Written by Adam Malone*
Buffalo natives Hot Tip released their debut full-length LP, Hold Me, Closely, through Radical Empathy & Bitch-Face Records on December 23, 2016 with distribution handled by One Percent Press. Hot Tip is comprised of vocalist Katherine Goewey, Guitarist Stephen Floyd, Bassist Keely Guiliano and Drummer Irene Rekhviashvili. Hold Me, Closely follows on the heels of their 2014 eponymous demo cassette released via Drug Party, which is also available on their bandcamp.
I’d first heard of Hot Tip on November 3rd, 2015. The venue was Mohawk Place in Buffalo, New York. I went with a friend to see a band, one I’d never heard of before, called The Screaming Females. Outside of the bar there is a lighted, neon dry-erase board that displays the acts for the night and other upcoming shows. On the board I read The Screaming Females, Potty Mouth, and Hot Tip. Hot Tip was scrawled in a cramped hand at the very bottom, almost as if an afterthought or last minute correction by whomever created it.
Walking into the venue I’d never felt more out of place in my life. Everywhere I looked I saw beat up leather jackets, black boots, spiked denim jackets covered in a quilt work of patches, and hair styles that looked straight out of Blade Runner. Being the hillbilly I am, I bellied up to the bar, got myself a beer and got ready for a night of feeling incommodious and unwelcome. Then, the lights dimmed and four shadowed figures stood on stage and immediately, with no self introduction, launched into a thirty-minute, break-neck set of unapologetically eclectic songs ranging from Post-Punk to, at times, pieces that almost had a Swing influence to them. By the end of the first song, I had never felt more at home in my life, and I was hooked.
Fast forward two years and we have the much awaited release of Hold Me, Closely. The copy I received is pressed on a beautiful twelve-inch, 180g vinyl, which cut at 45 rpm makes for an incredible listening experience. The cover is as striking as the music contained on the twelve tracks within. It features a floral collage created by vocalist Katherine Goewey. Stark, angular lines create a strict structure, but one that is also abstract in their placement. Coupled with the juxtaposition of the organic chaos of flowers, it projects a sense of unease and mystery. That same sense of unease and mystery is contained in her vocals on this album, which shape a feeling of confusion, hope, and vindication in the listener.
Hold Me, Closely leads off with the track DNA, which is a perfect introduction to the album you’re about to hear. Stephen’s guitar instigates the track with a dissonant drone before bending into the riff that will carry the song. Irene’s hypnotic and syncopated drumming and Keely’s bass perfectly compliment Katherine’s vocals, which at times reminds me of an acid-soaked Kate Pierson of the B-52’s, only put into a blender with aggression and grace. “DNA’ is one of my favorite tracks on the album, and a very strong opening track. DNA seamlessly blends into the next track, “Teratoma”, which seamlessly blends into the next track, “Plastic”. I can tell a conscious effort was put forth to make this record play as an album, and not simply a collection of songs. Not many bands do that anymore, they choose to make tracks and hope people will like them as stand alone tracks, to be hopped between on your CD or MP3 player. Hot Tip on the other hand has created an album. A true, honestly to goodness album. One which continues to pull you in the further you listen. “Trash Ranch” is the closing track to the first side of the album and another favorite of mine. The guitar and bass in the intro dance with one another like they were classically trained to do so. The riffs in this song sound like they’re slowly melting off Stephen’s fretboard instead of being recorded through an amplifier. Between “DNA” and “Trash Ranch”, they’ve selected the perfect bookends to the record’s first side.
“Side One” ends before you want it to. It goes from needle drop to tone arm reset in under eleven minutes. It makes you clamor over the table and couch to get to the turntable to flip it to the second side. It leaves you wanting more, which is precisely what I look for in albums. It doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, it leaves while the water is still warming for tea, it leaves you looking out the window waiting its return.
“Fiction” is the track that leads off the second side of the album. The changes of pace and feeling in this song are like a roller coaster. The drums maintain their time throughout, but the bass and guitars change around them to create an incredibly uneasy feeling akin to when you’re spinning on black ice awaiting impact. Once again, the tracks on this side of the album seamlessly blend from one to the next at a wonderfully natural gait. “Weird Meat” is another stand out track to me, one that hits like a train. This side concludes in just about eleven minutes as well. Closing with the track “Neat Mess” that leaves you like a loved one off to war, hoping against hope that you get to see them again, but remembering this moment in case you never get that chance.
The album was recorded at Mammoth Studios in Buffalo, New York, mixed at The Magpie Cage in Baltimore, Maryland and mastered in Illinois by Shelly Steffens at Chicago Mastering. It’s available at Record Theatre, Spiral Scratch and Gutter Pop Comics in Buffalo as well as through One Percent Press. Links to the band and places to purchase the album below.
In conclusion, I give this album the ever elusive A++ rating, which I’ve only ever award to two other albums. I’m endlessly fascinated by the music and love the way my mind works and the places it goes while listening to it. The mix should also be mentioned. Everything sits in it’s own sonic space, with no unwanted over lapping or stepping on of toes. The instruments each fit clearly and distinctly in the dense mix. For only having one guitarist, a bass player and a drummer, they manage to fill the mix completely. I eagerly await the opportunity to get out and see them live again and hopefully get another album.