Short Takes (Totally Mild, Patti Yang, Ben Lorentzen & Kiravell)

Totally Mild - Down Time

Totally Mild – Down Time

Totally Mild – “When I’m Tired”

Australia keeps knocking out winners, this time in the form of the Melbourne-based four-piece Totally Mild which consists of lead singer and guitarist Elizabeth Mitchell, lead guitarist Zachary Schneider, bassist Lehmann Smith, and drummer Ashley Bundang.  Elizabeth started Totally Mild as a solo project, but it has since developed into a full-fledged band that has dispersed delightful aural gems from its debut indie-pop album Down Time that are graced with Elizabeth’s delicate and melancholically wistful tone.  The album was released by Bedroom Suck in Australia and Fire Records in the U.K. and U.S. on August 7th.

A standout from Down Time is the band’s latest single, “When I’m Tired”, a bittersweet, retro-vibed pop tune that hides its sharply bleak lyrical core in a deceptively shiny wrapper of beguiling vocals from Elizabeth, thoughtful and trippingly pleasant, angular guitar lines, a skipping drum beat, an unobtrusive bass line, and modest percussion.  It comes as a shock to hear lyrics about a royally messed-up relationship (either personal or societal) where “…in the night when I am tired / I wake to find / You’re setting my house on fire.”  The song comes to close with a heavenly harmonic chorale of Elizabeth’s tiered crystalline sighs.


Patti Yang - "I'm Ready"

Patti Yang – “I’m Ready”

Patti Yang – “I’m Ready”

The Poland-born and London-raised Patti Yang (also known as Pati Yang and the Patti Yang Group) is an independent, multi-media talent who is not only a singer-songwriter and electronica lover, but a visual artist and published poet.  Patti has collaborated with other musicians and worked on a variety of projects including Stephen Hilton for the acts Children and FlyKKiller and several film scores such as director Michael Winterbottom’s film A Mighty Heart and the film Code 46.

Patti has also amassed quite a solo discography with four critically-acclaimed albums and four EPs to her name.  She recently relocated to the California region of the Mojave Desert in order to immerse herself in a natural environment, for general inspiration and to write and record her upcoming album War On Love.  She is finalizing the recordings in London with her bandmates where they are melding her electronic work with live instrumentation to form a multi-dimensional, pop-oriented product.

The mesmerizing first single is the electronically-tinged, down-tempo and lyrics-driven “I’m Ready”, which pulses with a grimy, shuffling marching beat and shaken percussion.  Patti, radiates with a mysterious glow, sing-talking in a hushed and echoed tone that “I’m ready for love / I’m ready for the dream come true.” amid tinkering metal notes, a loping, globular rhythm, and floating synth lines.  The relaxed ride continues with added electro-notes and bright, horn-like blips as Patti smoothly but enigmatically coos “It’s taking you places only you know…”


Ben Lorentzen - America

Ben Lorentzen – America

Ben Lorentzen – “The Ugliest Girl in the World”

New York and New Jersey-based (by way of Norway) singer-songwriter Ben Lorentzen creates contemplative, acoustic pop-noir songs that are steeped in observant lyrics and sprinkled with heartfelt vocals.  He credits musical legends like Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, and Nick Drake as inspirations for his personal, but universal perceptions on life and his emotionally restrained yet still plaintive vocal delivery.  Ben was previously in the band Brent, which dropped an album in 2002, and has also composed songs for Leslie Grace and Paal Flaatas for his album Rain in 2005.

Ben released an album titled America early this summer that consists of 11 lyrics-driven, alt-pop/indie-folk numbers.  The picked acoustic guitar-based tunes are fleshed out by a variety of instruments including violin and other strings (“Evergreen Tree” and “These Sudden Changes”), piano (“Bring Home The Angles”), banjo and other stringed instruments (“Heaps Of Ashes” and “ Masters Of War”), and harmonica (“Heaps Of Ashes” and “Wasteland”).

The song that makes the most impact, however, is the unusual and spare “The Ugliest Girl in the World”.  Ruminating piano lines, a sharply picked guitar string refrain, and a drum rhythm created only by Ben’s voice accompany his stark statements about a girl whose “…heart is blacker than darkness.”  Ben slowly and deliberately parses out his sing-talking vocals, pausing here and there to accentuate certain words, especially near the song’s end when he delivers a kicker line, complete with a surprising F-bomb, about his girl being “…more beautiful than anything / in this absolutely… godforsaken world.”  Ben’s song comes across like a testament to inner strength and survival in dark and uncertain times.


Kiravell - "Yello Hazy"

Kiravell – “Yello Hazy”

Kiravell – “Yello Hazy”

Detroit, Michigan-native and San Diego, California transplant Meniyka Kiravell is a seasoned world traveler, having visited over 40 countries so far, and her openness for new experiences is also reflected in the music she creates.  Her world music-influenced arrangements incorporate the most interesting aspects of the sounds she’s found amid her travels, as well as her life-long interest in indie, shoegaze, Indian music, and John Coltrane-like jazz.  As a result of her voyaging, Meniyka has also learned about healing techniques that she has put in to practice for herself and her family.  In late-July Meniyka released her album Vaudevillia! in its original format and as an instrumental record.  Either or both can be purchased at her Bandcamp site.

Meniyka records under the moniker Kiravell and for Vaudevillia! she enlisted the aid of Julien Cantelm on drums, Ignacio Hernandez on cello, bass, mandolin, and hand percussion, and Jamie Shadowlight on violin.  Meniyka played piano, keyboards, and strings, contributed all the vocals, lyrics, compositions, and art/design, and produced the album.  A highlight of Vaudevillia! is the slow slink of laid-back torch number “Yello Hazy”.  Against the backdrop of expressive, but subdued piano, Meniyka reflects upon her past, encapsulating her experiences in a few key phrases, gliding through her lyrics languidly, gracefully recalling that “Those days they came by / so slow… too long / Most days they went by / too fast to hold on.” amid the measured beat of brushed drums and sporadic, lilting, picked acoustic guitar lines.