Author: By Nick Kuzmack

Las Kellies | Friends & Lovers | Fire Records

Las Kellies
Friends & Lovers

Fire Records
Street: 10.14.2016
Las Kellies = The Slits + Chin Chin

The Argentinean post-punk trio are back with a new member, Manuela Ducatenzeiler on bass.  Their new album, Friends & Lovers, delivers a sound that strikes with an electric feeling that is cool and sharp. In a sort of subtle way, this new record is a beautiful and haunting listen. It muddles the line between the distorted sounds made in the garage with the overwhelming, dark sensations of new-wave induced psychedelia. It’s a defiant attitude that invokes a nod toward The Slits, but with a borderline poppy flare—kind of like what one could see in the vein of Thee Oh Sees, but with the abrasiveness of a 1980s post-punk group.  These are the factors that mandate the spark of devilish intrigue into Las Kellies.

Absorbing this record is much like dancing with the devil itself. At first, the upbeat, static-like style of tracks like “Suger Beat” are warm and inviting. It’s groovy, and it’s something to move to. Digging deeper into the grooves of the record offers a trance-like experience that reveals Las Kellies’ dabblings in noises from the new wave. It’s primitive post-punk with a poptastic coating. With the preemptive attitude that this is a soundtrack for spacing out, the mind will be invited to wander the depths of the universe. Admittedly, that might be a stretch to suggest—however, if one switches on “Make It Real,” they might gather a taste of a similar understanding.

Las Kellies’ Friends & Lovers falls in line with the popular sentiment of being provocative through simplicity. It is at once stripped, jumpy and edgy. It’s noise that hooks its listener and plays that person like a puppet. “I’m on Fire” or “ I don’t Care” are tracks that stun their captive listeners into moving while enjoying the reactions of assertive, catchy punk.

The reasons for adding this record to the legion of primitive-sounding post-punk types out there can be significantly narrowed down. For starters, Las Kellies master the simplicity of what they produce in the stunning quality in which they play. It’s well done and doesn’t rely on shock and awe only to get the listeners’ attention—melody, rhythm and attitude are very much alive and well.  This is the kind of music that invites listeners on a journey of serenity. In their ability to be overwhelming, they don’t attack the listener with the senseless barrages of raw rock n’ roll. Rather, it’s a sound that takes control by pleasantly guiding the listener. It could be said to be sweet with an edge and kick.

This record hit the shelves on Oct. 14 and is easy to acquire. Consider this an album that is good for decompression after a day at a soul-sucking job. Add a stiff drink to listening to Friends & Lovers, and you’ve got your evening cut out for you. Las Kellies really have something here, and it’s well defined and defines itself. These cats take care to play their contemporary take on post-punk meets new wave. It’s a listen well worth having. So, seek out Friends & Lovers at your earliest convenience. —Nick Kuzmack

Hannah Williams & The Affirmations- Late Nights & Heartbreaks

Hannah Williams & The Affirmations
Late Nights & Heartbreaks

Records Kicks
Street: 11.18
Hannah Williams & The Affirmations = The Flirtations + Gloria Jones

With each note and harmony, Hannah Williams is able hook on the listener’s heartstrings and grasp their very essence. Hannah Williams & The Affirmations’ soul nods toward the past and attempt to drag a nostalgic sound into the present. It is something that they do rather well. Late Nights & Heartbreaks touches on the dramatic nature of the genre while invoking a cool groove. Williams’ vocals invoke the memory of Aretha Franklin and the late Sharon Jones.

Hannah Williams & The Affirmations are a group whose power to inspire through music is stunning. Certainly, their style is one that begs for familiarity but never fails in their delivery of substance. The opening track, “Tame in the Water” takes a hold of the listener and gently sways them with awe-inspiring sound. No doubt a brilliant horn section help alongside soothing backing vocals.

“Dazed and Confused” starts out with a feeling of foreboding. It’s funky and drives home a sense of intensity. “Fighting Your Shadow” is a slow, grooving number that ought to get one moving. “Woman Got Soul” is a track that commands and boasts a catchy chorus that the demands to be sung and hummed along with.

The top number on Late Nights & Heartbreaks is “Ain’t Enough.” This track’s message is blunt, via its funk-driven delivery. With the backing of a strong horn section, Williams lays out the plain shortcomings of society to address the impending threats like war and a world going up in flames. “Ain’t Enough” is a track much like other protest anthems before it and, like those, is perfectly capable of driving the point home. If and when you purchase this album, you should play this soul number often and loud — it’s truly relevant.

Hannah Williams and the Affirmation  recorded Late Nights & Heartbreaks in London, England at Quartermass Studio. Drummer and producer Malcolm Catto—who is also known for his work with other artists like Connie Price &The Keystones and The Heliocentrics produced the album. Cotto has also produced albums by Mulatu Astake (Inspiration, Information) and Melvin Van Peebles (The Last Transmission).

This is an album that’s soaked in brilliance. From start to finish, Late Nights & Heartbreaks, captures a certain elegance and dazzles with defiant beauty. It’s soul music that clearly draws from the genre’s roots. Although this album boats a sound that could be placed in the past, its style will—like its forbearers—stand the tests of time. With Jones’ sudden departure and Charles Bradley’s shaky foundation, the world needs artists like Hannah Williams & The Affirmations. They’ve got a magic that shines a light in the enveloping darkness. It’s a light that offers something hopeful that will only get brighter with each listen.

This is music that is easily accessible and betrays no pretension. Late Nights & Heartbreaks is an album for our incoming age and, like those before, will guide us forward—one way or another. Be sure to pick this album up— it’s essential. –Nick Kuzmack

Photos: Russel Daniels

For May’s SLUG Localized showcase, concertgoers and troublemakers alike will be graced by three of Utah’s most notorious punk acts. Opening this night of mayhem and debauchery will be Revolt, with Ogden darlings Jail City Rockers and Salt Lake’s own The Nods headlining. This is a night not to be missed, so come out May 20 to Urban Lounge and dig this, sponsored by Uinta Brewing Co., KRCL 90.9 FM and Spilt Ink SLC.


The Nods are a force to be reckoned with. Their membership boasts veterans of Salt Lake’s diverse music scene—Joey Mayes, Zach “Rocky” Maldonado, Travis Michael and Sean Michael Vincent—whose combined and individual appreciation for music is nothing short of incredible. The band formed in 2013 when Mayes and Maldonado started to hang out and jam after work. “[Mayes] said that he was working on a project called The Nods, and I thought that name was really funny,” says Maldonado. “But he was saying he was doing this band, so I jokingly asked, ‘Let me play tambourine with you guys,’ and he was like, ‘You should just fucking sing.’” After going to Mayes’ house with expectations set low, Maldonado was pleasantly surprised to hear a sound that reminded him of 45 Grave. Mayes recruited Michael to play bass, and after going through several drummers—including Samp Ravens/Brain Bagz’s Mikey Blackhurst—Vincent joined the band in November 2014. “I saw The Nods several times,” he says. “They were always underdogs—not very noticed. I liked it. It was mainly my interest in the band that got me into it.” Once Sean joined the band, Maldonado says, “That was the nail in the coffin.”

Russel_Daniels-2

Now complete, The Nods profess a wide variety of musical tastes. When starting out, Maldonado and Mayes connected on music from the ’60s. “I really don’t like newer music that much,” says Maldonado. “Genuinely, I like older stuff.” Their overlapping tastes are best described as a venn diagram: There are some similarities, but everyone has their particular tastes. Michael likes metal and punk, Vincent has an affinity for shoegaze, Mayes enjoys blues and rock n’ roll, and Maldonado digs all things psychedelic. About The Nods’ sound, Vincent says, “People like to point us out as a psych band or a garage band. You can call us psych punk or you can call us garage punk—I don’t give a shit.” Arguably, though, The Nods’ diverse influences inspire when combined. When The Nods burst onto the stage, it is with a stunning and brilliant display of aggression.

Over the last year, The Nods have taken Salt Lake City by storm. They’ve opened for groups like Nobunny, The Coathangers and Ex-Cult. The band’s March 2016 show with Timmy’s Organism was an unforgettable experience for The Nods. “I’ve never been more excited to play a show,” says Mayes. “Those guys really like us,” says Maldonado. “We got compliments from them after; the bass player from Timmy’s Organism gave me his phone number. They wanted records and shit—they were bummed we didn’t have any tapes with us.”

Still buzzing, The Nods have tentative plans to move forward. They are currently armed with a Bandcamp that hosts their album, Ariadne’s Thread, which is available for stream or download. The album is also available on tape, but it is currently in limited supply. However, there is word of new material on the way. “In the last six months, we’ve been in like fucking hyper drive,” says Maldonado. “We’re putting out a 45 that should be out sometime in the fall. We recorded this ourselves. We’re having this put out by this local label—really cool people run it, named [Rob and S. Dian Johannes]. It’s called Hail Atlantis Records.” The single will have the previously released “Chromatic Recollection” and a new song called “Public Eye.” Joe Foster, who has worked with Television Personalities, Primal Scream, The Jesus and Mary Chain and The Pastels—and who co-founded Creation Records—will master the new single. Once the single is released, The Nods hope to make more tapes and conduct a tour in the fall. The Nods plan to book a tour that will have them playing with familiar acts. The logic here is that by playing with groups who know them, the Nods will be able to maximize their audiences so that more people will have a chance to check out their sound.

Before then, readers will be able to see The Nods headlining SLUG Localized on May 20 at Urban Lounge. It’ll be an absolutely captivating performance, and to miss it would suggest poor judgment—so be sure to come. As always, Localized is free to the public. Check out The Nods’ music at thenods.bandcamp.com.

Kid Congo Powers. Photo: Aaron Brookner

Catching Kid Congo Powers—former member of The Gun Club, The Cramps, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds—just before kicking off the US/West Coast Tour, he granted SLUG a look into the life and happenings of a lifelong rock n’ roller. Power’s long music career kicked off when punk rock came along. Already a record collector and, in his words, a “music fanatic,” he met Jeffery Lee Pierce (The Gun Club) at record swap meets. After his involvement in The Gun Club, he joined The Cramps, where he got his name. Powers says, “Lux was looking at a candle he had and it was a candle that said, ‘When you light this candle, Congo powers will be revealed to you.’ And so he was like, ‘There’s your name: Congo Powers. So that was it. Then I threw the Kid on because I liked it. It was a bit like Kid Thomas, who had this big jelly roll hairdo. But also I thought it sounded like a boxer or a pirate.”

After working with The Cramps, Powers played with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. During this time Powers lived in Berlin and London (where he shared a space with Cave in Clapham Common). When asked if he and Cave had any future plans to collaborate, he says, “No, we never talked about it or thought about it really. We already collaborated.” Though, he pointed out, “If we were to do something, I mean, it worked well before. It’s nice to be with likeminded people.”

Later, after living in New York City for 12 years, Powers was ready to leave. His (now) husband was offered a job at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington D.C. Powers says, “When he got offered a job here, he was like, ‘I don’t know if I should take this job or not.’ But I had the suitcase open, throwing clothes in it saying, ‘Just take it, let’s go.’” Living in D.C. has given Powers space and time for reflection, during which he has started writing his memoirs about his childhood and making records—more than he did during his time in New York.

In D.C., Powers has also picked up DJing as a hobby. He has a dance party called “Smashing Time” with Ian Svenenious (Nation of Ulysses, The Make-Up , Chain and The Gang ) and Baby Alcatraz, held once a month. There, they play ‘50s and ‘60s rock n’ roll, soul, R&B and garage punk on 45rpm records. Still an avid collector, Powers cites record collecting as essential to forming a band. He says, “I think you need some weight behind what you are doing—in a rock n’ roll band, that is.” He points out that by knowing the lineage, one can see where other groups get their inspiration and how their language is created, like how The Stooges’ “Shake Appeal” is inspired by Little Richard.

This attitude toward making music is evident in Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds’ newest album, Haunted Head. Thinking a lot about The Cramps’ Psychedelic Jungle, Powers said, “Let’s make a swampy record.” Like their previous albums, they recorded at drummer Ron Miller and his girlfriend Niki Lohr’s artist retreat and school called the Harveyville Project in Harveyville, Kansas. They used the school’s music room, with everyone bringing in their own interpretation of “swampy” to the table, a practice that Powers is intimately familiar with from his work with The Gun Club and Cave.

Powers is particularly proud of this album due to recording it autonomously—guitar player Jesse Roberts engineered it and Miller mixed it. This was the first time they had not used outside help to produce and mix a record. Powers describes the album as a “dirty, fuzzy rock—simple rock with beatnik poetry.” Perhaps for readers this is best experienced through the Allen Ginsberg–sounding vocals in “Lurch.” Further remarking on this, Powers says, “I am much influenced [by and] I very much love Ginsberg. I love the beats.” Other songs such as “I Don’t Like” and “Let’s Go!” have a very punk feel while utilizing the Brian Gysin theory lyrically. Then there is “Su Su,” a tribute to the late Susan Tyrell (Cry Baby, Fats City). Very taken with her work and “otherness,” Powers says, “I think she would have liked to have been a big Hollywood star, but she was too untamed for that system and so I just identified with her … I identified with her as a force of nature.”

Regarding the upcoming gig on February 4 at Bar Deluxe, Powers says, “We’re going to play a lot of stuff off the new album, Haunted Head. We’re going to play some Cramps, a little Gun Club, too … and we’re going to have a good time.” Inquiring on some hints for the future, I’m told he and King Khan have been talking. Now that is a collaboration that would be interesting to hear. In conclusion, when asked what rock n’ roll means to him, Powers says, “It means something that’s funny, dangerous, sexy and humorous all at the same time.” That sounds like the upcoming gig, where I’ll be scoring a couple records for my own collection.

Photos: