Luminous Newts — Songs from a Local Universe
((Not on label) no#, 2018, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2018-09-03
This Berkeley, California group of musical amphibians is based around the eclectic songwriting partnership of Eric Kampman (keyboards and vocals) and Thea Kelley (vocals, who also sings in Jack o’ the Clock), rounded out to a five-piece with the addition of guitarist Andy Charmatz, bassist Gary Hobish, and drummer Russ Gold. With their 2015 self-titled debut album, they definitely made a strong entrance into the field of Bay Area progressive bands, making a point to do it their own way, at once sounding like no others and offering up a sound that could essentially be timeless, belonging to no particular point in the musical timeline of the last 60 years. It wasn’t an easy task to top their debut, but their newest, released in September 2018, certainly is a further refinement of the musical ideals set in motion three years earlier. Like the latest by the band Oho, which I reviewed here just last month, Luminous Newts cross many styles and genres, without setting foot in any one place long enough to be tagged or confined by it, reaching out in many directions all at once. “Silence” is the album’s closer and is as good an example as any of the band’s ability to morph on the fly, starting in one place and ending up in another by crossing many bridges and serving up many unconventional elements including touches of psychedelic and progressive all built aroud an intelligent pop foundation, interesting lyrics, and strong vocal harmonies. Many other standouts include “Inside Out and Over,” “Green Tea and LSD,” “Shine,” and the quirky “When the Newts Cross South Park Drive (In the Hills of Berkeley).” This is an album of succict song-length compositions that make their point in three to five minutes and then move on to something else entirely different. With Kampman and Kelley at the helm and an outstanding group of top notch musicians, Luminous Newts has proven once again that they have what it takes to create something brilliant.
Related artist(s): Luminous Newts
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