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Music

California Sounds: New music from Deb Never, Sublime with Rome and Rhye

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Deb Never.
(WeDidIt Records)

Deb Never, “Ugly” music video (WeDidIt Collective). In her new video, the singer, songwriter and guitarist who performs as Deb Never is outfitted in a dog costume, leashed to a post and resting in a suburban front yard. She watches the neighborhood action with a sense of forlorn resignation and via flashback recalls runaway days cruising the neighborhood with a pack of costumed doggy compatriots, ambushing ice cream trucks and staring down mean neighbor ladies.

As she whiles away the hours, her song “Ugly” tracks along, first with gentle keyboard chords, then augmented with a slow beat and some creepy mid-frequency wobbles. Never, who relocated from the Pacific Northwest three years ago and currently works out of Historic Filipinotown, came up on first generation grunge and cites Nirvana and the Pixies as early inspiration.

As with their work, Never’s song creates tension-and-release drama that rewards patience with gratifying resolution. That influence, though, exists only as an echo inside an assuredly contemporary track. That she’s teamed with the WeDidIt team — producers Shlohmo, D33J, Groundislava, RL Grime and others — makes sense. Like them, she prefers that her electronics-driven tracks rock.

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The song’s title is misleading. Produced by Dylan Brady, “Ugly” teems with pleasingly delicate taps of midrange percussion, a Mojave’s worth of open space and just enough bass to tingle butts. It hits its stride near the end when Never’s electric guitar strikes a few choice chords and, like a Doberman lunging at a mailman, aggression hits.

Sublime with Rome, “Light On” (5 Music). Few gamblers would have taken a bet in the mid-1990s on the enduring popularity of Long Beach stoner ska-punk band Sublime. But 23 years after singer, guitarist and songwriter Bradly Nowell’s death, the group’s trio of albums are considered Southern California classics.

More surprising is that offshoot band Sublime with Rome, formed with new singer and songwriter Rome Ramirez in the aftermath of Nowell’s 1996 death by overdose, is a decade into a successful run. Few acts can survive the death of its principal creative force, but the act formerly known as Sublime (a legal battle prohibited the new band from using the name) somehow pulled it off.

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Its third album, “Blessings,” just came out, and it scratches the stoner-ska-punk itch with just as much vigor as did the original trio. That’s due to Sublime bassist Eric Wilson’s way with dubby bottom-end runs and newly added drummer Carlos Verdugo’s way with rhythm.

A new video finds Ramirez singing about life on the road and how much he’s missing home — while motocross racers kick dirt and go airborne. Like the classic Kiss ballad “Beth,” the song is an ode to rock ’n’ roll duty and the partner waiting at the other end of the telephone line — and beyond the final Waze command.

Rhye, “Spirit” (Loma Vista). The melancholy new EP from the Toronto expat Michael Milosh, who performs as Rhye, is driven by gently accented piano melodies, lightly plucked guitar lines, the occasional hand clap and minimalist arrangements. At just under 30 minutes, it’s the perfect length for Saturday night seductions or Sunday morning wake-and-bake sessions.

Milosh, who formed Rhye with producer Robin Hannibal but now works it as a solo project, is best known for his breathy, androgynous contralto. Rhye’s 2013 hits, “The Fall” and “Open,” could have been mistaken for Sade B-sides, but on “Spirit” Milosh loosens the structures and cuts back on percussion. The closest thing to a beat on “Wicked Dreams” is the sound of piano hammers striking notes. The mummer of rhythm that drives “Malibu Nights” could be a lover’s heartbeat. Like the late Talk Talk singer Mark Hollis’ only solo album, “Spirit” offers lessons in musical restraint and ways in which whispers can sometimes overwhelm even the loudest howls.

For tips, records, snapshots and stories on Los Angeles music culture, follow Randall Roberts on Twitter and Instagram: @liledit. Email: randall.roberts@latimes.com.


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