Review: Conspirator’s “Unleashed”

The term ‘supergroup’ is thrown around pretty loosely these days, but there’s a certifiable one slowly rising up the ranks in the world of electronica.  Conspirator, originally a low profile side project of The Disco Biscuits has continued to grow and evolve its sound over the years into something that both pays homage to its EDM roots while exploring new sounds and redefining the way this genre of music is produced.  The group recently released its latest EP Unleashed and it’s been met with serious acclaim, if iTunes and download totals are any indication.  The title of this EP is all too fitting as the band comprised of half of The Disco Biscuits (Marc Brownstein and Aron Magner), the guitarist from Raq (Chris Michetti) and arguably, the best drum and bass drummer on the planet, KJ Sawka, unleash a magnificent fusion of hard hitting dubstep and inspired instrumental work that leaves you wanting more and more of the same, once all six tracks have been heard.

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Unleashed gets in your face right away with the opening track ‘Pow Wow’, which features a tight dubstep beat underlying  some intense and jagged synth sounds that almost sound like an electronic Indian eliciting a war cry of sorts.  After the second ‘drop’, there’s some absolutely brilliant guitar work courtesy of Chris Michetti who has several well placed and inspiring guitar solos on this release.  “The Commish” is another fun track that has even more catchy synth sounds that has the effect of an electronic horn section of sorts. KJ Sawka really shows off his chops here and shows why he’s one of the best in the business by nailing the furious tempo changes and giving a veritable human touch to electronically programmed drum beats. “Right Wrong” is a Conspirator remix and one of the more mellow tracks on the EP; the take on this gives Mark Brownstein a chance to put his melodic bass playing on full display alongside some vocal samplings which makes for an incredibly fun and engaging listen.  Not to be outdone, “Accent” features a synth melody that sounds like something found on an intense level in a Nintendo game.  Combined with more stellar dubstep fury and another sparkling guitar solo, it caps everything off in fine fashion.

Simply put, this is not your older brother’s dubstep, but rather a new and fun take, with an added emphasis of real instrumentation to go along with tight and precise programmable magic.  It would seem to lend itself towards decent mass appeal since there are really enjoyable parts for both the ‘jam’ fan and the dubstep fiend to latch onto. Time will tell, and until then, we’ll just have to wait and see what this supergroup unleashes next.

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Dopapod announces Winter/Spring Tour Dates

Wasting no time in the new year, Dopapod follows the release of their new album Redivider with a 3 month tour.

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Redivider is available as a free download at their website or you can purchase a physical copy, or even a hi-fi digital version. One of the many reasons Redivider stands out among their previous records is due to the fact that the band as added vocals for the first time to some of their tracks.  (Read Pete Mason’s CD review). The band has posted in-studio footage on their website from their most recent record making process.  Showing much appreciation for their fans, Dopapod recently announced a heavy jam packed Winter Spring tour, ranging all over the east coast, midwest and southeast.

Winter Spring 2013 Tour Dates:
1/29 Bloomington, IN: The Bluebird
1/30 Urbana, IL: The Canopy Club
1/31 Minneapolis, MN: The Cabooze
2/1 Madison, WI: Majestic Theater
2/2 Chicago, IL: House of Blues
2/3 Detroit, MI: St. Andrews Hall
2/6 Kent, OH: Kent Stage
2/7 Cincinnati, OH: Mad Frog
2/8 Pittsburgh, PA: Rex Theater
2/9 Buffalo, NY: Nietzsche’s
2/13 Wilmington, NC: The Soapbox
2/14 Athens, GA: Georgia Theatre
2/15 Charleston, SC: Music Farm
2/16 Aura Music & Arts Festival
2/17      in Live Oak, FL
2/21 New York, NY: Highline Ballroom
2/22 Boston, MA: The Paradise
2/23 Philadelphia, PA: The Blockley
2/28 Albany, NY: Red Square
3/1 Syracuse, NY: Wescott Theater
3/2 Rochester, NY:  Water Street Music Hall
3/5 Evansville, IN: Lamasco Bar
3/6 St. Louis, MO: 2720 Cherokee
3/7 Carbondale, IL: Hangar 9
3/8 Indianapolis, IN: Vogue Theatre
3/9 Grand Rapids, MI: The Intersection
3/16 Oneonta, NY: Oneonta Theater
3/17 Williamsport, PA: Bullfrog Brewery
3/20 Morgantown, WV: 123 Pleasant
3/21 Muncie, IN: Be Here Now
3/22 Lansing, MI: The Loft
3/23 Columbus, OH: Woodlands Tavern
3/24 Kalamazoo, MI: Shakespeare’s
3/26 Louisville, KY: Gerstle’s
3/27 Lexington, KY: Cosmic Charlies
3/28 Boone, NC: Boone Saloon
3/29 Asheville, NC: Asheville Music Hall
3/30 Winston-Salem, NC: Ziggy’s
4/2 Roanoke, VA: Martin’s Downtown
4/3 Virginia Beach, VA: Jewish Mother
4/4 Baltimore, MD: 8×10
4/5 Vienna, VA: Jammin’ Java
4/6 Richmond, VA: The Camel
4/12 Greensboro, NC: Blind Tiger
4/13 Raleigh, NC: Lincoln Theatre
4/17 Stanhope, NJ: Stanhope House
4/20 Northampton, MA: Pearl Street
4/25Harrisburg, PA: ABC Brewery
4/26 Ithaca, NY: The Haunt
4/27 Burlington, VT: Higher Ground

web: Dopapod.com
fb: Facebook.com/dopapod

Syracuse Guitarist Miss E. Releases Killer New CD Yesterday’s Muse

Miss E. is Missy Ragonese, a guitarist/percussionist/ singer/songwriter based in Syracuse. She plies her trade in and around Central NY under several monikers: Miss E., Miss E. Duo, her main band Dovetail Joint and Miss 3, a female power trio.

Ya gotta do what ya gotta do to get your name out there and this lady lays it on the line every day. Yesterday’s Muse is like “the story so far” in her journey as a professional musician. While her influences become clear, her voice and guitar licks quickly establish a style both contemporary and individual.

Let’s run this baby up the flagpole and see what happens. Miss E. is joined by her Dovetail Joint band-mates Paul Carpenter on bass guitar and Dan Redmond on drums, along with a guest appearance from Syracuse native Paulie Cerra on sax.  “Cherie”, the opener, is sweetly melodic featuring Paulie’s silky licks rolling over Miss E’s deft rhythm line, a very smooth beginning that transitions nicely into “Always”, a bittersweet reminiscence. Miss E. knows how to tell a love story and you can feel her swoon as the memory swirls. It’s downright beautiful, her voice rich and sure, the guitar dances with her while her heart opens lyrically.

Each song segues to the next with sounds from nature leaving no empty spaces between each piece mixed by perfectly by Jeff Moleski at Moletrax Studios. “Just One Kiss” is the first track where Miss E. lets the electric guitar rip and cuts loose some solos. Her soaring licks melding with the heart-felt vocals to fully express her emotion in the moment.

“A Girl Like Me” switches up gears a bit with this song of determination and defiance against the road-blocks of a musician’s life and the belief in a dream that keeps her going against it.

“The Tide is Turnin’” turns it up several notches on the attitude meter as Miss E. wails a growling vocal line accenting her screaming guitar solos. This is all about spitting in the face of oppression no matter what form it takes and she reveals several. The reggae break puts a light beat behind the most serious in a Marleyesque way.

Isolation can be confused by onlookers as arrogance and “Anything Less” paints a picture of reality vs. conceived illusion from others jealousy. A hand that holds you down, instead of lifting you up, until you realize what really counts is your own image of yourself. Her sultry, knowing voice echoes their words until you can feel her confidence take over in the final verse. Very powerful stuff here, most artists don’t have the nerve to be this self-expressive and it’s a hallmark of the whole album.

“Oh No” let’s Miss E. wave her Hendrix flag, her funky wah pedal work and gritty voice scream out, trying to pull someone back from the edge and expressing the intense frustration that can bring.  Her solo lines cast a lifeline that seems to not reach the intended goal.

“Hold On” brings a reggae feel to a lover’s cry for patience, but we all know how difficult waiting can be. She pleads for the space to make things right before they can be together, and the raw emotion in her voice makes you want to believe.

Paulie Cerra returns on “Super Woman Lover (SWL)”, his sax is as sultry as her dream sequence verbalized. I know I said it before, but the lady can write a love song. This time she’s flat out confident and sexy, determined and strong. The “Spooky” feel is perfect for the topic and twists the lyric in your mind.

A little bit of Carlos pops right out of “When It’s Your Turn”, from the Latin percussion feel to the chord progression. Almost a dare or a challenge to step-up and keep it real, it’s softly in your face and honest.

“Is This Love” could almost be a Toy Caldwell tune, simple and to the point, yet emotive in the guitar line, more than through the lyric. Each solo ascending the previous to the ultimate conclusion and the answer to the question asked. Both.

“Shoot Me Down” sets its tone right off the bat, it rocks hard and bares her heart. Humility is always a tough topic and the wanting to retain it is tougher.  She pleads for honesty and guidance from her inner self, or is it from her lover? To be oblique as a writer is a slippery slope and she navigates this one with skill.

“Indigo Sunset” pays a musical homage to the Indigo Girls, Miss E.’s light touch on the acoustic reminds me of a lighter “History Of Us” melody, not the topic, but the feel of the guitar.  A great closer that gives her a chance to show-off her acoustic chops to match the variety of feels she has playing electric.

Overall this is a fabulous and daring album of life-stories, the best music always comes from the heart and Miss E.’s heart is all over each cut here. I found this to be a great cruising disc, especially when you can listen to it completely without interruption. I bet it’s pretty good to make-out to as well.

You can find Miss E. and Dovetail Joint on facebook and her disc is available on cdbaby

Check it out and support local music!

Key Tracks: Always, The Tide is Turnin’, Is This Love