Now Hear This

Reviews of recent albums by Cold Engines, Groove Lounge, and Green Bastard

“Better Off Dead” by Cold Engines

Better Off Dead by Cold Engines

It takes a certain type of musical talent to construct loose, dance-inducing grooves with the tightest musicianship possible. But Cold Engines pulls it off, exploring their funk-jam/alt-country fusion on their newest album, “Better Off Dead.”

The quintet’s third album is more jam- and groove-inspired than previous efforts, detouring away from the band’s signature alternative-country sound. The album’s first three tracks — “Show You Crazy,” “Waterfall,” and “Better Off Dead” — showcase the band’s festival-friendly sound, influenced by acts like The Nth Power, Twiddle, and Gary Clark Jr.

Guitarist David Drouin’s soulful vocals mingle with Casey Herlihy’s screaming guitar licks and bluesy solos, along with hip-swinging rhythms driven by bassist Eric Reingold and percussionists Aaron Zaroulis and Geoff Pilkington. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the band features members of jam favorites like The Brew, moe., Jamantics, and Soul Rebel Project.

Despite the change in direction toward funky grooves, the guys haven’t abandoned their alt-country roots. The new album is spiced with jaunty country tunes (“Sing To Me”), country-road ballads (“Still Falls”), and ethereal slow jams (“Blue Sunday”) that would give Whiskeytown and Wilco a run for their money.

Though the genres of progressive rock and alternative country may seem like opposites, Cold Engines packages everything together nicely, flowing as smoothly as the cursive on their album covers. Even with the abstract vignettes “Crawling,” “Walking,” and “Running” thrown into the mix, the album boasts a feeling of completeness. On “Better Off Dead,” the Cold Engines machine works at a white-hot pace.

Check out the album here.

“Groove Lounge (feat. Bria Ansara)” by Groove Lounge
TVP Records

Groove Lounge

Like DJ Shadow with a gentler touch, or Thievery Corporation with a more domesticated vibe, the TVP Records crew’s newest release, “Groove Lounge,” is a manifestation of the fun, funky music of the ’70s, with drops of acid jazz, R&B, and electronica.

Bria Ansara’s sultry voice gives the songs their life. Her vocalizations carry the message of love that has become such a staple of traditional funk music. Producer Scott Ruffner’s eclectic beats are complemented by plenty of other Groove Lounge players, like Seth Weete, Greg Rothwell, and many more.

Yet arguably the MVP of the record is Andrew Fogliano. With the huge rise in electronic music in the 21st century, it can be hard to differentiate DJs. But Fogliano’s snippets of tasteful jazz flute and unique sax fills protrude over the melody and demand the ear’s attention.

The album calls to mind a quote from Daddy G of Massive Attack, describing the original band’s sound while creating “Blue Lines” 25 years ago. “What we were trying to do was create dance music for the head, rather than the feet,” he said.

The beauty of “Groove Lounge” is that they’ve found a way to appeal to both the head and the feet. Sure, it’s great background music to throw on at a party and loosen up the guests, but the repetitious beats also evoke a trance-like state that brings focus to the music. From the opening “Intro” through all nine tracks, the rhythms and melodies are so addictive and fulfilling that you’ll want to listen over and over again.

Check out the album here.

Cold Engines and Groove Lounge will take part in Arts.Sustain.Ability at the Seacoast Repertory Theatre in Portsmouth on Wednesday, Nov. 16, hosted by the Arts Industry Alliance and the Green Alliance. Cold Engines will perform live, while the “Groove Lounge” album will be spun in full. The event is from 6-9 p.m.; learn more here.

“Pyre” by Green Bastard
Midnight Werewolf Records

Pyre by Green Bastard

The shortest song on this album is about 14 minutes long. Let that sink in for a moment. Or you can let the songs pound it into your head for you.

The sonic assault of Green Bastard’s debut, “Pyre,” is divided into just three songs: “Thoros,” “Cyclopean Walls,” and “Green Dream.” Each track is more than just a song; rather, it is an epic. The relentless blows of Ethan Fortin’s snare and the crushing pulse of Spencer Benson’s bass grow more intense as the band shifts between relatively up-tempo stoner metal and torturously slow, pure doom.

Despite the intimidating track times, there’s a beauty in letting the creeping crawl of Green Bastard’s rhythms flow over you. The trio brings new life to each of the album’s three acts as it progresses. Benson’s blood-curdling hollers and raucous singing don’t enter until six minutes into “Cyclopean Walls,” giving new reason to keep listening.

All this is driven by the buzz-saw guitar work of Max Arbuckle. Influenced by the thick, sludgy textures of California’s Sleep and Japan’s Boris, Arbuckle’s guitar playing ranges from thick chords played in an unfathomably low key (he says the guitars are tuned to B flat) to disjointed riffage slung high over the muddy textures of Benson’s bass.

Though the Green Bastard boys have been around for a while, this explosive and unorthodox debut should propel them to the forefront of the Seacoast’s alternative rock scene. For some, the album could even serve as a doom-and-gloom soundtrack to the next few months before Donald Trump gets sworn into office.

Check out the album here.

Green Bastard will host an album release party at MOVE, located in the Salmon Falls Mills in Rollinsford, on Thursday, Nov. 17, at 8 pm. Learn more about the show here.