Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Balkans live at Little Field and on double phantom records

I caught the Balkans show Sunday night at a new space in Brooklyn called Little Field. Nice size venue for that area and it's good to get out of my neighborhood once in a while, there's more to NY after all.
I only heard a few myspace tracks, but
they sounded great, complex and catchy, the vocals sounded pretty raw, and they ranged from layered waves of distortion to early SY/Nirvana in "C++"
Even with all the stage antics, the guitarist climbing out on top of PA amps, the drummer repeatedly leaving stage to return with a James Brown blanket, throwing it off sitting back down, looking for his drumsticks, making cell phone calls...it wasn't ridiculous. They're a group of friends messing around for themselves and the audience is in on the joke. It's an informal show sure, but it's because they have their shit together and maybe they aren't worried about what label they're going to sign with.
We're all there to have a good time...it's a step apart from a lot of NY shows where you can just feel like you don't belong there. I'm not fucking cool enough. It felt like we're invited to their livingroom to hear a few songs.
They ended up going on stage at the end of the Carnivores set to play 'Louie, Louie'. I don't know how long they've been touring with the Carnivores but it was more unpretentious pure enthusiasm for rock, and a chance for more stage insanity.

It made me think how glad I was here and not at the nightmare that became the Dan Deacon, Deerhunter, No Age show. Then I hear NPR yesterday morning covering the ATP festival and they were talking about a culture war between fans of MBV and Tool. I mean what did you fucking expect? A crowd like that to be respectful or enjoy and discover shit they haven't been exposed to? That's not going to happen, and why I wouldn't go near a fucking festival like that if I was paid. Well maybe if I was paid. And then I get pissed at the bands...why would you agree to play that nightmare, other than for the huge paycheck. At the end of the day you can live with people booing and flipping you off? They deserve the check, but it comes with some fucking consequences doesn't it. Not that I'm a huge Tool fan, but now that I hear about their great fans, you can believe I'm not supporting that mess. But is it their fault? Yes! They could have shut that down. But then again if I paid 100+ for a ticket I'd want to flip someone off too. Ridiculous.

But back to the Balkans and this single on Double Phantom records
. The A-Side 'Zebra Print', has this jagged guitar riff that has to be manipulated somehow, there's no way he's playing this. I heard it live, but here it sounds like a digital skip. Like Test Icicles, the way they incorporated a digital rock sound, I'm getting that here. Vocally it's a different story, really immediate, recorded live in the room, it's thin sounding, but in the best way. I'm thinking of lync or Cap n' Jazz...the energy comes first. It's not low-fi by any means...it's just not precious. Here's the song, stripped down, with as much feeling as it had the first few times it came together in the rehearsal space.
The B-Side 'Oh Dear' starts out with a jangly Swirlies high strum guitar. I was trying to figure out exactly what it is about that sound that's so distinctive. It's indie rock fast high trebly guitar chords and an equally different bassline...but all of this switches into a muted breakdown completely unlike where they started...it's a great single...both sides...tons of influences here picked apart in less than 5 minutes. A cliff notes of indie rock the last ten years.
This can be had from Double Phantom...even though they just ave a link to itunes, or go to the Balkans blog that will send you to Stickfigure. You can even download the C++ single pictured below there.

That brings me to the most important part of the story for 7inches. I talked to Woody, it was his birthday buy the way, after the show to pick up a couple of their singles I saw on their blog and talk with him about how he pressed the C+ one sided single. Their tour manager Elizabeth clued me in to an article from Creative Loafing in Atlanta how they pressed additional copies of their split single and it's pure genius...
Who doesn't want to press records in their livingroom? It's definitely my dream. At first I was thinking, well how do you get the master? You have to get a metal master made first right? Well, kind of...you have to already have the single you want copies of...and it's going to be single sided. Woody pours latex on the original single to make a mold and then fills it with some kind of resin...like the kind at the hardware store that comes in two tubes and you mix together. He researched shrink rates and everything.
I just put it on and it sounds insane...it's amazing it plays, it really is. The amount of hiss and crackles coming off this thing should be an effect pedal. It's really unique. Take that Peter King. I'm sure I have this one listen before it disintegrates...or the needle breaks so I'd better write fast. I looked at it in the light and it's a mess, but that what makes this the most amazing 7" single I have ever seen. Nice work guys.
These two tracks might even be better than the first single...especially F3, damn that's a great song, the warbly vocals with that Lync far away distortion and guitar work. There's almost no low end to this, the layers are all cymbal and MBV distortion. It keeps coming back in waves.
Woody showed me the last few copies they had, so you'd better email them fast if you want to try to get one, or catch them on the tail end of their tour.


  1. Yea well the real people and label in Atlanta that got the Balkans name out there first was Die Indy Records, they put out there first vinyl records. A split with Atlanta band Trial By Fire.......

  2. Yea well the real people and label in Atlanta that got the Balkans name out there first was Die Indy Records, they put out there first vinyl records. A split with Atlanta band Trial By Fire.......

  3. I bought one of those! Yes, Die Indy Records was quick to jump on something good. I did notice on Balkans site, however, that they have "scratched" off the Trial By Fire name. Guess that makes them a little corporate greedy after all...
    Talent is talent - and then there are good people and the flakes. Which will Balkans turn out to be? Yes, it does make a difference.

  4. Whoa guys....is there some Balkans backlash going on here? Was there a falling out with Die Indy? I thought they were just DIY-ing some extra copies?
    And as far as 'scratching' the name off, I'm not sure what you mean, they didn't mention Trial by Fire on their Blog?
    Of course it makes a difference, but wow, 'corporate greedy?' You better back that up.

  5. Yes, it's true. Die Indy funded their first record, and they are not mentioned on the Balkans site at all. It was a 7" split with Trial By Fire. If you look at the image of the record on their site, you can see the smears of where it has been wiped off somehow. It is selfish, and not something that a 'cool indie band' should do. They are young kids though, very talented and well off. I love their music and show, always will. It is a disappointing situation, but not uncommon in business. I hear there are 100 copies still in mint condition boxed up...
    No Balkans backlash, just some facts.

  6. Ok, die indy was there first. They are mentioned on their blog. http://thebalkans-blog.blogspot.com/
    with a different cover, maybe that's what you're talking about? Is anyone going to tell me what happened? They don't mention Trial By Fire why? Where's the beef?

  7. Jason, I think there are just three types of musicians:
    the considerate, the vain, and the flakey.
    Most are flakey, the vain dig their own hole, and there are few considerates. It's easy to get mad at the flakes, but I really don't think they mean any harm - probably just busy with life.
    Soy Dog it up. Good job on the write up, by the way. You should check out Die Indy's new band - Hip To Death - because I'm in it ;)