Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Los Voltage

Los Voltage is a hardcore punk band from Iowa City.  First coming together in late 2010 as a weird off-shoot from the Old Scratch Revival Singers, the band consists of Jason Salek on vocals, Erik Whittaker on bass, and the brothers Highnam, Cole and Brad, on guitar and drums, respectively.

Los Voltage's music, to me, at least the first recordings, sounds akin to Italian hardcore along the lines of Indigesti and maaaybe early Raw Power if we're pushing it, but definitely Indigesti.  Obviously there's a recognition given to early Los Angeles hardcore in the band's imagery, with that cholo shit found on the band's tapes, but that might just be Erik's deal, who knows?  It's also hard to avoid the comparisons to early DCHC as well, and a nod to heavy psychedelia is thrown in with fuzzy and quick guitar solos coming and going in the songs out of nowhere. 

Off the top of my head I can't remember Los Voltage's first show, but I do remember the second show they ever played and it was a good one.  It was at the White Lightning Warehouse (RIP) in Iowa City on March 15th, 2011 with Iowa City partner's in crime NERV (one of my bands, who [whom?] Brad would later join on guitar), Holy Sheet from Providence, and, added late in the game, Wild Child from Minneapolis, which turned out to be their first show ever.  Sounds like a sick one, huh?  It was.  All sick hardcore bands (yes I speak highly of myself) and thankfully Adrianne Behning documented the evening and all of the pictures can be seen here.

Los Voltage's live show is pretty siiick.  It's good to see Jason cut loose and plunge into the crowd screaming as soon as that first snare hit comes.  Brad busts out weird 6/4 timing breakdowns out of nowhere that I'm always trying to figure out in my head.  Cole is usually in his own world when they play live, and has been making good use of the whammy bar for fuzzy solos that walks a fine line between plunging head first into la-la psych freakout land and diving back into some ripper riff.  Erik accentuates the weird drum beats in a pretty unique way, picking out high, catchy notes that linger above every other instrument, and usually braces himself during a live set as he gets moshed into the most.  Or, at least, I get moshed into him the most it seems. 

Okay, yeah, Los Voltage has some songs, they practice them, get to know them for about a half a year, so, they record a demo tape.  I'm pretty sure this demo was recorded by the band themselves.  It's definitely a raw one, but I feel its a good representation of the band in its early days.  The art for the tape is actually Jason' dad wrestling with some other guy.  WOW, good find.  This tape was released on July 15th, 2011 at a release show at The Orphanage in Iowa City, featuring the musical acts of NERV, Sky Carrasco, Brooks Strause, and some screamo (oof) bands from Chicago.  "Eight songs recorded in three basements in one day."

1. Cut 'Em All
2. In the Light
3. I Just Wanna Keep My Eyes Shut
4. Me In Place
5. Turn Around Run
6. Low Voltage
7. Burn Out Slow
8. I Wanna Go

Click to download.

So, the demo is out.  Los Voltage plays some more shows.  That's how it usually goes.  Jason has always been good about bringing his tape recorder to shows to record the bands playing live,  and recording his band was no different.  You can listen to a live set of theirs at The Birdcage from April 2011 (yeah, way before the demo came out, whatever) here.  They also played a Little Village Live (a live streaming music series that local mag Little Village does) set at Public Space One with Acoustic Guillotine a little more recently, in February of this year, and you can listen to that here.

That brings us a little up to speed.  Watching Los Voltage's music develop up to this point was a cool thing to witness.  Songs dove into more freakier territory in what I really can only describe as psychedelic hardcore.  It's all still hard and ripping, but there are definite psychedelic nods going on when Cole goes off the deep end on the guitar with madman solos and whammy goodness.  It's the tiniest bit indulgent sometimes, but it works well with the band, and feels like a very natural progression.
In April of this year, 2012, the band recorded this newer sound in Brad's basement, the Breast Imagining Center, to analog tape with the help of some huge and sick soundboard and tape recorder that I have no clue about.  They called it the Rock N Roll Summer tape, and it's awesome.  The first demo was raw and rough around the edges, but I feel the Rock N Roll Summer recording does a great job of capturing the current sound of the band.  I'm glad the band went with the same art aesthetic with this tape as the last tape, using another old picture of Jason's dad as the cover.  It looks great.  For the release of this tape, the band went on a short Midwest tour.

1. Fuck, the Guilt
2. Low Voltage
3. Me In Place
4. Bleeeding Me
5. Eyes Shut
6. Rock N Roll Summer
7. Motorhome
8. I Wanna Go
9. Turn Around Run
10. Burn Out Slow

Click to download.

So that's where we currently are.  Sick new tape, sick band, one of my favorites in Iowa currently.  Let's hope they tour out more in the future.  If you'd like to contact the band or inquire about the purchase of a physical copy of the tape, send an e-mail to Jason, jason.salek AT gmail DOT com.

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