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Black Note Graffiti - Volume II: Without Nothing I'm You (2017)




Written by Raymond Burris, posted by blog admin

The second full length release from Ann Arbor’s Black Note Graffiti, Volume 2: Without Nothing I’m You, is an eleven song collection that positions this (then) four piece to rise several more notches in the world of indie rock. The band, furthermore, crackles with the potential to take their act far outside the warm but relatively narrow confines of the indie scene. Rock and its musical progeny may swim upstream commercially in our modern music world, but what that means is that the limited room for viable acts culls the fat off the genre and those who boast marquee status truly deserve it. The band’s talents are considerable – musically, vocally, and lyrically. The growth they’ve exhibited since their 2013 debut is surely the result of the inherent talent they’re dealing with, but it’s surely the result of the band’s extensive live appearances since the first release. Everything about this band smacks of an unit committed to sticking around for decades and they unquestionably have the talent to back it up.

They certainly come across like an outfit committed to delivering the goods with the first track “No Love Lost”. This is bludgeoning, unsentimental hard rock with a metal-like growl, but there’s melodicism present in Ricardo Ortiz’s voice that somehow keeps the band from ever sounding totally metal. It’s difficult to describe exactly, but it’s where the band’s alternative rock influences come into play and the second track “Such is Art” only underlines that. There’s no question that Black Note Graffiti produces music with a thick, fluid rhythm section attack coupled alongside a hard charging guitar attack that flares with frequent, but tasteful, lead flourishes. They focus their musical attack even tighter on the next track “Castles” and the writing, three songs in, will impress any attentive listener more and more. The arrangements on Volume 2 are one of its most compelling elements. Some critics may say there’s nothing new under the sun and, when it comes to rock music, they are likely right, but Black Note Graffiti proves they are really talented at pouring old wine into new bottles.

“False Start” is another compelling arrangement and they make great hay out of the interplay between drummer Kurt Keller and guitarists Kris Keller and Ortiz. They have a sympathetic guitar sound that’s warm, but retains a jagged edge and the lead work has a cutting quality too without ever risking over-indulgence. They show their capacity for surprise on the song “Shadows” – it begins in a manner quite unlike anything else on the album, but it doesn’t veer completely outside the realm of familiarity for the band’s audience. The thinking that goes into each of these songs are obvious, but they never sound belabored. Ortiz’s emotive talents stand out more on “Why We Trust” and “Relapse” than they do on many of the album’s other songs and the musical quality of each song, while still heavy and hard-hitting, has a layer of intimacy that’s palpable from the first/ The finale “Send Off” concludes Volume II in a ransacking, rowdy way with an energetic guitar work and a drumming performance for the ages from Kurt Keller. Black Note Graffiti are on point with each song and there isn’t a single instance of filler found on the recording. They’ve put their best foot forward with this release and it helps them stand out in their chosen style.

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Swirl’s recent video for their single “Rise Up” highlights all of the qualities that brought the band to the attention of Ditch Day’s producers. The popular movie highlights three songs from the Southern California four piece and represents some of their biggest exposure yet. It follows on the heels of their self-titled release and the songs selected for inclusion on the film soundtrack represent the quality of that release quite well. The band consists of lead singer Alfred Ramirez, guitarist Duane “DT” Jones”, bassist Shane Carlson, and drummer Brian “Bam Bam” Jones. Their vivid and muscular hard rock veers into outright metal at certain points, but Swirl never goes in for the mindless bash and thud sound so common to lesser bands in this genre. Th…