On and Off the Record
Releases by Max Kasch, Aria Elan and The Cosmic Sand Dollars
By Michel Miller 04/10/2014
Max Kasch EP
Good things do come in small packages. The first taste of singer-songwriter Max Kasch’s enormous musical talent comes to us in a wee three-song teaser that packs a mighty punch. A recent winner of Zoey’s celebrated “Ones to Watch” competition, Kasch’s range and diversity give these few songs a fullness that makes them seem like so much more. The opening track, “God’s Favorite Son,” begins with a stark and compelling vocal intro that bleeds into a Summer of Love, Haight-Ashbury jam reminiscent of Devandra Banhart’s less goofy stuff. What follows is an unexpected plunge into country — a place where Kasch is not only comfortable, but thrives. “Lonely Boy,” a contemplative, sort of coming-of-age confessional is aided by some tasteful lap-steel and hand-drum embellishment courtesy of Jesse Seibenberg. But it’s on the third song, “Old Road Alone,” that Kasch’s vocals reach full gallop to reveal one helluva country croon. Produced by Josh Groban’s musical director Tariqh Akoni, this humble sampler portends nothing but greatness. A full-length is in the works for summer — expect national attention for this rising star, in the not-too-distant future.
— Michel Miller.
Available by email: firstname.lastname@example.org and on iTunes.
Oxnard transplant Aria Elan has worked behind the scenes of the entertainment industry for years, but it wasn’t until recently that she took the bold leap to follow her bliss and step up to the microphone. On this, her debut record, she solicits the help of industry veterans to manifest a solid, elegant, full-length contemporary R&B effort. Elements of jazz and pop weave through the sleek production with arrangements that are fairly typical but appropriate for the genre, providing stable support for Elan’s impassioned vocals. Fans of old-school slow jams will find material to get down to, including the sultry and seductive “When Love is Right” and “I Won’t Stop Loving You,” but there’s more complexity to this collection, including a few bittersweet pre- and post-breakup songs not recommended for the broken-hearted. The record shines brightest when it dips into the inspirational, borderline new-age realm. Most notable of such songs is the title track “Smile,” a radio-friendly, upbeat ode to positive mental attitude. Overall an impressive and thoroughly enjoyable listen by one of the many heretofore unearthed treasures from our own backyard.
— Michel Miller.
Available on amazon.com and iTunes.
The Cosmic Sand Dollars
Let’s Go Critical Density!
There are strange people doing weird things in unlikely places throughout the 805, but perhaps none is as mysterious (at least to me) as the goings-on at Cold Vomit headquarters. Every few years or so, a recording — be it vinyl or CD — arrives in a brown paper wrapper with virtually no accompanying literature and no contact information save whatever can be seen through a magnifying glass on the packaging — which is always super-pro and beautifully designed. The enigmatic label has flipped the script this time with its apparent alter ego, “Old Comet,” giving us instrumental surf with an electronic spin. Recorded at Transmitter Studios in Ventura, all the instruments and percussion are played by J.P. Darby, who is also the brains behind titles like “Dark Matter Kickout,” “Kamikaze Aurora” and “Protostar Over Mondo’s.” With unexpected effects and orchestral nuances that totally work, it’s a hip homage to a niche genre, a brave undertaking in the age of the limited attention span. Whether you’re a fan of the genre in its traditional or neo expressions — The Ventures, The Shadows, The Bomboras — or you just like collecting cool shit, get your hands on this record.
— Michel Miller.Available at www.oldcomet.com.