HomeBlogsJeff Hewitt's blogNeedles to the Grooves: Nineteen Music Picks from Norfolk and Beyond

Needles to the Grooves: Nineteen Music Picks from Norfolk and Beyond

February 12, 20192372Views

Young Hierophant • The Thin Place

Va Beach. Ambient. | EP

Ambient lives or dies on two key ingredients: Sound and Mood. Young Hierophant delivers on both levels with this release. There's a depth and texture to his synths that isn't easy to come by. I'm not exactly a connoisseur of this genre: I tend to measure all ambient music by Daft Punk. I close my eyes and try to imagine a scene from Tron while listening to it. By that criteria, this is a successful record. I can easily see this playing over a scene of light cycles racing through a digital information forest. Neon pulses of electric transcendence taking place in the overhead canopy of massive microstucture trees while our heroes desperately race to seek knowledge from some subroutine sorceress.

There's backstory here that I'm not entirely familiar with. Possibly with reference to the Waverly Novels of the mid 19th century, but I'm not really sure and I could be entirely off base. Regardless, this is holy music, and one of the few forms left to us that is allowed to take its time to tell a story through timbre and pitch and crazy mad beats.

This is great stuff, easily the best I've heard of its kind around town.

You'll like this if: You're a fan of Daft Punk. You played a lot of Zelda while smoking herb. You're deeply in a mood and just need to bob your head awhile till you feel better.

Chain Breaker • 2019 DEMO

Va Beach. Punk. | EP

I don't know the story behind the band and just happened upon this record through random searching. The audio is somewhat submerged and all together it reminds me of the kind of tapes I'd get in the mail back in the mid to late 80s through zine correspondence. But I can hear enough to know that whoever this is gets it. Gut-punching, back-to-basics hardcore designed to thrash with a loose anything-goes groove. I want to see them live.

You'll like this if: You're a punk. You need to thrash. Someone has recently told you you're not good enough. You won't do what they told you.

Boxford • Facade

Va Beach. Punk. | EP

Highly competent, tightly layered pop punk, shot through with streaks of hardcore. There's so much fucking heart in here. And their energy is so goddamn positive that once you start listening it's hard not to find your self moving. It's tough to put this down when it's over and you very quickly find yourself pushing the repeat button. Of special note? An exploration of what it means to lose someone to self harm, the track titled "Breathe" is the real deal.

My only complaint is that there's not more of it. I'm looking forward to a full-length record from these guys, and if you haven't seen them live you're ripping yourself off.

You'll like this if: You like to jump and and down and scream "Hell yeah, motherfuckers!"

The Great Noise • Dison

Chesapeake. Hard Rock. | Single

The Great Noise dropped this single last week as part of their continuing evolution as a band. There's references to the Seattle vibe still, but it's notably muted this go-round. The wall of guitar sound on this is massive, and lead singer Corey White reaches a new level with nuance and power. This is a young, hard working band that's making waves quickly, and I continue to look foward to where they take this.

You'll like this if: You have been to Seattle and you want to go back. You own anything from Sub Pop's heyday.

Quamin BLCKRICAN • Allied Nemesis

Norfolk. Hiphop. | EP

Quamin's been off doin' whatever for a little while -- minus a single put out in the Spring, I haven't heard anything from him since 2015. This time at the well finds him collaborating with Russian producer, Wood Bird, styled as a meeting of the cultures in a time where we hear a lot of negativity about out brothers and sisters behind the Bear.

Lyrically, the man is in top form here. Aggressive, sinister, and shady like a forest of oak -- this is representative of the best of 757 Hiphop. Three years is an era with this kind of music, but the fiercely independent BLCKRICAN shows he's not lost a step. In particular? The track, "Fame or Not" shows real fire. "Venting" drops some serious knowledge about what it means to persevere in your art after youth begins to fade. The closing bit, taken from something just on the edge of my consciousness, rings out as a dire warning not to discount this man's talent.

If you don't know anything about rap in this area and you're looking to learn? Quamin is conducting a master class for you.

You'll like this if: You're not down with the mumble rap shit. You appreciate top-notch lyricism.

Snake Mountain Revival • Everything in Sight

Va Beach. Psychedelic. | Single

From the opening sweep across six steel hardened strings, this song is enormous. Snake Mountain Revival shows up ready to rumble with ominous purpose before settling into a tense shuffle running the length of the track. This is a band looking to contend, and the fact that a mere trio is able to pack this much orgasmic aural assualt into the space provided here is impressive. This song makes me feel like I'm descending into the dank mines of Moria. The Dark Fire is close at hand, and there is treachery looming around every corner. If each member of this band were a single word? it would spell out: So. Fucking. Good.

You'll like this if: You need more guitar in your life. You're worried that Jimmy Page is going to kick it soon and there will be no one to replace him. You enjoy shrooms. You know.. Like.. On your pizza. What did you think I meant? Damn. You're preparing a trip into Hell to battle the armies of the dead.

Rose Milk • LindaBlair

Va Beach. Punk. | EP

The opening track brings thunder and fury. Rose Milk is an expression of rage well suited to these desperate days we find ourselves navigating. Deftly blending the best of hardcore with asynchronous breaks and mortality defying screamo, this band is making waves throughout the VBHC scene. You need to see them live to get the full effect, but this EP is a great example of what they're capable of.

You'll like this if: You're fucking pissed, and you're not going to take it anymore.

It's Tha Koncept • I Got Soul

Va Beach. Punk. | Single

A straight-up ode to the best of Boom-Bap. This track is the kind of thing Smokey the Bear would warn you about taking into the forest if he still had a job. Big Torrin, one of the hottest young producers in the 757 mixes it up with a killer MC in the form of It's Tha Koncept: The result is what I honestly believe is the best hiphop single put out in the seven cities last year. Park Place is where it's at kids. Keep your eyes peeled for big things to come from this cat: I don't know another local MC who touches him as regards pure lyricism. His mileage only adds to his power.

You'll like this if: You understand that MCs bring lyrical mastery. You're a fan of KRS-1. You believe Rakim is the G.O.A.T.

The Purge • Hurt You

Norfolk. Goth. | Side A / Side B

Thomas Duerig teams up here with Samantha Darkly recalling the glory days of Smith and Siouxie in a way I haven't heard anyone else come close to. I'm biased, of course -- this is the kind of music I turn to when I'm done writing reviews and just want to lay back on the couch and write poetry. But the production values here are phenomenal for what is essentially one guy working out of a room somewhere in Norfolk. The writing is complex and of a depth I seldom encounter at this level. The is the first time I've heard anything from Darkly, aka Samantha Teller. I can't speak to what other work she may have put out there, but her vocals on "Hurt You" are deliciously gothic. The second track continues to affirm Duerig as a musician who is at the top of his game, summoning the tenebrous shades of my youth. Bits of Sisters of Mercy cropping up here alongside the usual influences. This is brilliant work and I want more.

You'll like this if: You're post-modern. You love the Cure but in your honest moments you're pretty sure he hasn't been as good for awhile now. You just got dumped. You're about to be dumped.

Reptile Tile •

Virginia. Experimental. | Full Length

Good god. This record is a towering production. Twenty-three tracks running a gamut of influences from post-punk to Jane's Addiction to the Velvet Underground to reggae to They Might Be Giants to The Human League to I don't even know what. How many people worked on this? How huge is this band? Are they in fact actual lizard people from some other planet? That said, the shock and awe of this record isn't that they manage to load in so many musical styles. Anyone with a half decent keyboard and a smattering of music theory can do that. It's that they do so without dropping an iota of quality, all while maintaining a singular style of their own. Anyone of these songs on their own would make an outstanding introduction to any band. Taken as a whole? I mean.. It's early for a "record of the year," but this is going to be hard to beat.

You'll like this if: Our new reptilian overlords allow you to live out your life as a house pet. As opposed to the other, options. You've seen V, right? You know what they were doing in those spaceships when we weren't looking??

James K Ultra •

Norfolk. Synthpop. | Single

The mastermind behind Pain in the Yeahs explores his inner Morrissey just because he can, and the output is fun. Lot's of folks can pull off the Smiths' vibe vocally, but not so many manage to evoke Johnny Marr's git as well. Wagner does it all. Fresh off the heels of PITY's commanding performance covering Neil Young at the Veer Awards, one imagines there will be a full fledged tour to support 2018's "Dopamine Noir." But he's far too restless an artist for side tracks like this to not pop out here and there -- to the benefit of music lovers all throughout the 757.

You'll like this if: Heaven knows you're miserable now.

The Breach • The Breach

Va Beach. Punk. | Full Length

The first 27 seconds of this record tricks you into thinking it's gonna be some late-stage Green Day bullshit. But then it kicks into high gear straight from 1977. Think Richard Hell and the Voidoids. Think the Buzzcocks. Think the Damned. Think the Stranglers.

I love these guys. I do. The raw energy they bring to the stage alone is enough to do it for me, but listening to this record brings back that fateful day when I first shoved a black cassette labeled "Sex Pistols" into my beat-all-to-fuck-and-gone knockoff Walkman. From Bobby Kotrba's tightrope walk on guitar to lead singer Ryan Copley's split second shifts from sneer to snarl to Rachel Frank's frenzied four string groove to Mike Polen's runaway train behind the kit: This band is as punk as anything we have.

You'll like this if: OI! OI!! OI!!!

Travelers • White Rabbit

Va Beach. Indie-Pop. | Single

This is a band that is doing everything you need to do right to move onto the national stage. They've got a slick, stylish as hell package going on with everything they're doing. They're young, seething with ambition, and I think they've got that X factor that holds the keys to fame and fortune. They've been slowly releasing a track at a time, building anticipation for the first full record release. And the production here feels like t came from a band a hundred times bigger than they are.

I caught them live at Charlies and the energy was astounding. I don't even particularly listen to this kind of music, but this track in particular has lived on my top twenty playlist for the past three months. Think Arcade Fire but with a more expansive sound. I feel a bit of a Hunters and Collectors vibe in the background of what they're doing. Queens of the Stone Age, but with smarter pop hooks. This music is radioactive bubblegum pop with panache. I think this is potentially one of the biggest bands to come out from our area in terms of sheer crossover appeal.

You'll like this if: You have an appreciation for clever pop.

Norfolk Nightmares • Norfolk Nightmares

Norfolk. Punk. | Full Length

Imagine if the punks in the late 70s could actually play their instruments and you'll get Norfolk Nightmares. These guys all have deep pedigrees in the local hardcore scene -- Sergio Ponce especially, having drummed in seemingly every major punk band in the 757 over the last thirty years. This is a fun record. The kind of thing you throw on the whirly-round while playing pool with your homies and knocking back brews Not Milwaukee's Best, mid you. You're too old for that swill these days. Nah.. Something imported. Classy. Like Heineken or Guinness.

You'll like this if: You enjoy chasing whiskey with stout. You love punk but need the guitars to be in tune.

Demons • Made in the USA

Norfolk. Punk / Sludge. | Side A / Side B

Mudhoney meets Fugazi in a bar and a brawl breaks out. Best live band in the city bar none. Except for maybe the Candy Santchers. I need to see both on the same bill to decide on that. This single edges them into heavier territory. Drew Orton's drumming here is like Godzilla moshing on your head. Pretty sure that's Chris Matthews stepping into a bigger role on vocals with the first track. Zach Gehring picks the mic back up on the second to bring his trademark sinister snarl back into the mix with the second. The complementary guitar work between the two of them across both these songs is a clash of nuclear powered chainsaws. And bassist Jon Anderson is rock solid.

They need a national tour under a big name to break through. Hey Greg Graffin, what you got goin' on? Are you still relevant at all or are you just living off your glory years? Take a look at this band!

You'll like this if: You don't suck. You've got four baby turtles and need some radioactive sludge to get them goin.

The Cemetery Boys • Death Warmed Over

Norfolk. Horror-Punk. | Full Length

I'm somewhat shocked that his record didn't come out until just last year, as I know a lot of the songs from hearing their live set over a stretch of time. Two bass guitars and a drumset combining to make a sound that shouldn't actually be possible. This trio moves track by track in perfect lock-step. Consistently excellent, often overlooked. One of the tightest bands in our area without peer.

You'll like this if: Oh hell. I don't know. Did you love Morphine but wish they had a harder edge? Are you a goth who loves to mosh? Do you like to play with power tools in the graveyard? Are ossuaries a turn on for you?

You're Jovian • Speak Yer Mind

Norfolk. Mumblecore. | Single

It's no secret that I adore You're Jovian, and what's not to love? Dive-bombing, swoopy guitar that breaks up into raw, unrefined hurt. A sublime exploration of what it is to feel something. The last record felt like a soundtrack for falling in love over the long summer, but this track sounds like the thing you listen to after she dumped your dumb ass for the hot surfer guy who showed up at the end of the movie. Malvas is brilliant and underappreciated. We desperately need music like his in the world. Give him all your money so he'll make more.

You'll like this if: You need to lie still and bleed awhile. You're a fan of deeply personal, introspective lyrics that you've really got to listen hard to in order to get. You love the Feelies.

Tornado Bait • Teacup's Half Full

Hampton. Americana. | Full Length

This record has been a long time coming and it was absolutely worth the wait. Tornado Bait is a musical carnival. The Americana expression of Parliament Funkadelic. A rockabillied-out evocation of the B52s. The sass of the Cramps filtered through bluegrass-grunge ascetics.

The title track is raucous and freewheeling joy. "Woah to Fun" recalls the finer points of alt-country Detroiters, Blanche. "No Room in the Coffin" could be a straight out punk rocker if it wanted to. There's not an ounce of fat on this entire record.

Front-woman Msesippi McQuown Henry matches a hard won eccentricity with a harder-lived no nonsense take-no-prisoners approach to songwriting. Throw in a motley crew of eclectic, top notch musicians and you've got a recipe for one of the most original bands in the area.

Support this music now. There might never be another band like this.

You'll like this if: You want your favorite band ready to rumble. You're three shots in to a bottle of Jamesons and ready to pour your heart out.

Combine • All Tore Up

Norfolk. Punk. | Full Length

I'm about twenty years past due with this review, but better late than never, right? The resurrection of Combine for their 25th anniversary at the Veer Awards last week proved that these guys were massively ahead of their time. Indeed, remastered, there's nothing on here that indicates the record wasn't released two hours ago, let alone two decades past.

There's inspiration from Fugazi here, of course. But Combine was post-hardcore before we knew what that meant. Aggressive. Not afraid to make some noise. Lyrically complex. A monster of a rhythm section, which all trios desperately need if they're not going to sound dinky and sad. Employing a stop-start song structure that catches you unawares while listening.

That Combine didn't break all the way through is tragic. They could have been a massive name from the 90s. Personally I blame the beginning of the end of the record industry on their demise. Money started drying up fast as labels began to collapse left and right. The suits started throwing what cash remained at easier bands than Combine, and that's a damn shame. They had a special sound, and I for one think the music world was left poorer for the loss.

You'll like this if: You love Fugazi. You wonder whatever the hell happened to Helmet. You can't resist guys running around dressed in ape suits.

All reviews by Jeff Hewitt.