JamSphere Review: “Bruce Cohen’s Four BC is ambient music that favors abstraction and improvisation.”

JamsSphereBruce Cohen is a founding member of the Philadelphia band, The Reds®, who’s first self-titled produced by David Kershenbaum, showed the band’s impressive blend of Rick Shaffer’s guitar, and Bruce Cohen’s keyboards.  The album was supported with live appearances with such diverse acts as The Police, Joe Jackson, Blondie, The Ramones, The Psychedelic Furs, and Public Image.  Cohen’s solo projects include musical scores for theatrical productions and his electronic album series “One BC”, “Two BC,” “Three BC,” and now the latest 2017 album – “Four BC.”

The liner explains that on this recording, Bruce Cohen returned to his ‘ambient electronic roots, with the slightly added twist of totally improvising every song to fit a self-imposed four minute time frame, with little to no overdubs, and no edits whatsoever.’

Douglas Rushkoff notes in his book that “ambient music isn’t a set of particular sounds one listens to but a space in which one breathes.”  In “Four BC” the layers and washes of sound and music can be focused on or ignored, lazily mind-surfed or instead analyzed.

Never a trite “sound collage”, a problem which plagues so many in this genre, this album has moods, textures and rhythms that lend well to repeat listening.  So you can dig deep or soar to the shore with this exceptional work.

Come equipped with a truly open mind because “Four BC” is easy to dismiss without one.  As improvised music, it shouldn’t be surprising that one needs to experiment in finding the appropriate setting and circumstances for realizing its potential.

It may be as simple as using headphones in darkness; for others, it may need to be experienced in nature during a particular time of year.  But the genius is in there waiting for you.  If you can’t be bothered to put in the effort, then listen anyway as you’ll still find plenty to enjoy in terms of rhythms and sounds. It just more accurate listening is so much more rewarding.

I am a devout listener of ambient/electronic music, and when I played through “Four BC” for the first time, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, because I was so used to the mundane commercial tracks of mainstream artists.  I became instantly attuned to the vibrant, melodic vibrations and flowing wave-forms, and ethereal pings that instilled the vastness of space that was all beautifully, subtly and tastefully filled.

Frequencies are substituted for real soundscaping, as the tracks here, are evocative and extremely pleasant to listen to.  This is music that favors abstraction and improvisation, yet everything sounds well-planned out and accessible enough to hold your attention.

On the album “Four BC,” Bruce Cohen offers us more than mere sonic manipulation.  He looks beyond synth manuals and realizes music that is an inextricable weave of sound engineering, solitary reflection and ambient aesthetics.  Consider the album’s tracks as various degrees of emotion, lingering, and then shifting to another state.  For me, the musical subtlety of “Four BC” is in the impression left, rather than the story told.

∎ Rick Jamm — JamSphere MAGAZINE

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“Rick Shaffer is back with more of his signature proto punk . . .”

CrossradarRick Shaffer is back with more of his signature proto punk, just as bristling and energetic as ever.

‘Killer Time’ kicks things off with swaggering vocals that race alongside the furious guitars which splutter along and give way to a solo that is curiously slurred and tight at the same time. ‘Going Down Slow’ paints the picture of devil-may-care driving down the road late at night, with flashes of British rock thrown into the mix. Rick Shaffer’s work continues to be exciting and engaging, on the one had looking back to the influences of early punk rock, while on the other always looking for new ways to communicate that punk aesthetic. ‘Your Charm’ takes a classic riff and redevelops it for its own purposes, like taking some old clothes and deconstructing them to be recreated in a new way. It’s all still the same fabric, but it’s sometimes time to be used differently. As a result, the tracks found on Outside Of Time have a feeling of familiarity while also offering the excitement that comes from engaging with new tunes.

Shaffer certainly sticks to a consistent model, and anyone who knows of his work is unlikely to be disappointed with this new selection of upbeat, swaggering tunes.

• Chris Marsh • August 24, 2016
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The Ministry Of Truth Reviews “Outside Of Time”

Chairman RalphAnd so, the clock rewinds, the minute hand takes a moment to reset itself, the second hand waits for an encore cue, and we renew our acquaintance once more with Rick Shaffer, former guitarist of those amped up ’80-s Philadelphia New Wave ravers, The Reds, who’s lately racked up an impressive streak of solo albums that shows no signs of letting up.

That’s certainly the case for his latest effort, Outside Of Time (Tarock Music), which maintains the standards that we’ve come to expect from him: high energy, stripped down garage-psych and punk, infused with flecks of old school R&B, and a little hill country blues, too, while he’s at it.  As usual, Shaffer carries the load (guitar, percussion, lead vocals), with a little bit of strategic assistance from Teddy Rixon (bass) and Russ Mitchell (drums, percussion).

If you’ve followed Shaffer’s work this far, you’ll know his albums start off with a houseshaking opening track, and “Killer Time” is no exception.  The track builds around a fuzz-laced riff, and a drum/tambourine track that just propels it right along, as Shaffer asks someone — a business partner, friend, or lover, we don’t know — to just drop the pretense, and deal with life’s hard truths, for a change (“Why are you waiting for things you can’t see?).  Then, in the middle, the song explodes into a truly paint-peeling, overdriven lead solo that provides an apt counterpart to its theme (a favored subject of previous Shaffer efforts).

This up-tempo approach and unapologetic mindset prevails on tracks like “One By One” (“Ask me once, but please don’t ask again, where I’m going, and mostly, where I’ve been”), and “Blowing My Mind” (“I ain’t changing, I ain’t changing my mind now”), on which Shaffer laces his lyrics with dark flecks of guitar fills. Like I’ve said before, and feel obliged to say again — if the Rolling Stones are serious about reclaiming their mojo, here’s where that mission should start.

“Going Down Slow,” on the other hand, is a shot of grungy blues energy that nods to simpler pleasures: in this case, cruising the cityscape, and listening to music, without worrying about where you’re going, what you need to do next, or whether you’ve got to be on time (“Going down, going down slow/don’t tell the things that I already know”).  It’s a fitting subject, considering the site of the album’s recording (Del Tone Studios, Detroit, MI).  The blues elements return in full force on the closing track, the aptly-titled “Hellbound Trip,” which will definitely give a glimpse of a hellhound’s pursuit.

Other highlights include “Show Me,” a shimmering, moody piece of psych-pop that (honestly) recalls the world-weary, “shrug my shoulders” resignation of the Music Machine’s twilight years.  As on the other songs, Shaffer leaves the listener to determine just who he’s taking to task here, though it’s definitely someone that he’s happy not to see anymore (“How many times/must I try to explain/Trouble coming down like a pouring rain”).

Other tracks show Shaffer in a more pop-oriented mood.  The biggest surprise here, and a hint at a direction to explore on future albums, if Shaffer chooses.  Notable snapshots include “Blowing My Mind,” “Your Charm,” whose guitar hook nods to T. Rex’s breakthrough (“Get It On”), and “Changing Anything,” which boasts an earnestly singalong chorus amid its underdog determination (“This ain’t changing anything, no this ain’t changing anything/No this ain’t changing anything I know”).

 In less adept hands, the sonic collisions that often occur here — the layered vocals, persistent leads, and strategically deployed guitar and percussion fills — would sound soggy and deadly. On Outside Of Time, they sound just right.  Ladies and gentlemen, may we present — Mr. Rick Shaffer, Philly guitar slinger, who’s bearing down on you with everything he knows — the one-man last gang in town, who hasn’t chased the trends.  With works of this caliber, he won’t feel the need.

Ralph Heibutzki

Chairman Ralph’s Ministry Of Truth       
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Tarock Music Releases Rick Shaffer Video ∎ GOING DOWN SLOW

RICK SHAFFER GOING DOWN SLOW (final).mp4 - Google DriveRick Shaffer and director, David N. Donihue struck up a friendship when filming the video, “One More Heartache,” for Shaffer’s 2012 album, Idiot Flats.  When Shaffer told Donihue he wrote “Going Down Slow” in Detroit while recording his latest album, Outside Of Time, because he was struck by how the economy caused crime in the Motor City to skyrocket out of control.  He was especially moved after meeting so many good people that were in desperate straits as a direct result of the nose diving economy, and a seemingly uncaring Government.  Shaffer wanted to evoke a story line that would convey the desolation of Detroit, so he enlisted Donihue to create the visual scenario for his lyrics.

Donihue, a fan of Shaffer’s timeless sound, readily agreed.  His vision materialized into a story line that follows Jack Clyde, a young, handsome, yet hard edged, man living in the turmoil of the wavering American economy.  When Jack impregnates his girlfriend just as the slumping job market leaves him with no prospects, he hastily decides to rob a liquor store.  When Jack’s actions leaves the mother of his child alone in the world, it becomes her turn to launch her own plan.

CREDITS: Director: David N. Donihue | Producer: Noubar Antonyan — SuperRadFilms.com | The Criminal: Arman Oganesyan | The Heroine: Kristin Vannieuwenhoven | The Prisoner: Noubar Antonyan | Still Photography: Theresa Marchione | ©2016 TarockMusic.com

WATCH THE VIDEO ON YouTube . . . https://youtu.be/Hvk44kOocp0

 

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“This is one of the better engineered garage rock records, with a sound that cuts like lasers.”

JamsSphere

I could repeat the words of dozens of reviewers and talk about how raw and visceral the performances here sound. But what amazes me about this record, by contrast, is how good it sounds. To talk about the musicianship of Rick Shaffer as a point of punk orthodoxy or Garage rock seems beside the point when you listen to Outside Of Time, the new album by Shaffer.

The guitars that dominate the entire album do not sound sludgy at all, despite the heavy reliance on good old fashioned fuzz, overdriven and psychedelic sounds. They bubble and sizzle like a sirloin in a skillet; the flares and trebles sound just right. The rhythm section is rock solid, and without it, this record would go nowhere fast. Rick Shaffer, likewise, knows exactly what he’s doing.

This is one of the better engineered garage rock records, with a sound that cuts like lasers. It is a remarkable performance regardless of who should get the credit. What we have here is an amazingly sharp, dense, harsh and muscular sonic attack. I don’t listen to a lot of new pseudo rock but I’d like to hear someone outdo these tracks for pure, sheer power.

The songs never drag; actually the whole album is remarkably well-paced. “Killer Time” kicks things off with a menacing prowl, “Going Down Slow” kicks things into high gear, “Blowing My Mind” hints at the craziness still to come, if you’re looking for a slow-burn, catch-your-breath centerpiece to the album, you won’t find it.

The closest you’ll come to slow burn, is “Final Surprise”, but that’s track 9, and it’s not slow either, just slower. Moreover, by this time Rick has kicked the breath out of you for 8 whole thumping tracks!

Once the madness kicks in with “Your Charm”, it’s like the afterburners have been lit and there’s no turning back for the rest of the album. Words don’t do it justice. Lyrically, I don’t know much about what is going on because I’m so stuck on the driving rhythms and gravelly vocal deliveries.

There may, or may not be, some mystery as to what exactly Mr. Shaffer is trying to say in each song, but the messages comes through in the various grunts, snarls and shouts that he cuts loose, adding another cataclysmic instrument to the already potent musical combo.

It is your sole duty to find and understand them. For Garage Rock or Proto-Punk lovers, this is essential stuff. Hell this recording could stand alongside the best of those classic releases by Husker Du and Interpol.

Overall, this is an incredibly powerful album and represents a real hybrid of the free- form acid drenched jamming from the latter sixties, whilst looking forward to punk, garage and alternative rock. Yet there is more –you’ll find traces of Blues and Americana roots music buried in beneath the electric turmoil.

If you pay careful attention, this happens with overt candor, precisely from “One On One”, through “Show Me”, “Final Surprise” and “Hellbound Trip” – truly a nice blend of pure rock experimentation and musical innovation. I doubt there is another album, recorded recently, that captures such a feeling of raw, energetic, rock n’ roll exhilaration such as “Outside Of Time”!

Rick Jamm — Jam Sphere Magazine

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“Rick Shaffer’s “Outside of Time” strips down rock to the absolute essentials.”

BeachSlothRick Shaffer – Outside of Time

Rick Shaffer’s Outside of Time strips down rock to the absolute essentials. Reminiscent of Iggy Pop’s work and classic rock revivalists the Black Keys these are songs that demand to be played as loud as possible. Employing amazing driving rhythms and commanding vocals, everything on “Outside of Time” feels perfectly formed. By going for such a simple, direct, and downright honest approach these songs positively buzz with life. Throughout it all Rick Shaffer’s sense of play is embedded deep within every track, whether it is the handclaps of “Your Charm” or the dreamy quality of “Show Me”.

Wasting no time at all is the insistent work of “Killer Time” which dives right into things. Infinitely catchy this is the kind of piece that embodies a pure unbridled sense of freedom. Opting for an amazing crafted piece of pop is the crazed chaotic “Going Down Slow”. Spacious in nature is the expansive work of “Blowing My Mind” whose slight psychedelic leaning work wonders. Going for a primitive kind of garage rock sound is the distorted joy of “Changing Anything”. Tense and tight with anxious energy is the rollicking “Walls of Heartache”. A hint of shoegaze defines the tender approach of “Final Surprise”. Closing the album off on a high note is the magnificent sprawl of “Hellbound Trip”.

Stylish to its very core, Rick Shaffer’s “Outside of Time” requires no embellishments it is raw, straight from the heart, visceral rock.

Best of all the entire album can be found right here.

Download a FREE mp3 of “GOING DOWN SLOW” on SoundCloud

 

Tarock Music Releases Rick Shaffer’s 7th Solo Album

 

The Stratocaster_©2016TheresaMarchione

Tarock Music has released Rick Shaffer’s seventh solo album, Outside Of Time, and it has him reaching minimalist garage rock perfection, capturing excitement and emotion in a proto-punk sound, laid down savagely in Motor City Detroit.

Read the album liner notes HERE.

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