Ceti AlphaThere are thousands of bands out there, all trying to write new music and gather a fan base. Some of them sound raw and unpracticed, others sound like knockoffs of whatever happens to be hip on the radio right now…albeit without the polished flavor of a major label CD that had a million dollars spent on its audio production. And then there are those few bands that really do seem to have a different sound, or at least, seem like they're trying to forge one. These bands generally have very little money to record, and scrape together some basic equipment in a home office or basement to put down their musical ideas. They may sound a little rough around the edges, but hearing past the blemishes can be rewarding, as these are bands unfettered by the demands of monolithic record labels that demand that bands go into the studio to record “hits!”

There's an honesty about albums recorded in a home studio that you don't often find with a major label, big pop production. Sometimes low-fi lets more emotion bleed through the sonic wrinkles than hi-fi. And that's why I mention a couple of indie bands this week, starting with Ceti Alpha, an independent band from Canada. Their indie album The Street is out (via iTunes and CD Baby), and fans of the alternative scene of the ‘80s might want to take a listen.

Ceti Alpha singer-songwriter-guitarist Nick Bevan-John delivers his vocals in a Kinks-esque Brit-pop style, but the band broadens the style by mixing in a completely different musical vibe. They play a jangle-pop background of keys, bass and drums behind him that sometimes sounds like the throbbing subdued intensity of early New Order. For more information and to hear some snippets of their sound, check them out at www.myspace.com/cetialphaband.


A little closer to home, Illinois' own Kyle Mann Combo offers a new indie disc Goodbye Kites that reminds me a bit of The Decemberists, critical darlings from the Pacific Northwest. Mixing a drawling vocal melodrama with deep arrangements of piano, standup bass, violin, guitars and drums, the trio weaves an eclectic mix of inventive sound.

For more information, check their site at www.kylemanncombo.com or see them live tomorrow night at Martyrs in Chicago.


Ryan Farish Ryan Farish

If you're a fan of piano-driven dance music, or ambient techno soundscapes, you should definitely take a listen to Ryan Farish's latest disc, Everlasting. It offers both upbeat, but still ethereal songs and quieter, relaxing “New Age” compositions.

Released on the independent Neurodisc label, this is a dreamscape of an album – it's all instrumental, focusing on piano and synthesizer washes of sound that cascade over a series of gentle rhythm tracks that build and grow in intensity to pull the listener in to a beautiful, powerful world of sound.

I can't describe this CD without invoking Robert Miles – parts of this CD listen like some of Miles' best work, albeit without any female vocalists adding color to the background. Sometimes the bright echoing notes of the piano stand alone, solemn in Farish's orchestrations, but often, there's a softly galloping bassline, some airy violin, guitar and string parts that ascend to the heavens. Call it ultra-cool lounge music or dreamy New Age…but whatever you call it, it's a great listen.

To learn more, visit www.ryanfarish.com.