Music Review: Frank Viele & The Manhattan Project – Acoustic Vudu

Hey folks!

It never ceases to amaze me when I hear a band go acoustic and it sounds just as good as it does electric in a studio. Unfortunately in an age when everything in the Top 40 seems over-engineered and artificial, these bands are the exception, not the rule. So when I find one, I’m ecstatic and want to celebrate that success.

Back in June 2010, I reviewed the album Neon Lights from Frank Viele & The Manhattan Project. This is a six-piece band based in Connecticut that sounds much larger than just six people, largely because they have a horn section – which you hardly find with any group these days (the Dave Matthews Band is the only other similar band I can think of). Their music is a mix of rock, soul, and blues that simply works. When I listen to them on CD, it’s a group I’d kill to listen to live. And after hearing Acoustic Vudu, I think I’ll have to double the bounty.

Acoustic Vudu is a five song EP of tracks that includes two new songs – “Push and Pull” and “Spanish Fly” in addition to acoustic versions of “Neon Lights,” “Somebody Else,” and “Try.” These tracks only reinforces just how good these guys are. Though these songs all sound great loud, proud, and plugged in, there’s a purity in hearing the instruments without that electric boost. Every song shines acoustically because you can hear the quiet moments just as well as you can the full moments. Words, finger picking, horns… it all layers and never reaches the frantic levels being louder can sometimes bring into play.

All the songs are amazing, but I’ll pick out three that really stick with me.

With “Neon Lights” the guitar lick still has just as much power as it does in the electric version, but I love that they’ve slowed it down a bit and let the horn section shine. The sax and muted trumpet set things up with a beautiful quiet as the song starts to build and build. And one of my complaints with Neon Lights was that sometimes Frank Viele’s voice was too gravelly and stressed to understand what he was singing. Without having to compete with the amplifier, Frank’s voice just works. It tells the story with a breathless growl driven by the guitar that doesn’t let up…

“Push and Pull” is another song that just grooves… “Don’t want no lover standing in my way / You find it hard to sit and stay / And I know inside you know it’s true / And every time you leave you know you’re through…” It’s about a relationship where both people have a certain gravity and each is pushing and pulling the other even though every time they part may be the last. And this one has some great guitar, both lead and rhythm – each expressing a different emotion along with Frank’s vocal… And I love the “Come on my baby / Come on my darlin” section as the singer pleads with his love.

Lastly, “Spanish Fly” just has some gorgeous guitar parts. I’m a sucker for great guitar. This one again tells a story of passion between a man and a woman where the guy is wondering if the relationship has gone beyond lust. It goes on for more than five minutes and I bet it could go on for another five and I wouldn’t mind…

What more do I need to say? If you’re looking for a new group to groove to, Frank Viele & The Manhattan Project should be right up your alley. And when you’re done with Acoustic Vudu, check out Neon Lights for more groovy goodness. Both albums are available now. For more details, check out the band’s website at FrankVieleMusic.com and look for them on Facebook and YouTube!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

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Short Film Review: “Smoke” by Grzegorz Cisiecki (NSFW)

Hey!

With no words, a little music, and a lot of interesting visual cuts, Grzegorz Cisiecki has created a story that defies explanation in a surreal world with his short film “Smoke.” The tag line is “The story of a person who became the captive of surrealistic madness.” It definitely captures a bit of madness.

It’s tough to describe even after watching it a few times, but it’s amazingly artful in the mysterious way it gives you glimpses of a story. The glimpses provide bits of a framework and that allows you to fill in the rest in your own mind. So my interpretation of the scenes will most likely be different than yours.

The story seems to focus on a man who drives clients to a club where they can have their fantasies come true – from the usual sexual fantasies involving men and women to a scene where a man lies on the floor with a bullet hole in his forehead. Even during the drive itself where the client is eating some kind of fruit in the back seat of the car with the juice dripping down his chin and onto his chest, there’s a glimpse of gluttony.

As for the women in the story, they seem to be caught in a world they can’t escape. The tears along the side of a couple of their faces and the violent way they’re treated by clients in the fantasy club provide just enough details for you to feel badly for them.

And the man himself seems to have a tape recording of events in the club, and that’s keeping him and his girlfriend from being happy together.

All in all, it’s definitely a very surreal approach to storytelling. I love the silent aspect, with just ambient noise and music in the background. And the soft zoom effects and transitions are enough to keep you guessing as to where you’re going next. In seven minutes, you’re left wondering what you just watched – like a staged crime on Chatroulette without the “live” aspect.

Definitely one of the most interesting short movies I’ve seen in a while. The short film does offer a bit of nudity so it’s probably Not Safe For Work (NSFW). But I’d encourage you to check out Grzegorz Cisiecki’s “Smoke” on YouTube (included below) or Vimeo and let me know what you think!

–Fitz

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A Fun Promo for The Expendables

Hey there…

I’ve never seen anything quite this amusing for a movie promotion on YouTube. Check this out… I’ll wait.

Did you check it out? Pretty cool, isn’t it? It’s nice to see movie companies get creative with their promos.

I’m excited about this film, which seems to have enough testosterone to fix just about any hormonal imbalance you may have as a guy. 🙂

–Fitz

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