Tarock Music has released a new album by Bruce Cohen marking his fifth solo venture. The twelve-song electronic excursion that continues his signature take on ambient music with the added element of funk. His 2017 album Four BC was a constrained four-minute per song experiment, while Five BC was recorded with a no time limit total stream-of-conscience approach. Cohen literally took to heart Miles Davis’ witticism when asked the name of the song he was about to perform saying, “I’ll play it and tell you later,” so Cohen didn’t title his songs until after they were recorded. The result is tracks that are an indisputable electronic classic, using a progressive house groove while weaving atmospheric textures of subtlety and beauty, demonstrated by Cohen’s artful skill of manipulating various moods.
After experiencing the strength of Rick Shaffer’s previous album Outside Of Time the prospect of a new project to indulge in was an exciting one. In actual fact, if at all possible, Stolen Moments is even more of an explosion of energy, passion and grit than the former, and it’s addictively entertaining.
All I Want is the opener, and what a way to begin. Full throttle rock and roll, authentic grit and gravel in the voice and the distortion. Notably different to anything else I’ve heard from the songwriter, All I Want has something deeply real about it – the lyrics seem consumed by the chaos and beauty of being human, being lost within a lust for making music. It’s not dissimilar to the incomparably honest sound of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. The sound of Rick’s voice is superb, stylish and powerful, emotional, entirely engaged and seemingly married to this music and this artistry.
Downtown Suzy explodes in an equally attention grabbing manner. The guitars are out of this world, and the melodies and riffs featured bring about a touch of country rock, a hint of Primal Scream, a varied sense of songwriting and a definite moment of certainty and character. One In Five swings the indie anthem bat and offers up a memorable guitar riff and a song with plenty of space surrounding the lyrics, so you get a real sense of storytelling, as well as a further helping of almighty rock and roll.
Modern Lie is a huge song; from the moment it begins there’s something striking and quite special about it. The chord progression, the slightly softer sound, the additional vocal parts, the melody, the build up to the hook – this one is a stunning bit of songwriting. You can take home a copy of this song in an instant, for free; just click the link below…
Another beautifully honest and compelling song is Other One. This track leaves its mark for a number of reasons, not least of all that inherent depth and passion that comes through in the reflective storytelling, and the emotional vocal performance; gentler here for the most part. There’s a real touch of humanness to the writing and Rick Shaffer undoubtedly has a way with poetic expression, as well as a unique and interesting perspective on life. A fantastic song.
Higher is an infectiously enjoyable track, the rhythm and vibrancy of the piece just pours out through the speakers and incites a craving to witness the whole thing being performed live. The full band, real time experience is likely to be insanely good. There’s a sense of urgency to the song and it fills you with enthusiasm and a certain lust for life, in the way that only truly expressive, authentic music can. Rick Shaffer’s passion is incomparable, it drives these songs with intense purity and realness, and fortunately, his unquestionable level of experience means that every track is skilfully and effectively crafted.
There’s another moment of somewhat lighter rock and roll with Time Stays. The guitar riff running throughout creates a further touch of country rock and blues, and as the song progresses, the melody varies a little, and the good vibes seem to multiply. Call My Name follows on from this brilliantly. Stolen Moments is really a project that just gets better and better as it moves along. The sound becomes familiar, the energy settles in for the long run, and the ideas presented take on a new level of personality and intrigue.
Chopping Wood is a song in a world of its own. The opening instrumentation has the ultimate level of grit and boldness that just oozes creative freedom and storms into your consciousness with a manic sort of power. Then you get the final track of the collection, the smooth and seductive hit that is Danger Awaits. There’s a sense of space again here, the beat is thick and heavy yet mellow in pace, the reverb-soaked solo guitar moments flicker in and out of the mix. The bass line is spectacular – simple but solid in its attitude and relevance to the mood. And of course, right there on top of everything, Rick Shaffer’s vocal strength and immediacy offers up the concept and the story line as one last reminder of his unwavering presence, as one last stolen moment even. The artist is unstoppable, and the quality of the music is at an all time high.
• Rebecca Cullen (Musician and writer with an MA in Songwriting.)
Watch the “Modern Lie” video YouTube
2017 marks Rick Shaffer’s eighth solo album, “Stolen Moments”, which was inspired by the concept that there are no guarantees or promises in life. Throughout his career, Shaffer has turned over every possible stone, and he’s decimated them all into a thousand pieces. He helped jump start punk rock, merged seamlessly into garage rock and found success with The Reds©, a band he co-founded, he has since found his way to solo punk and garage rock releases among other projects. That all makes his new record an incredibly hard act to follow. What else is there left to conquer? The proto-garage raver to end all garage ravers, that’s what!
Rick Shaffer’s art balances garage primitivism and smart rock craft, which will frequently draw avant-gardists and casual listeners alike, to his unique rock n’ roll fervor. Combining jagged, roaring guitars and fast-slow dynamics with raw melodic vocals, intertwining harmonics, and evocative, lyrics, Shaffer is an accomplished musicians who is not afraid to wail and bash out chords while his lead guitar squeals out spirals of beautiful noise.
The music’s shrieking power will cover every emotional and intellectual territory inside your cluttered brain, as “Stolen Moments” pushes the envelope, redefines, and ultimately sets fire to the foundations of everything currently found under the rock tag and all its sub-genres.
It is of course, abrasive in parts, but it is not inaccessible to even mainstream radio. I could easily imagine tracks such as Downtown Suzy”, Modern Lie, Time Strays and Call My Name blaring from my radio. It may take some time to get past the squalls of raw power, but once you do, it is easy to see that this actually is a very melodic album. The guitars wail and scream and Shaffer uses his instrument like few others do today. A great full-length from one of the smartest, ingenuous artists foraging within the genre, in my humble opinion.
No theatrics, no sense of hip or cool. Just the basics. The performances themselves are delivered in variable doses of bone crushing, elegance, beauty, raw, power, and color. The great thing about Rick Shaffer is that he is an artist that does everything so right. The vocals are fierce and emotive, Teddy Rixon’s bass like loud, delicate thunder, Stevie Carlisle’s drums smart, inventive, and solidly anchored.
And then there is Shaffer’s guitar, bearing the responsibility of bringing all those twisted, sonic sounds right into your stereo. Of course, there are the songs that exult those qualities, among them: All I Want, One In Five, Higher, Chopping Wood and Danger Awaits. Rick Shaffer is for real, and “Stolen Moments” is an immense creative process transformed into musical form, one that is impossible to ignore.
- Rick Jamm — Tuned Loud
ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: RICK SHAFFER
GARAGE-ROCKER RICK SHAFFER HAS BEEN GOING STRONG SINCE THE 70’S, AND HE CERTAINLY HASN’T LOST EVEN A LITTLE BIT OF THAT FLICKER AND FLAIR THAT MADE HIM SUCH A RECOGNIZABLE FORCE IN THE UNDERGROUND ROCK SCENE.
If you haven’t yet explored Bruce Cohen’s latest album Four BC, you most certainly should. The story behind it is a unique and interesting one, but more importantly – the music is well worth taking the time out to experience.
We caught up with the artist behind it all for an in depth chat about creativity, inspiration, touring, the future of electronic music, and much more.
Here’s how it went ► http://www.tarockmusic.com/stereo_stickman__bruce_cohen_interview/
(A free mp3 of “Seen” can be downloaded at the end of the interview.)
Kicking off with opening track ‘Haus’, Bruce Cohen’s latest release Four BC hits out hard with a fierce beat that grabs the attention immediately. Without much hesitation, we are sent headfirst into a dizzying spiral of woozy ambient samples and an intoxicating melody made up of swirling glacial notes. There’s a slight tone of dread sitting beneath it all, while Cohen’s production keeps things wide and airy at the same time. His music builds gradually, adding various new elements to the mix as it progresses, constantly growing and holding the attention.
The underlying darker tones are maintained as we are led into ‘Luna’, with its sparse atmospheric pads that heave and groan under their own weight, giving a nod towards the soundtracks of shows like Twin Peaks and Stranger Things. Those earlier glacial notes return, adding contrast and atmosphere, with a sense of space that really pulls the listener in. As it develops, it becomes all embracing, reaching out and wrapping the listener into its own carefully constructed world of sonic mystery. Where are we being taken? Will we make it out alive? This is when the confident beat of ‘Lost’ kicks in, and we now find ourselves in an utterly alien landscape. Tones fly back and forth like an extraterrestrial language, trying to communicate but we are here without a translator.
Once you have made it a few tracks in to Four BC, you’ll begin to feel at home. It’s like being transported to another world but it’s not scary or overwhelming. Rather, it is entirely welcoming, where the listener is invited to relax and engage on whatever level they might feel able. It’s not the kind of ambient music where you can totally check out and let it wash over you – although it could quite easily serve that purpose – because there is so much going on that it really demands close attention and inspection. Sounds shift and change, never staying still but constantly evolving and reforming into new throbs and washes.
Whenever there has been a moment where things feel like they are really winding down (‘Rise’), suddenly we are headlong into a new sequence which takes us in a whole other direction (‘Seen’). In many ways Four BC is like being invited to a huge mansion and given the freedom to wander around to investigate its many rooms. As you begin to do so, you realize that every room is totally different with new things to discover. And further still, you begin to realize that each room has something in common with all the others. There is a plan here, Cohen has very carefully constructed a sequence of spaces that are totally consistent yet always offering something new. As a result, the album sits somewhere between chilled out ambient and cerebral EDM, making it the kind of record that can be listened to in a range of settings and for different listening purposes. It’s relaxed, but won’t send you to sleep. It’s engaging, but won’t exhaust you either.
• Chris Marsh • CrossRadar