the kids and an appetite it you wish.

Jan 24, 2010

EL JESUS de MAGICO "Klip Aught" 7inch EP

Last year El Jesus de Magico released the album "Scalping the Guru"-a twisted and hissy smash up of Krautrock slumming in punk's garage, prog rock gone feral and atmospheric ambiance shattered by tension. As where most band's attempting type of thing these days may come off pretentious and alienating the album had a living, breathing warmth to it. Because of this found it's way not only to my turntable plenty of times but also on the night's where I'd Sunday night dj at a coffee house where a majority of the crowd wanted to make people think they were studying but we actually riding out the tail end of their buzz for the weekdays started again. Drag was though by the time them folks shook themselves from whatever stimulant or depressant haze they were in to amble up to the turntables and ask "What is this you're playing?" the album was out of print (or as they say in the vinyl goof biz "OOP").
This single is fairly a fairly limited pressing too but if someone needed a fix similar to the one's found on the album they should act fast before it's gone too.
"Klip Aught" is based around a searing vibrating buzz as the song builds on it's own tension turning inward on itself until it spills it guts with a crying blare of guitar epicness at the end akin to something like the Hunches and Galaxie 500 at the same time explaining Hawkwind to someone.
The b-side's "Papa Sapa" and "Rapey Guys 2" have the same vibe mentioned above going on with the former taking on a nightmarish and echo'd out drone & bash and the later speeding things up fast jettisoning it into the stratosphere.

Jan 18, 2010

the SOFT PACK s/t 12inch EP

About a year or so ago this San Diego based band was operating under the name the Muslims. A decision was made to change the name for the obvious reason that some might find it offensive or interpret it as them making a mockery. Other reasons for the name change was that maybe they didn't want to cringe when some snarky blogger would make some dumb joke or comment at their expense not to mention it wasn't really all that great of a name to begin with. Not that the Soft Pack is all that great of a choice either but we all should by now that a lot of the already best band names have been taken.
The band's sound, heavily rooted in the Velvet Underground's third album and the things it influence like the nervous smart kid sound of the Feelies, hasn't changed with the 4 songs here.
"C'mon" kicks off the record with something that if heard coming out of the radio of signal quickly fading college station while driving through a barren strip of the midwest you'd pull over the side of the highway to hear the dj tell you who it was. Then you'd scour record stores until you were once again able to hear it's bright jangle and simply catchy slightly off key harmonies in the chorus. Tables are turned on "Eat Gold" where it's a heads down straight into the storm bash and raw throated yearning resembling Hootenanny era Replacements trying their hand at sounding like the Swans.
"Answer To Yourself" is full of a really wet surf reverb guitar licks backed by loud twitchiness, a full on middle part of noise and topped with heavy lidded singing. The record ends with "Faithman" which shows the world how comfortably 60's garage comp's sit next to Sonic Youth records.

Jan 16, 2010

Victory Yakima Twilight Ale

It's no secret of my alliance and affinity to Michigan made beers. With the way the state's economy is I figure that the more money spent in Michigan on Michigan made products the more people it keeps working here. There aren't many job prospects out there right now so any way of keeping the people of this fine state working the better. This does not mean that Michigan breweries are exclusively 100% on my radar. One of my favorite ever NON-Michigan breweries is Downington Pa's Victory Brewing Company. While taking a beer hunting trip a county over finding some of this, a recent addition the brewery stable, was on the top of my trophy list. At the time I wasn't even too sure it was being sold in Michigan (and even if it was figured that our local distributor blew off getting it in stock because it would leave less room on their warehouse shelves for something stupid like Bud Lime Wheat Light Ice or some other macro aberration). I was very happy when I spotted this at Champane's in Warren.
Dark mahogany in color and a 3/4 inch tan colored head that holds on for quite awhile leaving a thick lacing behind all the way to the bottom of the glass. Scents are quite robust with a Rye ale characteristic big on the tip along with aroma's of brown sugar malts and a pine forest after a summer rain. Sweetness & earthiness rolled into one.
The brew's flavor has quite a levels of complexities to it. A molasses & perhaps cardamon flavor steps up first with some toasted bread right behind it. Very piney hops quickly follow it pushing the OOMPH factor up a bit more. It's almost along the lines of an IPA but there's a dark fruit thing instead of grapefruit and pine that those usually carry. I can't quite put my finger on what I am tasting but it is tasting very interesting and quite good. The finish then throws in another curveball in the taste with a ginger hotness chocolate notes and rye. The mouthfeel is full yet bubbly and has quite a chewiness to it.
Ron Barchet, co-brewmaster at Victory, has said “I thought of hop farmers as I formulated this beer. I wanted to create a malty platform to showcase the intense flavors and aromas that these dedicated hop-farmers have developed in their wonderful hops” concerning this latest brew from their always impeccable company. Using hops from one of the most noted area's for such things this tribute to them shows much respect and honor.

Jan 12, 2010

SONIC CHICKEN 4 "Surf On A Plane" 7inch

Our personal favorite Franco Frogs of Fuzz are back here with two numbers that'll get all but the most uptight, crotchety or grumpy swinging, dancing, swaying, smooching, drinking or grooving.
"Surf On A Plane" is a jittery smash up of 60's mod blow ups with an overdose of organ hiss and guitar distortion and a bit of something that could be something all the bad kids out on the elementary school playground sing to taunt all the do-gooders.
"Crashed" takes the BFTG type of stomp, tosses in some Velvet Underground out of tune jangle in the middle and makes the sound of knocking over a spring reverb amp over and over again not only a center piece but even perhaps the solo. While some other bands would turn such things that would stick around too long the Sonic Chicken 4 don't waste time being long winded making you almost wish the songs would last just a little bit longer just so you could keep jumping around like a fool to them (which is the best way to jump around to any record unless you're uptight crotchety or grumpy that is) before you have to pick up the needle to start them over again.

Jan 9, 2010

Short's The Liberator

This is another of the limited run beers that Bellaire/Elk Rapids, Michigan brewery Short's released to the market last month. It's a double IPA which us here at S/T central are always up for and that it was from Short's we more than ready to pop the cap.
A very nice, rich & cloudy burnt copper color gets us even more intrigued at first glance. A very strong orangish head hangs on for quite a while. It's thick but soft. When it fade the lacing reminds one of watching snowdrift blow across the road. Man, oh Man! It's almost declared a winner on looks alone.
Talk about a beer who's scent bursts with juicy aromas as soon as the bottle was open you could already smell it in the air. Peach, green apple, tangerine, white pepper and bubble gum all seem to float through the air when giving this a whiff. All of them distinctive and very flavorful smelling and though all very pronounced not one of them stepping over the others. All one can say is "Wow!"
The scent is just a primer for the gigantic sour fruit punch the brew packs. This very full and fluffy feeling brew stokes up the tongue instantly with a straight up tang. Full of earthy zest and oily, grassy pucker power. Once again "Wow!" We're talking hop juice here. A peppery bite comes through in the middle and stands out more in the finish.
I've heard a few people have said that this is pretty much Short's turning up their Huma Lupa Licious twice as loud. It's very understandable why. There's a whole lotta flavor punch in one of them and the same kind of flavors in it hit here doubly.

Jan 7, 2010

the JOHNNY ILL BAND "The Doctor" 7inch EP

Most news articles and books on the shelves these days concerning Detroit tend to discuss the greatest fall of an empire since Rome (and a large chunk of what tourism from curiosity seekers wanting to sightsee and explore the ruins). Full of crumbling facades, skyscrapers gutted from anything that can get some nickels and dimes per pound at the scrapyards, onetime thriving neighborhoods now consisting of vacated, boarded up, burned out homes, overgrown brush, ghosts & pheasants (lots of pheasants) and empty storefronts. To a lot of extents it is true but there are those who thrive on such surroundings taking in the air and reinterpreting back into something that has a pulse. Sure, it may be an off kilter pulse but a pulse none the less.
With a Terrible Two or two in tow the Johnny Ill Band is a band that is doing such a thing. "The Doctor" (nope, not a cover of the Doobie Brothers last hit ever) is a twitchy rustbelt rock that in some circles could be tagged as art-punk but it's more of the pot holed street display for whatever desolate souls that may stumble by than it would appeal to a chin scratching, cheese eating gallery crowd. "Make The Feel Good" is along the same lines with it's DIY/Pere Ubu leanings but much more steeped in Sunday comic escapism than it is in Theater of the Absurd intellectualism.
Side two's "Television Personalities" takes a waltz tempo and drags it behind to a car to a place the Swell Maps might've stayed the night at while the decayed but still epic "Rocketship", a tune all about going to outer space to find someone different to hang out and party with, closes the record with some Simply Saucer pop moments and a chorus that has no choice than to be stuck in your brain the rest of the day.

Jan 5, 2010

the PEOPLE'S TEMPLE "Outta My Hands" 7inch EP

Situated smack-dab between the dirt of your friendly neighborhood trashy garage punk band and the off into space psychedelics of those who've traded an older brother or creepy neighbor that buys them beer for something a bit more heavier and mind bending, Lansing Michigan's People's Temple may not have people declaring them the future of rock-n-roll but do bring much more teen snot attitude to the table than a lot of bands that are being declared "the future of rock" by clown suited college term paper writers posing as music fans.
The opener, "Out of My Hands" melds a sick and thudding Gories RnB guitar gruel with with microdotted echo causing a mess of sound wave tracers as the songs kicks and screams. It finishes not with a big ending but sounding like it completely fell apart in a matter of seconds. It's followed by "The Way It Is" which just might answer the musical question "What if the Velvet Underground did blues jams AND what if the Electric Eels did a cover of said blues jam."
Side two kicks the door open with a total 60's style garage blaster that is more akin to the way the Cheater Slicks might do one than the snoozy wannabe trad. bands that get played on the Underground Garage do. The record wraps up with the 4 and half minute space folk/ragga punk "1st Century Man" which could be taken as a sign of the apocalypse or at least whatever drugs they're on don't alway guarantee is sweet and mellow trip.