Best DIY & Indie Rock of 2016, Vol. IV – Empire Machines, The smallest Creature, Computer Magic, GEMS, Castle Black

New installments of the Best DIY Indie Rock of 2016 will be coming out in greater regularity in coming weeks. This latest installment features a grand new indie rock single from Austin band EMPIRE MACHINES; indie folk/rock from Cyprus band to watch The smallest Creature; a return from a longtime love – Computer Magic; instrumental stoner psych jams from Seattle’s GEMS and hard rock from Brooklyn band Castle Black.

Empire Machines – Austin, Texas
The smallest Creature – Nicosia, Cyprus
Computer Magic – Brooklyn, New York
GEMS – Seattle, Washington
Castle Black – Brooklyn, New York


Empire Machines – “Scenes”

After establishing themselves during the past few years in the ridiculously competitive Austin music scene, the members of indie rock band Empire Machines have stepped up their game in a big way with the release of the epic, sprawling electronic single, “Scenes,” the first single from a new EP slated to drop in early 2017.

Empire Machines had some heavy hitters helping with the track’s production, such as Grammy-winning mix master Chris Shaw (Weezer, Modest Mouse, Death Cab for Cutie, Nada Surf) and engineer Kevin Butler stationed at Church House Studios.

“We sent [Shaw] our music and told him we’d love to have help with a track [“Scenes”] we had in the works,” vocalist and guitar Matt Blackwell says.

“He got back to us and said he’d definitely love to mix for us. And him being a rock mix guru having worked on so many albums we love just had us over the moon, so it was damn cool to get his hands on this track.”

“This is a driving, dark, and bittersweet song about the hopes you have for a particular person in your life,” says Matt Blackwell, the band’s lead vocalist and guitarist.

“The track was recorded in an old 1920’s church that had been converted into a studio, which made for a productive and cozy atmosphere to record in.”

Blackwell says that he and his band mates – Trey McKinley (bass); Matt Reynolds (drums); Kevin Garcia (guitar), and Keyle Garcia (keys) – had worked diligently and with great focus to get the final production of the track where they wanted it to be with the help of Shaw and Butler’s expertise.

If “Scenes” is any indication of what’s to come from Empire Machines’ new EP then we are eagerly awaiting its release, based on the band’s fantastic new single and past releases as well, which you can access via Bandcamp.

Empire Machines on Facebook
Empire Machines’ Official Website

The smallest Creature – Million

Beginning with mysterious and melancholic vocals, Radiohead-like minimalistic instrumentation, oozing reverb and lo-fi techniques, Cyprus indie rock power trio The smallest Creature‘s debut album, Million, is one of the most surprising and arresting DIY releases this year.

One of the first standout tracks, “Reboot,” meanders deeper as it progresses into an increasingly sprawling sonic world of swirling and intricate guitar playing from Stefanos Marnerides, plus, the thumping bass lines of Stephanos Nicolaou, the disciplined drumming by Icovos Stylianides – the band’s heavily melodic, ever-shifting instrumentation is nicely mirrored by Marnerides’ beautifully emotive, at times haunting – other times slightly encouraging – vocals.

It is not lost upon us that very few vocalists can connote such a range of emotions within the span of a few minutes.

“Reboot” IS simply one of 2016’s most mesmerizing DIY singles with musical talents of the band’s members on full display, weaving together a song weighted by reverb-heavy, melancholic vocals, spatial instrumentation – think Radiohead meets Muse and they jam with Stone Temple Pilots.

The smallest Creature are on a roll – the band’s latest video release (below) for the mesmerizing, melancholic song, “High Low You,” has a black and white, grainy, even repetitious quality that somehow works nicely with the song itself.

Another single, the booming “Enchanting,” also from Million, is one that is growing on us. Song after song on Million is further evidence that TsC are a band to watch in 2017.

The seeds for TsC sprung up back in 2007 when Marnerides’ performed a string of solo shows in New York City that eventually evolved when the three friends decided to become a power trio back in 2012.

Via Soundcloud: “Reboot” – The smallest Creature from Million (out Nov. 18th)

The smallest Creature Official Website
The smallest Creature on Facebook

Computer Magic – Obscure But Visible

The title of one of our favorite all-time female bedroom artists, Brooklyn songwriter, vocalist and producer Computer Magic‘s latest album release, Obscure But Visible, is in one part ironic; Computer Magic may be obscure, but definitely not off the radar.

She’s known within the farther reaches of the indie pop world as Daniel “Danz” Johnson, having broken through back in 2010, when IRC was one of the first blogs to feature Computer Magic’s early tracks, “On VHS” like “Electronic Fences” and “Running” – just prior to the period when her delightful songs started appearing on indie pop and ‘cosmic pop’ aficionados’ radars and blogs.

Her latest album features standout tracks like the gorgeous dream pop hooks, slow rolling beats and xylophone/synth keying of “Dimensions,” featuring the characteristics of a pop hit, as well as another potential mini melody-oozing hit single, “Been Waiting,” percolating with catchy beats, grinding keys and Johnson’s sweet, soft lo-fi vocals. Another notable track from the EP – which has had more than 800 Likes on her SC alone – is the semi-hypnotic space pop of “Lonely Like We Are.

Johnson’s video for the track “Fuzz,” (above) dropped last February, is definitely worth watching. She’s endlessly adorable, introspective and playful. While Computer Magic has been largely successful in Japan, Johnson maintains a cult following in the United States and Canada, which is why her album title is ironic – obscure, perhaps, but definitely visible.

Her major music influences include Broadcast, Radiohead, Belle & Sebastian, Animal Collective, Stereolab and David Bowie. Born and raised in upstate New York, at the age of 15, Johnson started a music blog. By age 18 she moved to NYC to attend Hunter College, and soon began working as a DJ in clubs like Tribeca Grand Hotel and The Annex.

Stream: Obscure But Visible on Soundcloud

Castle Black – Losing Forever

Delivering eclectic and thunderous heavy rock sounds, powerful vocals and dark, dystopian lyrics, Brooklyn hard rock trio Castle Black’s new cinematic video – “Dark Light: A Plague Revisited” – is something to behold as far as music videos go.

“The song is essentially a song about cycles, kind of a dual story, equally applicable to relationships as well as to societal issues,” lead vocalist and guitarist Leigh Celent says. Celent is backed up by the talented bassist and vocalist Lisa Low and the powerful drummer Matthew Bronner.

“The whole idea is of the opposing forces – dark and light – coming in and out of one’s life,” Celent says.

“The parallel meaning of the song is being really unhappy with the state of affairs in society, breaking it down, trying to make it work for you and then completely destroying it all, trying to build something better.”

The video is the official video for the single from the band’s recently dropped sophomore EP, Losing Forever.

Castle Black’s sound is an inventive and stimulating mixture of genres, including classic rock, alt. rock, punk, post punk and grunge. The infusion of various genres also makes Castle Black’s style one of a kind.


Another new audio-only single, “Premonition,” is a perfect example of the band’s genre-bending talents. On this track, the band morphs into an indie pop/post-punk outfit, ripping out a hooklicious, melody-laden summertime track, complete with choruses containing the lyrics: “it was the summm-mer.” The track can grow on you.

“We’re not interested in being pinned down to a genre,” Celent says. “In fact, we specifically avoid that.”

The trio have been described as ‘the kind of band you want to catch on the way up’ (New York Music Daily), and compared to ‘hard-hitting beats reminiscent of Hole’s best songs,’ (Indiemunity) with Musically Fresh complimented the band for ‘capturing the NY sound with a subdued, crunchy garage-band sound with a slight L-7-esque edge to their own concoction.’

The band performs live regularly in New York City, the New Jersey shore, and the mid-Atlantic. Their songs have been played on both domestic and international radio shows, including Banks Radio Australia, Vulcan Sound Radio, Grrrl Power Hour, Rock Radio UK, to name just a few.

Castle Black’s biggest musical influences are The Dead Weather, Joy Division, Radiohead, and Slaeter Kinney.

Castle Black on Facebook


GEMS – Night Music

Based in the Emerald City of Seattle in the northernmost Pacific Northwest, the four-piece instrumental, kinetic electronic band GEMS mixes together deep, heavy grooves; sprawling keyboards, psychedelic riffs, and chunky dance beats on their latest release,Night Music, including the thrilling and mysterious, “Foli.”

The rattling drum circle vibe, and the high octane, dramatic retro synths and keyboards add subsequent layers to fill out the track with an epic, almost Kill Bill-like key riff that is poignant in its own right. The drums evolve into a more disco-y type of beats as do the keys, and then loop back to the beginning segments.

The band is able to create its own brand of unique and psychedelic ambience thanks to its line up of two drummers – Adrian Van Batenburg and Jacob Evans – and two keyboardists, Daniel Rapport and Gary Palmer.

Other tracks like the EP’s opener, “Half and Half,” glisten, twinkle and glimmer with high pitched keys and space synth pop melodies, followed by the more artistic, somewhat dreamy, “Vis A Veevs;” the bumping, spiraling “Pullover” (see video above); grinding dark keys on “Big Bass Woman;” the spooky and then tantalizing jams of “Zitano;” the enthralling “Wayne General,” and the heavier trance jamming of “Lapiz Lazuli.”

Night Music is a collection of songs about the night,” Rapport tells IRC. “It’s equal parts darkness and a foreboding quality, and equal parts the groove of a club at night and the sensuality of the evening time. All the music contained within is in some shape or form connected with the night.”

And that makes for one of the most intricate, complex, mysterious, sprawling, worldly, and even epic, DIY releases of the year.

In referring to the track, “Half and Half,” Rapport says: “The initial intro to ‘Half of Half’ reflects the sound of rain at night (something we have in abundance here in Seattle) segueing into stepping into the dry confines of an underground party.”

GEM’s members have collaborated on many projects, including with notable acts like Macklemore, John Grant, Blue Scholars, and Ormonde and The Kindness Kind. The concept behind GEMS, according to the band, is “to create an environment that allows for sonic experimentation and improvisation, while still retaining a feel that can only come about through an organic songwriting proces

This release is perfect for kicking back and really experiencing a work of art created meticulously by two drummers and two keyboardists. See these guys whenever you can for an extraordinary live experience.

Listen to more track on GEMS’ Soundcloud page.

GEMS on Facebook

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