Red Martian – Slow Motion Samurai – Album Review
When I think about Red Martian…I think of them fondly. You might remember me talking about this band on SBS Live This Week, or from here at our pages, or perhaps your own playlists…Red Martian moves to a different beat than the rest out there do; they just don’t play like the other kids in the sandbox…
The band actually brings me back to the days I spent growing up listening to Nirvana. Not in the sense that Red Martian sounds or plays anything like they did, but in the sense that if you were worth your musical-weight in salt then you knew Tad, you knew Dinosaur Jr., you knew The Breeders, you knew Pavement, Superchunk…the list would go on and on in theory – but dammit, you’d be freakin’ cool for actually knowing what the fuck cool even WAS. The mainstream-madness of Nirvana taught me that the coolest music out there was actually being made just below the surface and that with a little bit of digging and extra effort to find it, I’d theoretically NEVER run out of amazing music to listen to.
Red Martian fits in there…I was digging on them last time around when we reviewed them – but I gotta say…they’ve managed to find incredible new ways to stay sounding fresh, innovative and full of creativity you absolutely cannot find anywhere else I can think of on their new album Slow Motion Samurai. Whether it’s the ideas themselves, or the recording techniques they’ve used…Red Martian is doing extraordinary things upon this new record…and all in an effort to bring our ear-holes something new.
So Happy New Year I say! Push play on this!
And I’ll also say…you either know what cool is from being able to identify with the ideas Red Martian are putting into this music and album…or you might need to make a much harsher self-assessment and head back to updating that Facebook-status to properly-read as ‘punk-bitch.’ Even though the music of Red Martian is certainly made with no attempt at being cool…I guess that’s where I come in – I’m here to tell you this is as cool as music can get. You can see from their social-media pages and write-ups that the band is actually the anti-cool in pursuit of their career…I mean, hey…you can take the band out of Seattle but you can’t take the Seattle out of this band.
I don’t think there’s any intention whatsoever of wasting any of your time on Slow Motion Samurai. As it begins…I’d think it would be pretty quick for most to decide whether or not it’s a sound they can identify with as they launch into their title-tune and range through a slew of timings and grinding-gears as the machine begins to rev its engine. It works as a slow-burning & energy-stripped opening tune…nothing here I’d be unhappy with or complain about…
…well…except maybe the fact that it’s not the song after it. “Emeraldas” is a wicked song from any angle you take it in – but the point being that at only the second song into the new record, you’re bound to feel like you’re hearing something bizarre & exciting. The guitars are so off-kilter that the sound is going to throw half the people off out there…ya just won’t ‘get it’ – but if you DO get what Red Martian is doing here – you’ll love the old-school feel it has to the writing of the music in its alt/punk romp – but you’ll absolutely LOVE the way these guitar-sounds bend left & right. Nothing is actually off or amiss here in any way, shape or form – Red Martian is writing brilliantly and executing their ideas flawlessly here on “Emeraldas” – I love, love, LOVE this song.
Heading into “秘密の旋律“ it already felt like Red Martian had locked into their sound, style and ideas for Slow Motion Samurai and were well into the flow by this point. Confidently approaching their ideas and alt/rock songs with a real dedication to making this music shift and move spectacularly – there’s a wicked energy to this tune and the way that Red Martian has attacked most of their sound/style on this song and throughout this record really gives it a unique atmosphere. For bass, drums, guitars and vocals – you can’t push on the boundaries and borders of genres any harder than these guys do. Sliding around in riff-laden guitars and crashing into the distant atmosphere of the verse…the contrasting sounds and parts that create “秘密の旋律“ make for another impressive combination from Red Martian.
“April” takes the energy down a notch and heads into their post-punk/space-rock repertoire as they progress from the sound you heard in the verse of “秘密の旋律“ and take it that next-step further by creating more of a cohesive rhythm & groove to “April” as opposed to the contrasting-elements in that last song. They do both well. I don’t know to tell you the truth…I’m tossed-up on it…because they really DO what they do well no matter what they take on. So do I like a more straight-ahead “April” or do I like the shifty-excitement of something like “秘密の旋律“ and what Red Martian is doing there?
I think the argument could be made that either style suits them perfectly. I’d spend more time arguing the case here on the page if “Donkey Back Ride” wasn’t playing at the moment…but it is…and now there’s nothing else I can do. The arguments are over. What a stunning song guys! “Donkey Back Ride” is a real switch in the vibe…way, way subtle…piano-led, with rad-effects and tones in the vocals popping through. Overall it’s one of the most gentle-natured tunes on the record and from Red Martian that I know of…but after hearing how sincere it sounds and how well it’s worked for them…I’d certainly encourage them to continue exploring it. “Donkey Back Ride” sounds sleepy…but in all the right ways…like those final burst of creativity and moments of thought before finding your way to dreamland for the night. Loved the bass-line, the piano, the gentle-guitars…the vocals…it’s all here.
To know Red Martian though…is to know they’ll once again re-ignite the energy and spark quickly. With “Away” the bring back a lot of the wildness to the music and keep their signature, melodic-vocals right on the inside of the song. Hauling out wicked guitar-solos and a massive-moving, rubbery & energetic bass-line…this is definitely one of the songs that represent the Red Martian you know & love. Much of the sounds off their last record Ghost Into The Fog have been naturally evolved here on Slow Motion Samurai…that is to say, if you liked them before there’s no stopping you from loving this new album.
“Petty Happiness” would be another favourite of mine on this new record. I suppose you could call this another of the more experimental-tunes from this creative band…that’s another tough call. It’s another minimalist-idea in a sense…but each part of the idea is incorporated into the song and used with impressive efficiency. As a result…”Petty Happiness” is a tiny little-ditty you can’t ignore. And I suppose to call it tiny is wrong…it’s nearly a five-minute roam through alt-pop/rock terrain. Bass-lines are kickin’ up a storm on this song…definitely a stand-out moment here on Slow Motion Samurai.
Thank Steve Jobs or Bill Gates or whomever it was that came up with copy and paste! You’re saving my life here in this review…cause I’ve gotta mention “めがね.“ I’ve mentioned earlier on about how the recording and performances combined equal something incredible…and it’s moments like this that really show how the integral-formula of the organic nature of Red Martian work. As does “The Empty Sound” to follow…both of the tunes really benefit from the shared vision inside this band and have these incredible live-sounding elements to their recorded approach. Someone over there…really understands this band behind the boards…I think they’ve done a tremendous job on the production of “めがね“ and on the writing of “The Empty Sound.” For some reason…”The Empty Sound” really reminded me of the vibe you can get from Pearl Jam’s No Code record…music-wise anyhow; Red Martian keeps their vocals sweeter than Eddie’s mean-ass growl.
Musically…structure, sound and writing-wise…”On You” is potentially the best song they’ve got here on Slow Motion Samurai…but it’s not quite there yet. If any of these tunes needs another slight makeover in the vocals/lyrics department…this one sends out the flag for another round in the studio. It’s close…like…it’s really ALMOST there…but it’s not-quite up to the bar they’ve set for themselves in their performance in a couple of spots, enough to notice, which to me sends that message of ‘get on back in there and git’r done-up right.’ Especially when I hear impressive writing, ideas and structures like this – I think a song like “On You” deserves that extra care required and I think the end result would be one killer tune that would pull in a lot of attention.
I’d have to look myself to be sure…but I must have made the Superchunk comment when reviewing Red Martian the first time around didn’t I? “えいごであそぼう“ sends the band into their bending-note frenzy once again…lead-vocals sounding as innocent as Rivers Cuomo before he was using the formula he now uses to write his music. Or maybe it’ll remind you of older-music from The Dandy Warhols before they got strung-out…or R.E.M. long before they got real-paid. Whatever the case might be – it’s a powerful melody and great example of the Red Martian ability to combine the old with the new into something fantastic; great ending to “えいごであそぼう.“
The band then takes you into the sublime feedback-laced & bass-driven song that puts the mood & atmosphere into a pillowy-soft grind, “Air.” Definitely dig on the loose-feel that surrounds the vibe on “Air” and how it feels written around the bass-line itself. Much like the effect that can have on a band…like use Primus for example or RHCP…it’s those powerful bassists that really free up the guitar players to do something really unique and fantastic with their instruments rather than concentrating on holding the melody patterns. “Air” makes excellent use of that freedom…and like much of what Red Martian is like as a band…it’s not a song that’s trying to be any one specific thing. There’s a solid hypnotic-grind that keeps the “Air” flowing strongly…and as much as I love the bass-line itself – I’d also be lying to you if I didn’t say it was the way that the feedback of the guitar works into this song that makes it all fully-worthwhile. Genius stuff here in the late-stages of Slow Motion Samurai.
I know I’m three-pages or so into this review…but I highly believe this band deserves that extra attention for the creativity displayed in their music. So much so – that not only did I choose to feature Red Martian as our FIRST review of 2016…but I made them wait forever for it, just in effort to get it the right placement and attention I think it deserves. PLUS…I mean, c’mon…you gotta set your whole YEAR up for success on January FIRST or you’re already behind…so I knew that Red Martian was the exact kind of note we wanted to start 2016 with…and I listened…I listened and waited for today. I’m hoping for a year FULL of innovative sounds like Red Martian – that’s all I’m asking for! And as I’ve mentioned earlier back when this was still just three-pages typed-out before heading onto this fourth now – there is a LOT I want to still say about this band. You can expect a spotlight on Red Martian on the upcoming episode of SBS Live This Week to talk even MORE about this album when the show returns on January 10th with Modern Day Poets as our guests. Again…timing is a crucial thing…there’s plenty of great reasons why I want them on that episode in particular…be sure to keep your eyes and ears open for that posting up later this month!
But for now…I’ll leave you with what’s been said and the visible-proof of just how much I really dig this band and their ideas through the sheer length of this review. Well…hopefully you’ve read it too…but either way, you should get the idea I’m sure. And if you for some reason doubt any of this…throw on the final-tune on Slow Motion Samurai called “Greying” where they bring the best elements of their alt-melodies and bending tones to one of their most sincere and emotional songs right at the end of the album. There’s such a perfect happiness that comes along with listening to music as pure, raw and real as Red Martian makes it…and combined with their spectacular ambitions, ideas and creativity – they’ve taken it all to the next-level and created a freakin brilliant album with Slow Motion Samurai.
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