Local Music Reviews: Snakehole, Bill Orcutt and Jacob Felix Heule, Soundtrack to the Rat Opera
Mr. Entertainment is a South Florida musician and herald of the local scene since the 19-somethings and serves as the unofficial Musical Mayor of Hollywood.
There's a lot of killer music coming out of the South Florida swamp, and we intend to give it some attention. Here's Mr. E's take on a few recently released picks.
Snakehole's S/T 12-inch EP
Snakehole consists of Miami-based Autumn Casey and KC Toimil. They have been playing together since 2011 and have one previous release, a cassette put out by No Work Records. Casey plays guitar, sings, and also is an interesting conceptual artist. Toimil plays the drums and sings. They have many live shows under their belt, including a couple of jaunts across the country. The new record is a 12-inch vinyl recorded at Dan Hosker Studio by Rat Bastard in March, and my first journey into it was a bizarre one.
As I put the needle on the dirge, what I heard was familiar but seemingly in slow motion. It was then I realized I had the record on the wrong speed. This one spins at 45 RPM — though the mistake was not unenjoyable. Once I established my equilibrium, the trip started with a spooky, sorta David Lynch soundtrack piano instrumental followed by three doses of pure, classic, Snakehole punk. With their feminist screams, a pinch of “Spider Legs,” and dead “Roaches,” I become “Unseamed." By the time side A comes to an end with “Carousel in Macedonia,” I've been dragged through a Stroszek-type seance. This is the moment I realize these women are some sort of witches of no-wave.
As I flip to side B, the sound of “Hung” fills the speakers with Sabbath angst and the “brujitas” come full-force in all their black-metal magic. We're taken on a walk through the graveyard with “Freddy Krug,” and they end finally with “Something to Become." Whatever you are, Snakehole, I want to climb inside and swim in your venom.
Brian Franklin and Rob Elba's Soundtrack to the Rat Opera
To be released December 1 via
You have the playbill, you’ve seen the musical, you’ve bought the T-shirt — but here, for the first time, is the Soundtrack to the Rat Opera. On the chance you haven’t heard of the Rat Opera and wonder why two schmucks from Weston wrote a rock opera about the King of Noise, here is your chance to find out.
Now call me biased, since I have been part of the Rat Opera performances, but other than a few Rat stories I have offered to this project, I have nothing to do with the recording. The two guys who do are, actually, not schmucks at all. In fact, they are both well-known South Florida singer/songwriters. Although they seem strange bedfellows, Brian Franklin (think a pint of U2, a liter of Springsteen, and a shot of Waits) and Rob Elba (sarcastic, silver-tongued, voice of '90s and beyond SoFla punk) worked well together to pull off this ‘’classic."
The idea of a rock opera about Frank “Rat Bastard” Falestra goes back some 20 years, when these two wandered upon each other recording at Rat’s studio. Over time, they found a theme to Rat’s experiences and thought they might have something. After live performances, hard work, and endless recording, here is what they finally came up with. It is made in complete musical/rock opera form, complete with overtures, underscores, clichés, rock kicks, power chords, and singalongs.
The music takes you through the somewhat-true story of Rat Bastard. From “Asleep at the Board” to “Take out the Keys” to “You’ll Write Good Commercials," you learn Rat’s genius while rocking out arena-style. These songs are big and meant to be that way. “Outside This Bar” borrows from Rat’s a cappella performances and directly from an American Music Club tune of the same name. Other odes to Rat’s all-girl noise band the Laundry Room Squelchers, nods to Robert Pollard, Rat’s career choice and expert advice, come across with deliberate comedy. This is all delivered by a crackpot band consisting of Andre Serafini on drums, William Trev on bass, Russell Mofsky on atmospheric guitar, and Franklin and Elba singing and playing their hearts out. Guest appearances by Diane Ward and Ali Culotte are also fantastic; these ladies have pipes of gold.
It all takes about 60 minutes and is the type of music you can take along on a fast car ride. My best advice, though, would be to get a six-pack, go pick up Rat, and drive around with him and let him tell you everything that's wrong with it. Then might get a better idea of why there is a rock opera about him.
Bill Orcutt and Jacob Felix
Released October 16 via Palilalia Records.
Recorded in the winter and spring of 2015 in Orcutt's living room, this record is the first time these two improvisers have been captured on vinyl, although they have performed together multiple times, including some performances here in South Florida a few years back. There has been much talk of the wickedly cool album cover of Bob Marley tattoos, but it is most definitely the music which is most interesting here. Besides, all of Orcutt’s album covers have been instant classics since his return.
Orcutt plays electric here, and usually with a drummer. The music has ties to, but is much different from, his acoustic work, and occasionally comes across in the vein of his former electric work. He uses his four-string alternate tuning method, and its experimental nature puts this in the Sir Richard Bishop, Derek Bailey, Marc Ribot schools of exploration — totally Orcutt's own thing, though.
Felix works well with Orcutt, both understanding each other's limits. The listener journeys through fast chaos to accidental ragas, sometimes with the power of punk among a smattering of improv — moments of beauty and mischief, all with the pain and relief of ancient blues. One song in particular sounds like abstract horns, percussion, mouthpieces, and balloons rubbing together all turned into a kind of musical stampede. The end result was mixed by Rat Bastard at Dan Hosker Studio. But good luck getting a copy; It's a limited edition run of 750 and sure to sell-out.
You can catch Bill Orcutt with Chris Corsano at Churchill’s on December 27.
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