Pai Nosso by Arden & The Wolves

Fans of LA’s Arden & The Wolves will already be familiar with their holiday song, Mary Did You Know. Now the band is broadening their horizons with Pai Nosso. The song, which is the “Our Father” in Portuguese, was inspired by Arden Leigh’s experience at an ayahuasca ceremony and the works of Brazilian artist Gabriel Guedes de Almeida as well as the styles of Lingua Ignota and Ethel Cain, mixing elements of both chamber music and dreampop.

This is Arden’s first release on which she plays piano. According to Arden, “I went to a Catholic high school on a music scholarship, so arranging the vocal harmonies and learning the song on piano felt like a throwback to my high school years. I think more of my history is reflected in the sound of the recording than I could have anticipated when I set out to make it, like I unearthed the part of my 16-year-old self escaping to the music practice rooms at lunch period and invited her to record in studio with me as an adult. I was happy to meet with her again.”

“I chose to cover this song because I had occasion to pray and this is the best way I know how to do it… I think it will fit in on many people’s holiday playlists alongside darker traditional carols like O Holy Night and Carol of the Bells“.

“While it’s not strictly a Christmas song, the religious elements and cozy chamber feel to it made me feel called to release it for the holidays.”

-Arden LEIGH

Listeners should take note of the “dark, cathedral-like” tone of the piece; as it is meant to “express the serious, hallowed, vast, holy nature of the experience of ceremony.”

In closing, she adds, “While it’s not strictly a Christmas song, the religious elements and cozy chamber feel to it made me feel called to release it for the holidays.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Politics Failing by Doktor Zayus

This independent single from SoCal’s Doktor Zayus covers all the bases for a four-on-the-floor club banger while the intro and interludes are interesting sonic experiments that warrant mention. Bosh Bonesy of Bricklayer Bosh provides vocals on the Club Edit Mix that makes me think of my favorite punk singers rather than a style typical of EBM vocalists. Imagine if Ari Up of The Slits went electro and you get the idea. Mind you, that’s not a complaint. It just comes down to personal taste on this one. If this isn’t your thing, the instrumental 8B-X2 Remix may be more your speed.

My only complaint is I would like to have seen more post-production on the recording. But look at it this way, the raw production quality also falls into the punk-rock aesthetic as well.

Between each remix is an interlude that is pure rhythmic sound design. If it’s meant to mess with the listener’s head, it worked.

While the recording is a bit rough around the edges, the ideas behind Politics Failing are solid. Anything I could nitpick about would be an easy fix while Doktor Zayus has the crucial parts covered.

Aesthetic Perfection – Live at The Casbah, San Diego, CA, 11/06/2022

I didn’t write this review the very next day after the show. I spent the following day basking in the afterglow and just reminiscing this sublime experience; like a freshman the morning after a classic rager. With some shows, the band plays and the crowd stands there and watches. Other shows make the crowd feel like they were truly part of an event. Seeing Aesthetic Perfection’s American Psycho Tour come through San Diego was such an event.

I’m glad I arrived at The Casbah early. Turns out there were actually FIVE bands on the bill, rather than the advertised three. More on that later.

Opening the show was LA’s Arden & The Wolves, which came as a total surprise to me. As we’re both friends of Sounds & Shadows, Arden Leigh and I had been in communication for various reasons over the last several months. But as A&TW was a last minute addition to the bill, I was thrown a pleasant curveball on this. If fact, so many members of the “family” were present this night, it felt like a Sounds & Shadows mixer.

Photo: Mary Strong

Simply put, A&TW have their shit together. The playing was solid and on-point, with Nick Mason (NOT the Nick Mason of Pink Floyd ) having the tightest drumming of the night. Pete Mills on guitar and Justin Emord on bass compliment Arden Leigh’s commanding stage presence. With the disciplined polish to her look and sound, I got the feeling Arden could have done this show in her sleep. She was, however, very much awake with an energy and enthusiasm that sucked in any onlookers. And with the number of San Diego fans who turned out to see this LA band on a Sunday night, it’s obvious that this is a band with traction and an appeal that will only grow over time.

Photo: Mary Strong

Next up was an act I knew nothing about ahead of time, Halo Boy. Now this was an interesting twist I didn’t see coming; hip-hop infused indie pop with a none-too-subtle industrial edge. Sounds like it would be a hot mess, right? Instead, Cameron Cade takes all these influences and intelligently combines them into an eclectic blend where no two songs sounded the same and kept the crowd guessing where it would go next. Afterwards, I overheard people in the audience comparing them to everything from Imagine Dragons to Hollywood Undead. Linkin Park was another name that popped up more than once in the conversation as well.

Halo Boy’s live show is very energetic with the zeal of youth. This guy was on fire and wasn’t afraid to singe the onlookers who were standing too close; jumping into the crowd, giving random hugs and starting a mosh pit. The rhythm section was locked in and took the songs where they needed to go. And I had to give the bass player credit for showing grace under pressure after his E string broke on the last song.

Following Halo Boy came the band I was most excited to see initially, Philadelphia’s genCAB. Having written about genCAB previously, I was intrigued by how they would pull off their sound live. Turns out the lineup on this night was stripped down to the duo of David Dutton and Cristian Carver.

Don’t get the idea that this made the show any less. They were having a ball onstage and the enthusiasm was contagious. And while the band was perhaps a bit socially lubricated courtesy of the friendly Casbah bar staff, they steered into the skid and made even their mistakes work for them in a fun and powerful live show.

David exudes a natural onstage charisma and Christian was on a epic tear with crazy flying hair and flying drumsticks. And while all the bands brought their “A” game, genCAB proved to be on a level that was easily on-par with their LA counterparts.

Three bands in and not a dud yet. Josie Pace hit the ground running to keep the show moving along. Talk about showmanship! Josie and accompanist Ken Roberts stepped onto that drum-cramped stage and proceeded to own it. Funny thing, but I realized that I was more familiar with Josie’s oeuvre than I thought thanks to the Sounds & Shadows Spotify playlist. Next thing I know, I’m singing along to songs like Underestimated and Storm And Stress.

I’m hard-pressed to decide between Arden and Josie who had the strongest voice of the night, as both of them kicked my ass with epic vocal performances. I’ll just call it Apples & Oranges and leave it there. Pace closed her truncated set with a cover of Placebo’s Pure Morning that I liked better than the original. I went in thinking I didn’t know what to expect only to come away with a fanboy crush.

And, of course, we have Aesthetic Perfection as the headliner.

Sexy, weird and loud; this show had three of my favorite flavors. Daniel Graves is certainly a performer with an ability to move the crowd, even if he did get a humorous talking to from drummer Joe Letz for forgetting the next song on the setlist. Constance Antoinette Day did the heavy lifting; playing guitar, keys and bass variously throughout the set as she effectively played up the gothic sex kitten image.

It took me a while to recognize Letz, although the androgynous latex look doesn’t disagree with him. And his fetching blond wig was a nice touch. He flailed, he gyrated, he drank from a dildo-shaped water bottle. Those of us in the front were in danger of being hit with water or flying drumsticks at any given time. At one point, I was worried about getting smacked by the floor tom. I feel for the drum tech on this tour.

Most of the songs were newer, if not from the newest release, MMXXI, but there were indeed a few crowd-pleasers to be had. It wasn’t the tightest set I’ve seen, but that didn’t seem to be the point. Make it hard, make it punchy, make it memorable; that was the order of the day.

My only complaint? It turns out that A&TW and Halo Boy were added to the bill after winning a battle of the bands in Los Angeles. However, it was explained to me that each tour stop was supposed to have a local act as an opener. As a native-born lifelong San Diegan, I wish to point out the following: LOS ANGELES IS NOT SAN DIEGO. Thank you, that is all.

San Diego was the last leg of the American Psycho Tour in California. Those of you who get a chance to check out Aesthetic Perfection on the road have a raucous night full of music and antics to look forward to. Although there may be moments when you’ll want to keep a safe distance from the stage.

(CORRECTION: Halo Boy and Arden did not win the Battle of the Bands for Los Angeles, BlakLight did and played with AP on that date. Arden won for San Diego. Halo Boy was a last minute addition to all the California shows.)

Retail Therapy by Fact Pattern

When I first saw the video for Fact Pattern’s Retail Therapy, I thought it was a bizarre subliminal infomercial. It took a moment to realize that was the intention. This being my first exposure to Fact Pattern, I didn’t know what to expect. The video rolls out like the infomercial from Hell; everything that’s reviled about consumerism all wrapped in a stylish package. Guests appear in a talk show format seemingly with the belief that whatever snake oil the host is hawking will be the panacea to their lives… or not. The video’s director (and Fact Pattern bandleader), Ian Flux nails it on the head with a spot-on observation and critique of consumption over introspection. And it’s done with high production value and a keen eye for detail.

The video coincides with the release of Retail Therapy as the final single from Fact Pattern’s 2021 EP, From Where You’re Hiding.

As for the song itself, the level of quality remains consistent. The heavy riffs and bellowed vocals drive home the feeling of disquiet that is the theme of the song. The instrumental break towards the end of the song shows off the band’s musicianship without taking away from the crux of the lyrics. Additionally, the Blak Emoji remix is definitely worth your time as well.

Since taking the time to give From Where You’re Hiding a proper listen, I feel like Fact Pattern is really out to say something; compelling the listener to introspection and all the horrors that it may entail. The production quality is top-notch and crystal clear. From Where You’re Hiding is heavy as hell but still quite listenable.

I’m so pleased that From Where You’re Hiding did not escape my radar. I’m already looking forward to more from Fact Pattern and will be listening to their back catalog as well.

Hate_Speech by HATE FUELED ///ACH1NE

San Diego, California is not known for its industrial music scene, which is a criminal oversight. Over the years, San Diego has been home to such heavy luminaries as W.A.S.T.E., Author & Punisher, and Crash Worship. Throwing their own hat in the ring was the band Squirrelly Arts, whose aggressive metal-fueled take on the genre was a welcome addition to the San Diego musical landscape.

I was crestfallen when SA announced its hiatus. Rarely has ruining my hearing been so much fun. So I was elated upon hearing SA mastermind Sean Miller announce his new project, HATE FUELED ///ACH1NE and its release, Hate_Speech.

This five-song EP is raw naked aggression; the type of rhythmic noise that San Diego is slowly forming a reputation for.

The title track lyrics read like a shopping list of all the things that our society holds dear but should be held to scrutiny:

Fuck your community_
Fuck your culture_
Fuck society_
Fuck your country_
Fuck your self-esteem_
Fuck your confidence_
Fuck your pr*de_
Exploit your suffering_

And the lyrics don’t let up. On [H.F.M.], the nihilism is taken up a notch:

Kill everyone_
Destroy everything_
Leave nothing behind_
Kill everyone_
Destroy everything_
Regret nothing_

…You get the idea. This is NOT a record that’s meant to leave a warm fuzzy feeling in your tummy. And yet, strangely, the rhythmic cadence gives these songs a perverse singalong quality, as further evidenced on Deep_Cut.

Suicide_On_Repeat slows things down a bit, allowing the song to grind sensually as a story of necessary self-destruction and unwelcome resurrection unfolds.

Isolation closes things out. This creepy instrumental allows HATE FUELED ///ACH1NE to stretch its wings sonically and create an almost cinematic sonic picture without the confines of any standard rock/pop song structure.

Hate_Speech is a winner in my book. HATE FUELED ///ACH1NE is a band that San Diego can be proud of and the rest of the country should take notice.