HUGE thanks to Derek Kortepeter for sharing his new Amherst Drive EP, For Freedom And Democracy, with us here at the KMA!
As you know, we have covered Derek’s excellent work before:
Straight from the Amherst Drive bandcamp page for the EP, here’s Derek’s write-up:
This is the debut EP by Amherst Drive. It explores various social, personal, and political themes. It all covers things that consume me the most, so it is a very personal album. I hope my message is clear and that you are able to give it your time. I’ll be forever grateful.
Right! And now for the tracks:
Rise! starts off with a series of pull-quotes from political speeches over a bed of piano carnival-like music. Raunchy punk guitars and rapid-fire drumbeats wipe that away as we’re off to the races, baby! If ever there was an awesome call to action, here you go. There’s anger, righteousness, and pure energy in this track, all at 100 mph, complete with speed wobble in places. There’s pure urgency to get this all down before it’s too late. There’s an awesome guitar solo wailing away here too, and when it all crashes to a close, you know you’ve been woken up. “Take them down!” indeed!
Mental Case is pure Black Flag-feeling, I loved it. That disaffection, that confusion, the seeking for answers, everything slightly off-kilter and more real than anyone claiming they have it together.Yes! Another great guitar solo over the punk chords, too. As he screams “I’m a mental case” repeatedly as the song ends, the yearning is real.
Disorder takes us close to 80s fringe rock pop, with arpegiating guitar and chugging bass notes that resolve into ear-catching instrumental sections. There’s an echo to the whole affair, opening everything up and making the lyrics of waiting, longing, wondering. Again things are that wee bit off center, a recurring sense so far in these tracks and it’s the perfect thing that serves the music well. The ending raises the bar and shouts us out into the urge to play this one again!
Run Away’s pounding drums intro washes away another political quote, as the guitar knifes its way over top and the pace double-times. Lyrically, things are slipping away now, the urge to get away and start over before it’s too late is closing out this Ep. Is that the solution? We’re left to decide as the guitars wind down.
Short, sharp and brilliant, this EP covers some big themes in tight, economical tracks. There’s a directness to the attack, to the lyrics, to the urges and the needs in it all. As he said in his blurb on Bandcamp, this is a very personal effort for Derek, but the things covered here are, I’d wager, felt by all of us at one time or another.
Again, huge thanks to Derek for sharing this excellent effort. I recommend it to you all!
More info (from bandcamp):
released January 27, 2018
All songs produced by Derek Kortepeter.
Vocals and instrumentals by Derek Kortepeter.
All songs (except ‘Disorder’) written by Derek Kortepeter
This review is being posted on the 15th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington. And with the coming election in America, you’ll see that this album is an extremely timely release.
Also, GO TO MIKE’S EXCELLENT SITE for his contribution to this dual review effort!
And now, let’s look at Derek Kortepeter’s Cataclysm…
Once again I was ecstatic to receive a review copy of a new album from Mr. Kortepeter. And once more, it’s a fascinating trip through a musical landscape that is so varied, yet all controlled, everything in its right place (natch).
Electronics play another huge role, but there are also guitars and drums and, pretty much for the first time, his vocals. They’re a welcome addition. This music could conceivably convey these huge messages, but the vocals just add that extra essential layer. It’s searching, pleading, well aware of the world and wishing, hoping, agitating for change.
In his explanation of the record (which I’ve included, below), Derek worries that grunge is dead and who wants to go down such a negative rabbit hole again? He needn’t have worried, we all need to go there if we are to live with our eyes wide open (and we should). It’s not popular, it’s not comfortable, it’s not easy, but the important things rarely are. It’s easy to go on auto-pilot and let the world go past you, but it’s definitely not recommended to live that way. Wake up, Neo…
He mentions radiohead and Nine Inch Nails, and I can hear the influences in these tunes. Even the Smiths and David Bowie, too. With the good headphones on, this is a floating, rocking, cerebral attack and release of a record. I even (sometimes) get the feel from it that (and I hope I’m not way off here) there’s an 80s sensibility to the music, a la Smiths, Cure, Joy Division, and David Bowie. It ranges from gentle electronics like They Tell Us, through the blast of punk that is For The Fall…
Quite simply, Wow, what a record! If I had to sum it up into one word, taking into consideration all of the elements and politics and messages here, I would say ‘bravery.’ Not bravery for doing this to court trouble, I don’t think that’s his mission. And yes, it is surely bravery for putting himself out there with such important messages via such stellar artistry (which he surely is). But most importantly, Derek is following his heart, making the music he wants to make and saying the things he feels need saying, and that’s an essential bravery missing from a lot of music we hear today. This is the real thing, folks.
Get yourself Cataclysm. Thank you, Derek!
I tend to be a person who is always thinking about where my music should go next. I experiment and toy around with different ideas, never really sticking to one genre. One thing I never did was release an album that prominently features my voice. I do all the instruments, composition, production etc. on my records, but until now there has only been one song officially released on a record with my vocals.
Cataclysm needed my voice, because it was my thoughts being spilled into every lyric of every track. I wanted to explore the things that I find are reaching a precipice in this world. In this album I talk about war, surveillance states, government propaganda, loneliness, isolation, dystopia, depression, hopelessness, and the idea that humanity is slowly annihilating itself.
I’m not the first, and certainly will not be the last, to explore topics like this. Bands like Muse, Radiohead, Pennywise, Nine Inch Nails and many others have done it much better than I will ever do. But I do have something to say. You can take this record as a whole, or in parts. Each song can exist separately, but all tie back to umbrella themes.
In making this record I had a lot of different place for inspiration. Stories that affect me like 1984, Metro: 2033, and the Matrix. Music genres like metal, trip-hop, rock, and electronica. Journalists like Glenn Greenwald and Chris Hedges. Thinkers like Noam Chomsky and Dr. Cornel West. Freedom fighters like Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, and Edward Snowden.
Part of me never wanted to release this album. I didn’t think people would listen, that my voice would put them off or the topics I covered were too heavy. I mean the grunge era that gave birth to sweeping Nihilism in song has largely died off by now. Why would someone want to go into the rabbit hole of despair all over again? Why not stay in a bubble that allows us to think everything is ok?
I don’t blame those people, but I cannot see things this way. I had something to say, something to express and I did. You might hate it, you might love it, but in the end I hope you get where I’m coming from.
Derek Kortepeter Interview
Hey folks, as you’ll recall, I have written up both of Derek’s excellent albums:
Well here he is in a great interview.
And here’s the note about it from Derek himself:
I was interviewed by my friend Abed Hathout from Khalas and the music startup I belong to named Indiepush for an awesome independent news site. I talk about my music and my perspective of being a native of Los Angeles in relation to its music scene. -Derek
Derek Kortepeter – Static Rush (2015)*
Today is a special day. I am thrilled to offer you this write-up, and I only hope I can even begin to describe this record, let alone see doing it justice from afar through a set of high-powered binoculars…
I love it when artists send us their music so that we can hear it! I really do. And ordinarily I’m fairly quick on the turn-around on these things.
Derek sent me this, his new album, long enough ago that I actually (recently) emailed him an apology that it hadn’t appeared yet in these pages. I truly appreciate his patience on this one. In truth, this write-up has been in draft for all this time, because I really wanted to be sure I was doing it justice. I’ve been slowly absorbing everything that is here. It’s a lot, and it’s brilliant. I mean it.
In his email to me, with the album attached for review, he included this blurb, which he’d written about the record:
Static Rush is a record that explores and pushes the boundaries of electronic music, from ambient to trip-hop and beyond. A composer and musician, Kortepeter took two years developing what eventually would be Static Rush. Experimenting with his guitar, keyboard, and programs like FL Studio and Rev by Output Sounds, Derek wanted to throw every idea at the proverbial canvas…no matter how experimental. Static Rush is another development in the ambitious artistic vision of an individual that has been called “fearless” by critics with regards to experimentation. There is no telling what you will feel or think when you listen to the songs on this record, because each individual hears it differently. Enter Static Rush and see for yourself.
Damn, I love that idea… Just really let it all loose and see what happens. THAT is the creative edge, right there. Forget rules, and forget what you’ve done before, just purely give ‘er and let it be what it is. Holy shit do I ever respect that!
And the end product speaks for itself. I’ve been through it several times now, always in full, and each listen reveals more to you, things unheard previously, nuances unsaid til just that right moment. The music is there, it is itself, but depending on the day you’ve had, and depending on where you are when you hear it, you absolutely hear it differently. In this way, it is infinite.
I’ve played it in the house (with the good headphones), in the car, and at the gym. At home, when everyone else is in bed and I’m up late, writing (aren’t we all?), this is a fantastic companion that lets my mind wander and explore. In the car, the kids loved the “spaceship music.” But I think my favourite has been at the gym. In my new MP3 player (which I’ve nicknamed Johnny Fay), running on the track, this music has the effect of making me feel like I’m floating, like the pain and exhaustion of the last couple of kilometers isn’t really touching me in the same way. When I switch to the weights, that same feeling persists. I am above it, my body is working, my breath is now a bit ragged, but I transcend that and get the job done, and with ease. I even find that elements of this work stay in my brain long after I’ve shut the player off.
I just read that last description back and it probably sounds a bit wonky, and it’s surely making you wonder just what the heck this album is. Well, also in that email to me, he mentioned influences “…like Jean-Michel Jarre, Tangerine Dream, Pink Floyd, Thom Yorke (so much so that I…sing on the last song…ughhhh), Solar Fields, and more.” And he does sing, and the “ughhhh” is not justified – he sounds great to me. In fact, he oughta use his voice more!
But those influences ought to tell you all.** It’s electronic, it’s dream-like, trance-y, and fans of later radiohead will love it. But it has an energy unto itself, and when the guitars appear, they bring it a sharp edge. It’s a unique 2001: A Space Odyssey with a touch of Joe Satriani feel. Yes.
I could go on, but I think maybe by now you get the idea. Static Rush is brilliance. It is pure in experimentation, pure in feel, pure of intention, and worth every second of your non-refundable life time.
If you visit CD Baby right here (go go go!) you can buy it for yourself. I can’t recommend it enough.
Thank you, Derek!
02 Memory Wipe
05 Flooded Dream
07 System Failure
12 Oceanic Lightning
13 Wrench In Gears
15 Torrential Downpour
16 Solar Flare
* I also reviewed Derek’s other excellent album (Stochastic) right here.
** Actually, this record is right up Mr. 1537’s alley and he really oughta check it out…
Every once in a while, we like to request submissions of original music to the KMA. If you’ve made a track, an album, whatever, send it to us and we’ll review it! It works out well for all of us – we get to hear new music, and you get your music heard, and a page link you can send to your friends and use for promotion! Win win win!
The other day, I learned that Mike’s friend Derek has made an album. Did I wanna hear it? Absolutely YES! It arrived here in the KMA offices and I was ready to give ‘er!
There’s a web page that explains the thinking behind the record. I did not read any of it BEFORE playing the album – I wanted a pure listening experience. But I did go and read the whole thing AFTER hearing the record! And it explained a lot. Very well done. I recommend you all go read it!
I will also link you to Mike’s review of this instrumental record. He nailed a lot of what I wanted to say right on the head.
Veritas starts with some scratching and becomes a beautiful guitar exploration. Burning Embers adds drums and a second guitar line and lets us drift away on the rock. I love how heavy the bottom end was recorded, here. Illusion is futuristic, and on first listen I thought the drums were just off, but on second play I knew it’s better that way – keeping things off center occasionally says a lot.
Solitary is strong and clear, which deceptively sounds like it has no plan but I know it totally does. Fusion is a brilliant, jazzy track that I loved a lot! Perspective is short, and gentle. I’d call this an intermission.
Glitch is electronic melded with guitar. It plays like a meditation on the evils of technology. Solar Wind is a metal freak-out, distorted and hell yeah! Disconsolancy glimpse 1 plays like another intermission, a short, classical jazzy piano piece. That leads into an eastern-sounding piano noodle called Heliosphere, and building off that is Light Within, a track boasting Eddie Van Halen guitar tone, a jam session that’s bloody brilliant.
Disconsolancy glimpse 2 brings us a lovely classical, strings piece, while Fragmented Sky is another distorted guitar rock out jam that builds out of a rain storm. Yes! Wow, this is a highlight track! At 3:30 it’s almost like explosions, and then lift off! And finally, Omega layers echoey guitar over synths, then around 2:15 the synths disappear and the guitar fades us out.
Wow. My brief descriptions here do not do this record justice. They may, in fact, be a disservice. Listening to this is to run the gamut of emotions and styles. There’s a logic to the song sequence, a lot of thought gone into every moment. It’s really great for time spent in personal exploration – just listen and respond to the songs. And you WILL!
I did notice that it sounded great in the car stereo, and then when I played it at home in the good headphones, it’s recorded so loudly in the bottom end that it distorted a bit more. And that made it even better!
Well done, Derek!! This was great. Thanks so much for sharing this with me. I will be playing this again. And again!