Valley Rising Compilation Series Reaches Milestone with Third Release

Like “The Godfather,” “Back to the Future” and “The Matrix” before it, the Valley Rising Compilation Album series has completed a third chapter.

And much like those classic movies mentioned above, this newest iteration of the VRCA comes with weighted expectations.

Almost two years have passed since the last Valley Rising Compilation Album was released. Featuring local artists like And the Kids, Lux Deluxe and Vesuveo amongst others, Volume Two was a far-reaching blend of folk, rock and even hip-hop. Now Volume Three ups the ante with nine tracks of hand-selected Pioneer Valley goodness.

According to a recent press release from the Collective Music Group, who in addition to producing the Valley Rising albums is also responsible for putting on the Pines Theater SummerFest and the Northampton Speakeasy Series, 15 music industry judges, “reviewed 60+ songs and scored them based on performance and composition,” before winnowing the list down to just nine.

Listen to Valley Rising Compilation Album Vol. 3 here:

Among the chosen few are tracks like the spacey instrumental “Sky High” by Mammal Dap, and the more straight-ahead rock number “You Never Told Me” by Colorway. While both groups list their hometown as Northampton, the different sounds listeners are treated to when enjoying each song seem worlds apart. Only in the Paradise City could each tune sit on the same album and not seem out of the ordinary.

Representing other Pioneer Valley towns like Worthington and Hadley, the bands Indian Oven and Bunk also pop up on Valley Rising Vol. 3 with the worthy contributions “Mystery” and “Titans” respectively. The former track is a country-tinged tale of a troubled man who loses himself in a novel, “all about a murder, that takes place in Seattle.” But the latter is a bouncy number that recalls ‘90s rockers Fastball (of “The Way” fame) with its Beatle-ish arrangement underscoring lyrics that veer toward melancholia.

Of course, Collective Music Group founder Jamie Kent is included in the action as well, bringing his particular spirit of mischief to the down-home swing of the song “Hard Heart.” It’s a fun tune that also acts as a pretty apt analogy for what The Collective hopes to accomplish with the Valley Rising Album series and its continued efforts promoting local artists in and around Western Massachusetts.

“You can chisel, you can shake, but you won’t crack and you won’t break this hard, hard, hard heart,” Kent sings.

Yes, a hard heart is often seen as a negative attribute. People with hard hearts are viewed as cold, and shut-off from others. However, a second viewpoint might be considered. An individual with a hard heart, it could be argued, has constructed an impenetrable shell around their feelings for a reason. Perhaps their emotions are so strong, they have locked them away so their commitment may never be questioned or shaken by the world at large.

Jamie Kent shows such commitment to a cause. With a focus on shining, “a spotlight on our homegrown artists, both for our local community, and the industry that’s keeping tabs on what’s going on in MA,” Kent appears unwavering in his quest. And now with a third Valley Rising album under his belt, and a release party concert on the immediate horizon, he’s ready to share once again what he holds so close to his soul. Hard heart aside, he’s in it for the music and a community for all.

The Valley Rising Compilation Vol. 3 Release Party, Sept. 28, 7 p.m., $12.50/ advance $15/ door, Iron Horse Music Hall, 20 Center St., Northampton,(413)586-8686,

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The Brian Jonestown Massacre Offers Anthems and Answers on New Album “Revelation”

BJM - Revelation album coverThe Brian Jonestown Massacre


(A Records)

“The simple answer is I love the word. Most of the time I would classify my work ‘sruti,’ i.e. [the] ‘what is heard,’ definition of the word ‘revelation.’ But on this album and with these songs, there was nothing. No ideas and no guidance and I was still able to create the record for me. That was a revelation.”

Anton Newcombe, founder and leader of psychedelic rock band The Brian Jonestown Massacre, has never been shy about mixing spiritual overtones with his music. Whether penning song lyrics that mention Jesus, God and even the Devil, or describing his own creative process, like in the quote above, with a markedly mystical aura, Newcombe has always seemed like a songwriter with one eye on the otherworldly.

Now on his newest record, and first to be solely recorded and produced at his own studio in Berlin, Germany, the indie rocker who once sang of praying to “to Buddah, to Allah, and Jim [Jones],” has crafted a song cycle as prophetic as it is apocalyptic.

Featuring vocals sung in Swedish by musician Joachim Alhund, the opening track on RevelationVad Hände Med Dem?” is a bracing introduction. Rapid-fire drums push the song forward relentlessly as Alhund’s words bubble up in the mix like directions from a tour guide.

Elsewhere, “What You Isn’t” pays a hazy nod to such past BJM cuts as “You Have Been Disconnected” and “Open Heart Surgery” from 2001’s Bravery, Repetition and Noise. The song’s rhythm simmers instead of boils, creating a foundation for lines about walking “through the fire and the fear” and breaking down the “walls of glass.”

For those with a soft spot for older Massacre material, a welcome return on Revelation is made by Newcombe’s use of guitar and other classic rock instrumentation. Where records like 2012’s Aufheben and 2010’s Who Killed Sgt. Pepper? traded liberally in electronic-aided grooves and beats, here acoustic strums and loose electric leads star prominently, adding swaying layers to several numbers jam-like feel. Yet, even though songs like “Days, Weeks and Moths” and “Memory Camp” may appear improvised, neither overstays its welcome, coming in at under five and under six minutes respectively.

More eclectic influences do reappear on Revelation’s second side. The wordless “Second Sighting” feels like an ornate recital with sighing strings and medieval flute, while “Fistful of Bees” displays a more gothic pedigree that includes a lumbering beat and ‘80s synth-work. The latter track even resembles a plodding beast strait out of the Book of Revelation itself, promising to leave nothing but death and destruction in its wake.

Listen to “Fistful of Bees” from the Brian Jonestown Massacre album “Revelation” here:

How odd it is then that Newcombe follows “Bees” with the almost entirely acoustic “Nightbird” and the rave-up worthy “Xibalba.” Like small rewards waiting on shore after listeners weather a mighty storm, each song seems to signify that the worst is over and one has reached the other side alive and emboldened by the adventure signified by the previous 10 tracks.

By the time Revelation ends with the “Goodbye (Butterfly),” the finale feels like a movie’s closing credits. Newcombe has spoken before of his wish to work on film soundtracks, and he illustrates his skill clearly with “hoo, hoo” backing vocals and churning acoustic guitar over rising and falling synthesizer sounds.

“Funny how time flies,” he sings.

Fans of the BJM might think the same thing, especially as they rush back to start the record over again.

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