- Top 40
By Martin Halo
Over the course of the past 6 years, an artist has risen from the tranquility of Northern California’s lush landscape to meet the breath of rock’s new age. Ethan Miller first emerged in the the Bay Area arts community of Santa Cruz as the vocal henchman in Ben Chasney’s psychedelic masterpiece Comets on Fire. Raw, aggressive and tethered by no threads, Comets was the manifestation of a fireball of screaming soul through the fabric of space and time.
Simultaneously Miller was working on two other projects, Six Organs of Admittance and Howlin’ Rain. Upon moving to Oakland and the disbandment of Comets, Miller put pen to paper to forge through the ether. While supporting himself at a greasy tire shop, he retreated to the mantras of melody to create a Magnificent Fiend in 2008. The music industry was changing and major labels were looking to the established independents for the new model. Rick Rubin was no different when he took over Columbia Records in the spring of 2007.
Through a mutual friend, Arthr Magazine’s founder Jay Babcock, Rubin reached out to Miller through a no fireworks email. “Hey, this is Rick Rubin. Do you want to hang sometime? Peace,” the correspondent read. Magnificent Fiend was already written and recorded during an extended session at Prairie Sun Studios in the farmlands of Cotati, CA. Rubin shared with the Bay Area’s son his ideas on presenting a concise statement and signed the Howlin’ Rain to Def American Records with a distribution deal via Columbia.
Howlin’ Rain toured Europe and the States, including opening for the Black Crowes, but largely remained a California gem. When Miller returned from touring, he did something he had never done before. Like a villainous school master, Miller again ended up on the doorstep of Rick Rubin’s lair to begin the work on his next LP with a producer fully in-tow.
The Russian Wilds is set for release this Valentine’s Day and the band is headed to New York City to preempt its release with a private Sirus radio acoustic taping at the Living Room on Ludlow Street and a date at the Brooklyn Bowl on Feb 8th.
What is encased within the sleeves of the Russian Wilds is Miller’s most poignant musical statement to date. Carefully crafted pop arrangements mixed with psychedelic desperado flavor, rollercoaster dynamics, raspy melodies and booming codas filled with hope. Standout tracks include “Strange Thunder,” “Phantom in the Valley,” and “Dark Side.” But if you are a listener who craves wet guitars with that ember of vintage rock gangster attitude, then this is your record for the spring.
“the Russian Wilds”
Def American Recordings
© February 14, 2012
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