Album release: The Golden West
Release date: 16 March 2015
Label: Hz Castle Records
Listen / more information: on Tumblr
San Francisco 6-piece NRVS LVRS began their journey at the beginning of 2014 when a collection of songs, written initially for the purpose of musical experimentation, found themselves at the centre of a newly forming band. The resulting group was driven by the desire of Andrew Gomez and girlfriend Bevin Lee to link their creative muses and express their thoughts and feelings on their rapidly-changing city. Circuit bent bleeps, grimy drum loops, buzzy toys, humming synths, processed handclaps, and failing 80's keyboards are all creatively edited together with the flesh and blood sounds of guitar, bass, & drums in this album – an album that presents a band ready to explore the fading art of political music.
‘’Each song examines a different point of view on the latest tech disruption and its leaders” says Gomez. New album The Golden West explores the many problems the current technology boom in their native San Francisco is causing. In a city with a disappearing arts & culture scene, where work and free time have become indistinguishable, and locals are being priced out of their own homes, NRVS LVRS find themselves at the forefront of the conversation.
Take the album’s title track ‘’Golden West’’, for example. Addressing the city’s increasingly profit-driven housing market, this song centers on a tenant being unfairly evicted via the Ellis Act, a controversial California law. In its introduction, a lonesome and tremolo-buoyed synth sits on top of the mix with hints of a Tears For Fears era apparent. The gentle and distant strumming of an acoustic guitar titters on the horizon, creating a despondent unease. The vocal line is then introduced alongside the full weight of a growling synth bass and the hard-hitting opening phrase ‘’I had a place to live but robots came and kicked down the doors’. The strong hook in the chorus makes for a powerful messenger, and a crashing wave of guitars & drums in the closing stages of the song leaves a lasting impression –rather reminiscent of a Broken Social Scene record. Upbeat and fast-paced ‘’Black Diamonds’’ explores these themes further and sees the band tackling the problem of an overworked tech industry and its strange corporate leaders. A song brimming with optimistic chords but sarcastic sentiments, the track features a driving back beat and the dense guitar play of an 80’s jangle-pop heyday.
Listening to this album gives one a front row seat to San Francisco’s ever-changing and fast-developing technological environment, but this album is by no means just about that. ‘’What is happening in SF is happening in NYC, Detroit, and to my knowledge, just about every major city in the US & Europe, so the album's themes of dread, uncertainty, and displacement feel pretty timely, if not universal,’’ Gomez explains. “We know we’re not the only ones experiencing an inordinate amount of disillusionment and disaffection.”
A collection of talented friends and adept musicians bolster the album with their contributions. Bassist Wendy Brents contributes to the album by writing and singing the opener “City Lights”, a moody slow-burner that simultaneously foreshadows & summarizes the emotional heart of the record. As drummer Aaron Hazen adds humanity & weight to the loops, guitarists Charles Belvedere & Rye In The Sky cleverly play off each other with their separate dalliances in shoegazy haze and layered, articulate counter-melodies. A large majority of the album’s production took place on cold, late nights in their apartment in San Francisco but some was also captured with co-producer Patrick Brown at his historic Different Fur Studios in the Mission District of San Francisco.
From such disruption and discontent comes a truly stimulating collection of ‘sonic collages’. Gomez sums up his thoughts on the album by concluding ‘’There is a dark side to SF's latest economic boom, and this is our snapshot of it.’’