Hello, Readers! It’s Monday, so of course it’s time once again for the “Signmeto” Unsigned Band of the Week feature. As you should all know by now, this is when I write about an artist whose songs appear on the “Sign Me to Roadrunner Records” website. People contact me there all the time, looking for reviews of their music, and I am more than happy to oblige. I listen to whatever they’ve got, and then I talk about it here, and then YOU (the devoted reader) can go check it out for yourself. Maybe you’ll really like what you hear. There’s only one way to find out, so let’s get started.
This week, I’ve got something totally different to share with you, and I’ve also got a request. It’s audience participation time! Usually when I check out a new artist over at Signmeto, I find a few songs that they have recorded for a collection of demos or promos, or sometimes even songs from an independently released EP or album. The goal, ostensibly, is to gain further exposure for the band, possibly even (judging by the name of the website) the chance at a contract with a record label. Well, today what we’re looking at will be more like rough sketches of unfinished songs, which have been posted for the purpose of soliciting feedback. These basic outlines have the potential to turn into something pretty great, so I think you should take the time to listen to them — hopefully you’ll have some great ideas of how something could be changed or improved (I’ve got faith in you, readers, because obviously you have good taste in music or you wouldn’t be here in the first place!).
The music you are about to hear was put together by a Rhode Islander named Andrew James Liles. I’ve gotten to know him as a reviewer, through my interaction with other members of the Signmeto website, and he seems like a pretty nice guy. Recently, Andrew sent me a request to check out these demos for his project Information Harvest, because he is getting together with the rest of the band soon to rehearse and work on fleshing out these songs a little more fully. As it stands currently, these are instrumental pieces with Mr. Liles playing the guitar, bass, and keyboard; some of the guitar solos or leads here might be replaced by vocals but he says he is still “on the fence” about whether or not to add vocals. Also these tracks are supported by drum loops temporarily; Andrew echoes my own sentiments 100% when he tells me he hates drum loops — so let’s all agree to ignore the fact that the drums currently sound terrible and fake, secure in the knowledge that they will ultimately be replaced by a living, breathing human drummer.
There are three demo tracks now available on the Information Harvest Signmeto page. “Marriage Melody” starts us off pretty simply, with about 1-1/2 minutes of a couple layered acoustic guitars. I’m not sure if this is intended as the introduction to a longer song, or perhaps a brief standalone bit — maybe an interlude between other songs or the opening or closing of an album? In any case, it sounds pretty lovely.
Being a bassist and drummer by trade, I don’t know a lot of technical stuff about guitar-playing, but I try to fumble my way through, pretending like I know what I’m talking about… this starts out in a kind of classical-sounding style; there are a few points that feature some natural harmonics, which I especially like (and which remind me of the acoustic part in a particular Yes song — I’m not absolutely certain about this, but off the top of my head I believe it is “Roundabout”).
Another part is added to this, which is panned a little to the right, and sounds more like a nylon-stringed ‘Spanish’ guitar than the other part(s), and also introduces a somewhat more Mediterranean-sounding flavor to the mix. Once again, I’m no expert, and I urge you to check it out with your own ears, but the feeling I get is that this second guitar was recorded through a microphone, while the other guitar sounds more like one that has a built-in pickup — and from what I’ve come to understand, using these pickups for recording often result in a duller, more compressed sound than sticking a mic in front of the guitar, which is usually a bit warmer and more natural-sounding.
This is followed by “Rainbow Bridge,” a bit longer (at four-and-a-half minutes) and more fully arranged with bass, piano, and electric guitars (we agreed not to mention the drums, right?). All of these enter, bit-by-bit, on a foundation of a pretty bass-heavy synth drone (which brings to mind a Pink Floyd song like “Sorrow” or “Obscured by Clouds”). This song (or more accurately, song sketch) takes you in a few different directions; sometimes displaying more of a progressive side, such as the addition of a reverby stereo-delay guitar vamp on top of an acoustic part (the combination of which, again, reminds me of something Yes might have done); other times having a dreamy, ballady vibe led by a gentle piano in waltz-time; and in yet another instance, threatening to head in a more metallic territory with the incorporation of some synchopated distorted riffs between the guitars and bass.
Throughout all of this there is a lead guitar part that serves as the main melody; probably this is where he means when he says vocals might be substituted at some future time. Anyone who knows me and my personal inclinations could tell you that I am not predominantly a person who is generally oriented towards, or focused on, “lyrics” or “vocals” — in general I don’t really mind if they are there or not, especially when there is enough else happening to keep my interest in the music. A progressive-structured work such as this would be fine with or without the addition of words, in my opinion. However, the solo guitar that is currently there leans a bit too heavily on the wah pedal and “whammy bar” for my taste, occasionally to the point of almost feeling motion sickness. If a guitar melody will be standing in for a vocal line, I think I’d prefer it not to be this particular one. On the other hand, in the points where there are two electric guitars playing a part in tandem (often soaring above the piano and acoustic parts), they make for a very pleasant-sounding harmony. Lastly, while the transitions between some of these different sections could be smoothed just a little bit, they do all work together pretty harmoniously as a complete song.
The third and final song found here is called “A Friend is Gone.” It starts out interestingly, with a looped guitar part, and then a second looped countermelody. A drum loop is then added to the mix, but the timing seems to be just enough out of sync to make it difficult to really listen to parts of track with a critical ear. However, from time to time the initial guitar parts fade out to leave room for a slinky bassline and some more solo lead guitar. Here again, there seems to be a lot of reliance on the wah-pedal, which (to my ears) resembles the techniques and tone often used by somebody like Joe Satriani — which fans of that particular style would probably find very enjoyable indeed. Despite the three-minute running time, this feels short and incomplete to me; however, I wonder if the best way to fix it would be by extending it, or if the length and structure could remain as-is while giving some variety and interest to the music with the addition of some words? Readers, what say you?
Anyway, if you like what you’ve heard so far, please leave a review for Information Harvest at Signmeto, saying what you like and what you don’t like, or what you think could be changed or added or subtracted. If you don’t have an account there and you don’t feel like creating one, you’re also more than welcome to leave your comments on this page, and I will gladly pass them along for you. I’ve also been informed there are additional demos available at ReverbNation for your further enjoyment.
I hope you enjoyed this post – please feel free to share your opinion in the comments below! Until next week… if you happen to stumble across something you’d like to share (or if you are in a band and are trying to get your music heard), just write to me at my Signmeto “scout” page. Thanks for reading!