This is Not a Slow Burn: The Firmary – Soft Reboot

It’s been more than a long while since I’ve been able to devote time to Sister’s Dissonance, with several creative projects of my own consuming me the last several years (most pressingly and enjoyably, fiction writing and publishing). But recently, for several reasons, I’ve felt the pull to return to my roots as a music ‘zine writer, and I have come across some really great music that’s causing me to feel the irrepressible urge to shout out about it (which has always been the driving force of this publication).

That said, and as a quick reminder, reviews on this site are not reviews per se but a place to share things that we want to help spread the word about and share with like-minded souls that will possibly (hopefully) have the same visceral reaction and excitement about; we only share things we love, and nothing more. As they say, word-of-mouth is the most powerful mode of communicating, and we are firm believers in engaging in that to help support other creatives.

So here it goes. The first for me to mention in my recently-reemerged-from Sis Diss slumber is The Firmary, a band based in Cleveland by way of LA, Chicago, and Buffalo. They’re a band I came across via a few different avenues that intersected around the same time and happily led me to find and follow them. I really liked what I heard. A lot. And just recently they released Soft Reboot, an EP loaded with equally-solid, fabulous tracks. Not a one is a throw away, and after compulsively listening to it many, many times over (and many more to come), I’m still hard pressed to pick a favorite as it shifts with every listen. I made a few notes amidst some of those listens, so here are my thoughts, which will hopefully compel you to give them a listen, too, if you don’t already know of them.

As the title of this article states, this EP is no slow burn. Upon pressing play you find within the sonic walls of Soft Reboot, alternating blistering /swirling /atmospheric guitarwork that soars and drops hard like a fabulous rollercoaster ride; strong, charismatic vocals with plenty of emotion bleeding through; just enough keys to keep it ethereal and menacing; basslines that are deep and driving, and combined with adept drumming, together the rhythm makers that be cradle the songs with a meticulous, iron-clad solidness.

As a music connoisseur for more decades than I want to admit, I spy an amalgam of fleeting sounds from various eras and genres, most notably the late 80’s/90’s (which hit a sweet and nostalgic spot for me). I always hesitate to draw comparisons for fear of pigeonholing, but I’ll throw out just a few for a point of reference: The Cure/Echo and the Bunnymen/The Church (think jangly guitar stylings of Robert Smith, Will Sergeant, and Marty Willson-Piper), along with dashes of Jane’s Addiction, Stone Temple Pilots, Nirvana, and Alice in Chains, in various ways. These are mentioned only as a what-you-might-also-hear aside (according to my ears) to get you interested. And all of the above, whether I’m on the right track or not as it relates to what’s meant to be expressed by the band musically, are meant as compliments.

It is apparent The Firmary are extremely well-seasoned, accomplished musicians in every regard (check out their bio to learn more about that), and they are their own thing. At the heart of it, I’m really loving driving around listening to the EP on repeat, feeling like I can blow out some big emotions and feeling uplifted and invigorated at the same time. My favorite track, as of this minute? “Rusty.” But ask me again in a few!

Listen to The Firmary via Spotify, support them by purchasing Soft Reboot via Bandcamp and elsewhere, and learn more about them via their website at and by all means, if you love it too, be sure to follow them and share the links and engage in word of mouth practices, too!

— Shan

Ride TLA Philly 7-22-17

Guest Review by: DSM (Thanks DSM for sharing this with the sis diss)


Ride TLA Philly 7-22-17 photo by: DSM

Twenty-one years is a long time to wait for something. Then again, when you never thought that ‘something’ would ever happen again, the reward for all that delayed gratification can be really sweet. This may be why the patrons in Philly’s TLASaturday night conveyed a restless anticipation before Ride took the stage. People fidgeted, people shifted their weight from one foot to another in nervous rocking, others just kept eyes forward, talking out of the sides of their mouth to one another, as if they didn’t want to avert their eyes and miss the first cue that all that waiting would come to an end.

When Gardener, Bell, Queralt and Colbert walked on stage the rocking quickened, the necks telescoped forwards and upwards, and some began bouncing up and down. With the first note of “Lannoy Point”, the first track from their newest album Weather Diaries released June 16th, it was realized – faces turned toward each other, some smiling at each other with a contented half smile, others with grins stretching ear to ear. It looked like some were giggling with glee.

Ride gathered a loyal following in 1990 with Smile, which consolidated prior EP material, and what is considered their debut album, Nowhere. The highly acclaimed album – Rolling Stone called it a ‘masterpiece’ – placed Ride in good company with The Stone Roses, My Bloody Valentine… But the ride was short-lived. 1992 saw the release of another solid album, Going Blank Again, where the energy and musicianship again blended crisply from track to track. Four years and two diminished albums later, the band broke up. But those first two years left their mark on fans and critics alike.

Weather Diaries may be what could have or should have followed Going Blank Again. Its sounds are more of a refined progression than the band’s releases in ’94 and ’96. This may be the band’s rationale for providing a nice shuffle between 1990 to ’92 discography and their current release in their live set Saturday night. After their opening with “Lannoy Point” and the album’s following track “Charm Assault”, there was a crescendo of shouting and cheering when “Seagull”, the opening track from Nowhere sounded its first notes. For an hour and 45 minutes, the band weaved in and out new and older, with seemingly thoughtful progression through the set list. The set was crisp, the musicianship flawless, and a sonic wall of energy came from a surprisingly minimalist stack of Marshall and Vox amplifiers.

Mark Gardener and Andy Bell smoothly choreographed their harmonic vocals live. There’s no straining here with older voices. They’ve matured – and have said as much in recent interviews –  and looked like they were enjoying it. They intertwined their guitar work seamlessly as well. Loz Colbert’s drumming is a terrific balance of control and speed, again demonstrating an individual well skilled in his playing ability. His articulation of percussion in sound and movement is as fun to watch as it is to hear and feel. Steve Queralt serves up the support that has been evident throughout their recording history — bass lines that balance out the weaving  reverb of guitars, with just the right amount of intricacy sometimes to play a part in the weaving. From all four, studio session playing quality, with just the right amount of energy and variance from the studio tracks that you were undoubtedly listening live. They took “Drive Blind” and wonderfully embellished it past the seven-minute mark.

And that’s the key for my tastes in live performances from bands and music like this. Match the integrity of the studio production as much as possible, while serving up the energy and variance to remind us we’re live. As an endnote, a note about the night’s end. The encore concluded with the superb wall of sound from “Leave Them All Behind”, and as Colbert remained, he pulled out his phone and took a shot of the crowd. That should be a nice ending, but the crowd remained. The stomping and shouting had an even pace, and maybe that’s why it kept going minutes until the crew brought equipment back out, the four emerged, and gave us wonderful renditions of “Dreams Burn Down” and finally “Chelsea Girl”. Gardener graciously told us that was really a wrap, and Colbert saw fit to take another picture.

End notes after endnote… Tomorrow night is their D.C. show, and then they depart for the U.K. and a quick stop in Japan. They’ll be back to the U.S. on September 20th. And, if you have a notion to take a run and hope to ‘run’ into the band, Steve Q and Loz apparently like to take a jog, as they did in Philly this very morning.