Herman Martinez – Continuity Errors – Album Review
Ladies and gentlemen…The Hermanator returns!
An album two years in the making? Aren’t we supposed to measure the shaft from the back of the balls? I was sure that’s how it was done…if it’s not, damn am I in trouble. Anyhow – by my count it’s been longer Herman – I start the clock from the moment the last record comes out my friend, in which case it’s actually been almost four! Four years since we last had this guy up on our pages in reviewing his previous record, Secret Doors Hidden Stairs: Season 2 – and he was up here the year before in 2016 for his debut album Solopsi Radio. Haven’t forgotten the man by any stretch…I’ve got a cut of his that I still love to this day called “John Travoltrons Theme” and I’ve spun it a couple times on the SBS Podcast to-date actually – but I’ll admit, it HAS been a while…maybe even longer than Herman really remembers.
As always…the bottom line is, I just wanna see & hear you’re making music out there somewhere! Sure it’s rad when we see something new outta someone every single year, but not every artist works like that, nor should they. Doesn’t really matter to me when you come back here, as long as you do! And by here, no – I’m not actually even implying these pages of ours…believe me, you’re always welcome…but what I really mean by ‘here’ is the music-scene overall, where you creative types belong doin’ what you do. As soon as “Some New Beautiful Nightmare” started up, I was already massively stoked to have the man back doin’ what he does best…this is an absolutely stellar opening cut. It’s like what you’d imagine a collaboration between Radiohead and Soundgarden could have been like…and yep, it not only makes for a fantastic first impression of Continuity Errors, but man-oh-man does it make you happy to have this dude’s music coming through your speakers once again. No matter if you consider it to be two years or four (I get it, I get it…it’s not like he spent ALL four years away making this record, only two of’em) – “Some New Beautiful Nightmare” makes you realize it’s been too long without him! And if this is what he’s gonna sound like upon his return, you can sign me up twice – I thought “Some New Beautiful Nightmare” was without question one of the most compelling starts to any record from 2021 so far. You’ll hear what I mean with the whole comparison I’ve made…Herman’s got a very natural Cornell-esque sound of his own when he sings…and that dark melodic piano so akin to the hollow & desolate melodies you find in Radiohead’s tunes…all-in-all, thematically, he’s not too far removed from either band with his evocative mix of thought-provoking melancholy workin’ it’s magic through the lyricism. The balance is extraordinary, straight up…there’s absolutely not one solitary second of “Some New Beautiful Nightmare” that I’d think to remotely change…it’s the very definition of gripping – and through a blaze of clever structure & style at work from the lead to the background, you take an absolutely mesmerizing ride through impressive musicianship & vocals that stack up with supreme strength right off the drop. With that crisp beat from the drums keeping the intensity ripping through the pace, and the smooth control, precision, and professionalism Herman’s playing with…I mean…buckle up, take the ride, and freakin’ ENJOY IT folks…Martinez clearly hasn’t come back with any kind of half-assed record.
That first cut, believe it or not, is also a prime example of Martinez taking it easy on ya in terms of the accessibility in his music…like…to the point where it would almost just be weird for fans of Prog/Alt/Rock not to dig “Some New Beautiful Nightmare” – it’s just geared towards ears, you feel me? It’s when “Sirens” came on afterwards that I remembered what the real experience of listening to Herman Martinez can be like, and how his songs can quite often become much more niche depending on the mood he’s in or what he’s looking to create on an artistic level. Because make no mistake – yes the dude has his moments where he likes to rock and let the music rip – but ultimately, the man’s an artist in what he crafts and how he composes…listen to “Sirens” and you’ll hear exactly what I mean. There are certainly elements of it that have widespread appeal, but there’s really no doubt that he’s creating cuts much more suited to the real hardcore fans of the exploratory side of artistic Alternative. Visually, were you to check out the lyrics just as they’re written, you can see the uniqueness in the pattern…or perhaps see the uniqueness through the difficulty in locating that pattern he might sing it with…and the reality is, Herman’s not really focused on making anything too straightforward in that regard. There is of course a rhythm & flow to what he’s creating on “Sirens” but for the most part, we’re talking very far beyond what the average everyday listener could potentially absorb or even comprehend. The main advantages Herman’s rockin’ with on this track in terms of the masses are the fact that he sounds like the dude from Lifehouse on this cut and people love that guy’s voice, including myself really…and I think if you were able to stick it out to the 3:15 mark…and you’re NOT blown away by what follows…then your ears are straight-up broken or you’re listening completely upside down. The musicianship is off the charts incredible…Herman handles nearly all of the final two-minutes rocking at full strength instrumentally…like I said, you hit that 3:15 mark and it’s like the world bursts open through your speakers and opens an entirely new portal to another dimension. Out steps The Hermanator with his axe on fire, blazing over the strings on his guitar and lighting the finale of this cut UP til it’s RED HOT.
REAL uniqueness…not the stuff every second music-journalist writes about, but the stuff that Martinez is made of…it can work both for & against you. I know what I like, I know what I enjoy…and for myself personally, I very much dig the kind of complexities that Herman writes into his music & melodies – but by that same token I can completely acknowledge that I’m not the everyday listener, and that he makes tunes that can be a very tough sell when it comes to the masses out there. Even in a more gentle form like “Salamander,” I still think the obstacles that stand between him and reaching everyone out there are largely presented through the cracks of his artistic prismatic sound…Martinez writes songs that challenge the mind & many of the typical conventions of songwriting…and any time ya do that, you’re gonna encounter some kind of resistance from someone out there along the way. You look at & listen to the lyricism of a song like “Salamander” and it’s pretty damn hard to argue against the guy being part poet…and given that his vocals really reveal how he’s got his own thing goin’ on at all times with the way he draws out his words…I think you can conclude that what he wants to communicate is every bit as important to him as how. Vocally, I can already hear how there are a few similarities between the opening tunes with regard to his approach…but tell me you couldn’t say that about some of the singers you recognize the most out of’em all like the dude from Placebo or someone like Regina Spektor…they have those tangible qualities that can often feel similar in what we hear even when they’re doing things differently. “Salamander” has enough appeal for me…that much I can tell ya…as to whether or not it’s going to make the impact it could on the rest of ya out there is much harder to say really…there are spectacular aspects about the music in this cut, same thing with the lyricism here too…but even despite what you’d assume might be a more delicate vibe that could draw more people in, this might still narrow the crowd with all the inherent complexities that do exist between the music and the vocals.
To me, I might be looking at a song like “Man From Taured” to bring in the people as a gateway single – this track has a tremendous amount of melody working in its favor. Martinez vocally, is always gonna bring in an aspect of inherent strangeness to most of his material just by being his natural self…he likes a layered approach with his vocals, and the amount of identity he has in his sound as a result of his efforts is both impressive and noteworthy. I’m still not saying that makes his vibe an easy sell to y’all out there – but I’m definitely saying that those of you that dig what he does stand a great chance of digging ALL that he does, you know what I mean? Martinez might switch up the main style or sound of what he’s creating, but vocally he remains the constant…and my gut tells me he’s still got some room there to make some moves that might complement the sound or suit the melody of the music a bit tighter. Right now it can be a bit rigid in that sense…we might collectively be looking for a bit more flexibility tonally when it comes to the vocals. “Man From Taured” has the advantage of verses that seem to give this more of a shot…with just Herman on his own at first, he actually sounds at his strongest and most suited for the song he’s written here…and the sparkle of his musicianship, is genuinely breathtaking on this tune. That one bendy guitar note he keeps reaching for is EVERYTHING y’all…he’s created a brilliant melody at the core of this tune, and I suspect that listeners out there will love what they hear in the verses of this cut for sure. Chorus-wise, that’s where the complexities might try and taint the results in the court of public opinion…but again, I felt like it still worked well enough for me. Do I think Herman out-wrote himself from verse to chorus on this particular track? That’s quite possible…I wouldn’t rule that out…I think the majority of the hooks & melody people will remember are in the verses for certain, and perhaps even arguably more on display through the music of this song than in the vocals overall. Would I go with this as opposed to “Some New Beautiful Nightmare” as THE single so far? No way, no chance…I’m not willing to go that far with it, but what Herman nails on “Man From Taured,” you’ll find become real highlights not only in this song, but also in the melodies you’ll find on this album all-around.
Tracks like “The Glide” have no problem standing out for all the right reasons when it comes to the ideas and the instrumentation. Like I’ve been tellin’ ya from the get-go, Herman’s always got something validly poetic & insightful to say through his words, but even when those aren’t the main focus, the music tends to fill in all the gaps by being that much more mesmerizing. “The Glide” has a really strong main hook when Herman sings “songs to keep the ghosts away” – but outside of that, there’s very little to keep the people out there hangin’ on as hard as they should be here when it comes to the vocals. Musically, the man just continues to crush at an extraordinary level – and as you tick past that second minute and hear the transition that occurs around the 2:15 mark, you’ll know exactly what I mean. This is thrilling by every sense of the definition…and from the piano to the guitars to the frantic ferocity of the drums, I couldn’t tell ya what I loved more – I loved it ALL. Or how about those bass-line grooves that come in around the 3:25-ish mark right? Amazing. Wisely skipping a repeat of the wander through the verses, and instead focuses his concentration on what’s been working the most, plunging back into the main hooks of the chorus and working his finale on “The Glide” around that. To me, the composition of a track like this and the weight placed on the instrumentation is somewhat confirmation that Martinez knows where his real strengths lie as well…and as a result of that knowledge, he makes sure to give major time to the musicianship too, which I appreciate. Ultimately, the man sings his parts pretty spot on…he’s got confidence, he’s got powerful tones that never really waver…but I do have my moments where I wonder if he’s the right fit for some of his songs, or should switch it all up a lil’ more. He’s a tough nut to crack and even tougher to pin down for some kind of comparison…the identity is invaluable…and ultimately I’m gonna side with that. It might not always seem like he’s the perfect fit, but there’s no denying that when he’s on target and he’s right in the pocket, he’s capable of magic from the microphone just as much as he’s capable of creating it through his amplifiers and instrumentation.
“Psuedologia Fantastica” ex-pe-al-a-docious! I have no idea if that’s a typo at the beginning of this title but my spellcheck sure hates it. Anyhow. Herman doesn’t need to ask how I feel about this track – he knows. I think the world of this guy as a musical innovator…and his instrumental cuts are simply songs that have no question marks about’em, or anything that might remotely be hummed & hawed over – on the instrumental side of things, it’s absolutely smooth sailing in terms of accessibility and pure beauty on display – “Psuedologia Fantastica” is the full proof you’d need of that to be the truth – it’s a gorgeous song on Continuity Errors from start to finish. Hypnotic, delicate, and purely stunning…there’s not a single ticking second of “Psuedologia Fantastica” that I didn’t like or outright love – for as gentle as it is, Herman’s latched onto an audible exquisite melody that’ll have no problem at all tuggin’ on your heartstrings, but I can also guarantee it’s a song that’ll speak to your whole mind, body, and soul as one. Without a doubt it was one of my favorite cuts on this album…it’s as captivating as a song can be in a vein this mellow…serenity reigns supreme here, the production is magnificent…it’s an audible triumph and a master-class in professional control from the writing to the execution – it’s tight as tight can be.
I’m a big fan of “Midcard” – this would be one of the finest examples of how all the little details stack up into one extraordinary experience. Some of the most intricate & unique guitar parts that Martinez will add into his music barely grace your speakers by comparison to the rest…and it’s really both kind of mind-blowing in the sense that we don’t wanna miss it, but he never makes these additions become the dominant factor either…so you end up really listening closely if you wanna catch all the incredible stuff in the mix, which of course is a good thing too. But listen to how brilliantly understated the performance is on “Midcard” will ya? It’s seriously clever just how subtle he can become, and keep us every bit as engaged as he can at his most intense, which he’ll also reveal to ya in the most significant transition of “Midcard” as it goes from its gentle disposition and blazes right into a sonic bonfire by the end. It’s equally impressive that he can go from one side of the extremities of sound & style straight on over to the other, and that we readily stick with him without hesitation – there’s MILES of difference between where “Midcard” starts and where it’ll end up, and I can’t imagine a single person out there not sticking around for the ride. Both of its main halves are crucial to the other’s success when it comes to how the dynamics shift, but they’re also fully-loaded with some of Herman’s most accessible sound too. All-in-all, I’d have no problem at all stacking “Midcard” right up there with the best on this record.
Lyrically…I don’t think the poetic depth on a record like Continuity Errors could possibly be missed by anyone that’s really listening – and all around, I think Herman should be seriously proud of the words he’s put into this record. “Ghosts Of Summer” would be a perfect example…not that the rest aren’t, but you feel that extra layer of relatable themes at work here, as Herman sings about seasons, growth, evolution, love, and seeking out a little comfort in this world. The drums on this cut are spectacular, and overall the depth you’ll find in a track like this is substantial…this would be an excellent cut to point to that reveals how Herman generates interesting songs that play out like stories in your mind as you listen. It’s Progressive in that style like you’d find in something like Minus The Bear…lots of Martinez’s most demanding vocal moments are included in this cut, and you can hear how he conquers them all with confidence. As to whether or not that’ll make this track accessible or appealing enough to the masses out there…the jury might still be out on that…my gut suspects that “Ghosts Of Summer” probably has Herman back into the more artistic & niche side of the crowd out there…just ask Minus.
He makes interesting choices sometimes that make it seem like he can almost be singing to a completely different tune than the one we’re listening to with how he’ll deviate from the melody inherent to the music at points…and I ain’t gonna lie, it’s weird that this seems to come so naturally to him. It’s like he unconsciously or consciously chooses to go right instead when we’d expect him to turn left, or take a vocal pattern up when you’d expect it would go down with the music…and sometimes it works out perfectly, at others, we question it a bit in terms of how much of a match it is with what we hear. A track like “Days Without” is a bit like that…you feel Herman searching for that place to fit in the real uniqueness his vocals bring to his music, and you kind of end up sympathizing with the fact that this ain’t always gonna be an easy task for him to do with the signature sound he’s got. Between that & how he doesn’t really design typical hooks that most would recognize in his melodies or writing…like I said, it’s not an easy sell, but there is a whole lot of art & craft to the methods he’s employing. Essentially, you couldn’t ask much more than what you hear from Herman – he’s givin’ ya what he’s got. In my opinion – I think he’d benefit the most from goin’ au-naturale with his vocals a bit more like you hear at the outset of “Days Without” – he’s got an absolutely stellar voice when it comes right down to it, but yeah, he does make the occasional odd choice in how he chooses to use it that may/may not connect with the people out there from moment to moment. The more naked the mix has been on his voice, the more I’ve thought he’s stood out for all the right reasons – though I’ll admit, hearing him switch into the thicker vocals he uses as “Days Without” hits that first transition always had me questioning my comments – I love that spot in this song so much, but I’d still argue it’s his most natural sound that pulls us in the most and supplies us with an authentic glimpse of Herman’s organic vocal skillset at his finest.
When you get to “Hypnic Jerks,” that might be the toughest spot in the lineup for many. In my opinion, Herman’s gotta be cautious of just how similar the melodic pattern of his vocals can be…the high burst of energy at the start of a line, letting that drift downward in the progression…it’s a move he pulls quite a bit in the design, and any time we can all recognize something pop up time & again, like I said, it can work for you and against you. “Hypnic Jerks” was the spot I kept feeling like I needed a bit more variation overall…though I’d readily admit, I think there are some extremely strong moments & hooks to be found in this cut as well. Like the piano part to start & the opening verse…brilliant once again; but similarly to that next phase in many of his tunes on this record & in his catalog, that next part comes with the additional layer and it’s hard to say whether or not that on its own does enough to vary the sound or separate it enough from the rest of what we’ve heard, despite how different the parts themselves might be – you following me? Because at its core, I think there are actually a lot of great ideas on display throughout a song like “Hypnic Jerks” but a lot of similar methods being used in terms of how Herman’s approaching each track as well…which might water the experience down a bit for listeners over the course of the whole record. I’m not saying quote me on that – you might very well come to a completely different conclusion and I probably wouldn’t blame ya for it…there IS a lot of differences being made in the music of “Hypnic Jerks,” but to me…I dunno…felt like it was missing just a bit of something here to make it stand out perhaps as much as it could have potentially. Not sure I even know what that was or what it could be, which makes my whole opinion rather weak and unsupported anyway lol…I’m not saying I’m always the guy with the answers – I just tell ya what I honestly hear is all.
I felt like one of the easiest cuts to appreciate on this album was “Dutch Tilts” towards the end. It’s only a two-minute tune…like, two-minutes on the dot according to the time stamp…but the uniqueness this song brings to the lineup is massive. To his catalog really – Herman uses a whole different approach, means, and methods here – the effect on us as listeners, is that even in this gentle atmosphere, we snap right back to full attention, because this tiny tune ends up being one of the largest departures from what you hear on the bulk of the record. I ain’t hear to argue on behalf of this being a single – I don’t think that’s the kind of value we’re talking about – it’s more of an artistic, mesmerizing, role-player of sorts on Continuity Errors…all I know is I’d like to hear a whole lot more of this kind of stuff from Martinez in the future. If you ask my ears, he’s got an extremely stellar cut to listen to here…and as far as his harmonies go, this would easily be my favorite of any track on the record…in fact, vocally, there’s not a thing about this track I’d remotely dare to change…I felt like Herman got everything outta this one. Now as to whether or not that’s due to the shorter length, or a part more suited to his vocal tones, or the use of clever call & answer techniques between the layers of his voice…there could be plenty of justifiable reasons as to why you’ll dig on what he’s created with “Dutch Tilts” – the real bottom line is, I’d be taking a good long look at this track if I was Martinez…for somewhere in here, is the key to his future. By twisting his vocals just that much more in an accessible direction, be it the structure or the sound, he’s come out with a genuinely captivating tune that has flawless melody and incredible depth. I know this might be a bit outside of Herman’s normal jam, but hey, he made it, and now I want MORE of it.
I was pretty close to picking the final cut off this album to spin on the SBS Podcast coming out later today – but in the end, I think it lost out by just a hair or two. Rest assured, “Deleted Scenes” ended the album with the kind of finale such exploratory & expressive efforts deserved, and had Martinez roaming through the space of seven plus-minutes into wild hybrid terrain once again. Transitions like you’ll hear around the 3:20-ish mark are completely killer…when Herman hits moments like that, he’s like his own innovative spin on the Soundgarden sound…he’s always got that hint of Grunge somewhere, even in the most Progressive moments you’ll find throughout Continuity Errors, of which there are many. “Deleted Scenes” is full proof of what a hybrid this guy is, and just how far he’s willing to reach into the creative realm in search of something new that we haven’t experienced or heard. So like, by the time you get about five minutes into “Deleted Scenes” or so, and you’ve already had this incredible trip through what’s been about ten songs-worth of ideas inside that beginning…like…what IF I told you that the end of this song is one of the very best moments you’ll find on any cut throughout this whole record? This is a serious masterstroke on Herman’s part…no joke folks – I thought “Deleted Scenes” already had plenty goin’ on with its meaty bass-lines and beautifully dusty melody to begin with, but hearing how Martinez really discovered an entirely different vibe towards the end and locked right into the heart of it so perfectly…I mean, it’s a highlight to remember y’all – and if that’s not the kind of moment you wanna finish a record on, I’m not sure I know what else could be! Herman’s on a real roll here at the end of this album though – I could make a bulletproof argument on behalf of “Deleted Scenes” having some of his very best vocals as well…best design in a vocal melody…brilliant ideas in the production and mix…stellar guitars…he’s given you SO MUCH throughout the first five minutes over multiple different parts, that to think he can go on to make this seven-minute epic at the end even better after all that is really quite something. But that’s kinda what I’ve been tellin’ ya all along – it’s not JUST his music, it’s HIM – Herman Martinez is really quite something, and he’s proven that to be the truth in his music once again.
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