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SurfGuitar101 Forums » Music Reviews »

Permalink Center of the Surf

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Center of the Surf

Calling The Madeira a Surf Band is like calling the Boston Pops a municipal orchestra, it’s true, but doesn’t really tell the whole story. One of the great things about the Boston Pops is that they could play familiar songs, and make them sound recognizable, yet include complexity that was there for the taking if you cared to give it second, deeper listen.

Likewise, The Madeira operates on more than one level. At first listen, it is Surf music, well performed and accessible, but there is more to it than that. Going past a casual listen you can hear a complex harmonic concept and some devices not commonly heard, such as Hungarian minor scales which add a refreshing element which set this band apart from many of their peers.

In this day of low cost home recording, it is possible to have nearly infinite takes and each member can contribute parts recorded in the comfort of their own home, but live recordings are another matter altogether. There’s nothing to hide behind in a live setting, which brings us to their latest offering. Together, let us Journey to the Center of the Surf, which coincidentally, is the title of the first track.

Journey to the Center of the Surf starts off with an energetic introduction gives way to a melody with depth and then refrains which return to the energy of the intro. The bridge breaks the tension and returns us to a variation on the melody with the high energy refrain shortly thereafter. One never quite knows what to expect next in Journey to the Center of the Surf.

Hail, Poseidon! starts off sounding a bit like an ‘80s Pop tune, think U2 or The Police, but then goes into a clear minor key melody with an ascending motif which builds tension until it cascades back to the starting point of the melody. Somewhere around the 60% mark the intro is repeated and while the timbre is quite different from the body of the song, it fits perfectly.

Ancient Winds is mellow, but still energetic. To my ear, the harmonic structure is what stands out the most. Descending chords resolve in interesting ways. Once again, this is a song full of surprises.

The Argonaut starts with classic high energy drums followed by a flurry of energy from the lead Guitar which then builds to the melody. The energy and feel are reminiscent of Dick Dale while the melody sounds like it could easily fit a SciFi theme. Behind all of this, the rhythm guitar drives on providing a very solid sonic backdrop.

Leviathan fits its name well. There is little consensus about what a Leviathan actually is, a sea monster, crocodile or some other kind of frightening beast from the deep, but this song contains more than enough drama to cover all of the above. It is the feel of classic Surf at its best. A key change a little past the halfway point boosts things slightly along the way, but the song hardly needs it.

Into the Deep is more introspective and provides a change of pace. One could easily imagine this song in the background of a quiet interlude in a James Bond movie. Of everything on the album, this strikes me as the most evocative. Could this represent the thoughtful period one would feel after surviving an encounter with a Leviathan? Whether intentional or not, the order of these two songs, Leviathan and Into the Deep, is perfect.

Dilmohammed sounds very much a part of the Middle East. The mind is drawn to visions of ancient marketplaces, tents and camels. Starting somewhat softly the body of the song comes on strong. The Surf drums work beautifully against the melodic motifs. The sound is exceptionally simple and straightforward, contributing to the impression of the ancient bazaar. It is appropriate that this song was first recorded on an EP entitled Ruins, it sounds like it should accompany a movie scene set in a place that was very busy, and filled with intrigue, long, long ago.

Undercurrents is a song with a strong melodic element, supported by a solid clean sound which harkens to early Surf and even before. This melodic element does not, however, restrict the harmonic motion in any way. There’s a lot going on in this relatively short song.

Ricochet is originally from the Sandstorm CD. While the speed is right up there, the energy level is a bit more relaxed. A Shadows device of repeated ending to a phrase is employed at the end of the first verse and as rapidly as the notes come along, the timbre of the lead guitar is bright but nowhere near harsh. I hear a lot of Shadows in this track.

From this point on, the quartet becomes a sextet with the additions of John Blair on guitar and Johnpaul Balak on bass. The power increases noticeably with these additions and a powerful band becomes a sonic juggernaut, without resorting to heavy distortion. Never does the sound use definition.

Tribal Fury has a power that is reminiscent of Link Wray. While nothing on this album could be described as languid, this track is like a string of powerful locomotives moving a heavy line of cars up a mountain pass. “This ain’t your pappy’s surf music” is spoken at the end and indeed, it is so.

Sandstorm starts off twangy, a la Duane Eddy but then the Surf feel comes to the fore. After the bridge the song mixes it up, returning to the Duane feel at times but never straying too far from the less laconic feel of Surf as opposed to the twangy vibe of Instrumental Rock’s first guitar hero.

The Intruder (Listed as Intruder #1 & Intruder on the Ruins EP) starts off almost softly (in a loud sort of way due to the live setting) and proceeds along the lines of a modified Andalusian Cadence which brings to mind Flamenco Music. About a minute and a half in the pace becomes considerably less laid back and the energy of the song goes off-scale, complete with power chords, as Intruder #1 gives way to Intruder. Having two basses and two rhythm guitars on this track redefines the term “Wall of Sound”. About halfway through there is a lull which then slowly builds back to a much higher level of energy. The bass plays arpeggiated figures which contribute to the melodic interest of the tune as it reaches a climatic, and sudden end.

One thing that strikes me is the quality of the writing. Patrick O’Connor wrote five of the songs, Ivan Pongracic wrote or co-wrote five songs with the two remaining songs apparently having come from outside of the band. None of the songs are predictable, most of them are harmonically rich, even complex. None of the songs are particularly laid back, with the exception of Into the Deep, but the overall level of energy and excitement varies greatly, even in different passages within the same song.

I will add only this, from my perspective as a player. Playing Surf without sounding shrill is far from an assured outcome. It takes skill and experience to find the balance. Well played Surf music is a technique-intensive exercise for all musicians. In many ways, the songs on this album are probably as challenging as many classical pieces. The right-hand tremolos involved amaze me. What I hear on this live recording stands up well to the standards of speed set by Dick Dale himself. The sound of the band avoids the all-too-common mistake some Surf bands make of too much reverb. (All banter aside, it is possible to have too much reverb on a Surf recording and it can really detract when overused.)

The live performance is solid, the songs well-written and imaginative. This may be one for the record books.

The artist formerly known as: Synchro

When Surf Guitar is outlawed only outlaws will play Surf Guitar.
My Guitar WebSite
Dead Thread

Great write-up. Wish I had the attention span to do track-by-track reviews.

Storm Surge of Reverb: Surf & Instro Radio

It took days. I had access to some tracks via Soundclick and YouTube, so those were straightforward. In some cases, I familiarized myself with the studio track and then finished the review when I finally had the CD in my possession. I probably listened to each song at least three times, not to mention some favorites such as Hail Poseidon! which I've seen played on Ivan's solo videos.

The artist formerly known as: Synchro

When Surf Guitar is outlawed only outlaws will play Surf Guitar.
My Guitar WebSite
Dead Thread

Wow, synchro!! Unbelievable! I'm completely blown away by the detail of your review! Thank you SO VERY MUCH for paying such close attention to our music AND for all your extremely generous words!! We are truly, truly grateful!! Headbang Cheers Worship

Ivan
The Madeira Official Website
The Madeira on Facebook
The Blair-Pongracic Band on Facebook
The Space Cossacks on Facebook
The Madeira Channel on YouTube

IvanP wrote:

Wow, synchro!! Unbelievable! I'm completely blown away by the detail of your review! Thank you SO VERY MUCH for paying such close attention to our music AND for all your extremely generous words!! We are truly, truly grateful!! Headbang Cheers Worship

My pleasure, Ivan. Your music, and that of The Madeira is of high quality and definitely the product of much more than casual thought. I have a feeling that it will weather the passing of the years quite well. Hail Poseidon! has been running through my mind all day.

While it’s not on this album, let me take the opportunity to say the Dawn In Cadiz is a wonderful classical composition. One of these days, when I’m feeling a bit more motivated, I might try learning it on classical guitar.

The artist formerly known as: Synchro

When Surf Guitar is outlawed only outlaws will play Surf Guitar.
My Guitar WebSite
Dead Thread

Thanks so very, very much again, synchro! I really appreciate it, especially the compliments about Dawn in Cadiz and Hail, Poseidon!, also some of my very favorites from our Ancient Winds album! (Both songwriting collaborations, and much better for it, incidentally!)

And here's another brand new review of "Center of the Surf", this one by Hunter King at Storm Surge of Reverb, a New Orleans surf music radio show, and it's once again super positive! HUGE thanks to Hunter!! Here are a few excerpts:

"Center of the Surf is a live recording of surf giants...a band that will go down as one of the greatest to play this music... Here’s a secret: I love recorded music, possibly more than live music and very few bands that I love sound better than their album to me. The Madeira sounded better live, and this recording of them live sounds better than they did live... It’s an absolutely glorious amount of noise, a gigantic wall of sound that’ll leave you thinking “whoa” in-between tracks."

"Listening to it as I type and hearing the pure power behind “Dilmohammed” it’s hard to believe that it hasn’t gotten to the awe-inspiring climax of the event. That being when they were joined by Jonpaul Balak and John Blair for a ridiculous 5 guitar massacre. Those are on the three final tracks here, and add more teeth to a an already very bitey guitar sound. It really does sound massive and ferocious, and not to mention they’re played at a faster tempo than their album versions."

"This is a really incredible live record and perhaps the best way to hear some of the greatest hits of one of the greatest surf bands. What more can you say? Grab it from Double Crown Records."

Ivan
The Madeira Official Website
The Madeira on Facebook
The Blair-Pongracic Band on Facebook
The Space Cossacks on Facebook
The Madeira Channel on YouTube

Last edited: May 18, 2018 11:43:03

I have to agree with him. These tracks are flawless.

The artist formerly known as: Synchro

When Surf Guitar is outlawed only outlaws will play Surf Guitar.
My Guitar WebSite
Dead Thread

Still wait for it to appear in Apple music(

Waikiki Makaki surf-rock band from Ukraine

https://www.facebook.com/waikikimakaki/
https://soundcloud.com/waikiki-makaki

May I add a resounding "YUP!!!!"?

image

mj
bent bass playing for benter results
https://www.facebook.com/SandblastSurfMusic

Cool

Man, I know I kinda said this in my own review but I just listened to this version of Undercurrents and the Carpe Noctem cut back-to-back and I don't know what the difference is but there's a little more magic on this version and I can't get enough of it.

Storm Surge of Reverb: Surf & Instro Radio

ElMonstroPorFavor wrote:

Man, I know I kinda said this in my own review but I just listened to this version of Undercurrents and the Carpe Noctem cut back-to-back and I don't know what the difference is but there's a little more magic on this version and I can't get enough of it.

Thanks, Hunter! Well, I think it's a bit more uptempo and there's an atmosphere of the big open space (rather than the smaller, more contained studio environment), something that Mark Linett definitely captured on the recording, I think. In addition, the performance has more verve - partly due to playing in front of an extremely enthusiastic audience, which always gives a band an extra kick, and partly due to the fact that we've been playing that song for ever 10 years now! Smile These are all things that sometimes - if the band is lucky - make live recordings pretty special - things you can't capture in the studio. I think we did capture it on this recording, and we just hope the surf music fans out there agree!

This gentleman, Richard Krueger, was not a surf music fan, but I think he might be now! He just published a phenomenal review of "Center of the Surf" on a prog-rock (!!!!) website Progarchy.com We love it!!

Here are a few choice quotes:

"Center of the Surf is music that bursts the boundaries of its genre; it’ll connect with anyone who loves rock composition and performance at its highest level."

"The Madeira’s drive and intensity never flag. Ivan Pongracic’s scorching lead lines and Patrick O’Connor’s unflagging rhythm work serve up all the guitar you can stand and more, breaking through to surf nirvana; Todd Fortier on bass and Dane Carter on drums pump up the adrenaline, barreling through with unstoppable power and momentum."

"And just when it seems Center of the Surf can’t get any more exciting, The Madeira are joined onstage by surf music historian/rhythm guitarist John Blair and Jonpaul Balak on second bass guitar. The results on “Tribal Fury”, “Sandstorm” and “Intruder” are even more immersive: the thickened texture, intensified groove, and vaulting solo lines both amp up the thrills and bring out the lush romanticism at the core of the band’s melodies."

Check out the full thing here:
https://progarchy.com/2018/05/28/the-madeira-center-of-the-surf-ricks-quick-takes/

Ivan
The Madeira Official Website
The Madeira on Facebook
The Blair-Pongracic Band on Facebook
The Space Cossacks on Facebook
The Madeira Channel on YouTube

Wow! Cool

Jeff(bigtikidude)

Fast forward to today, and surf music (like progressive rock) continues as a strong, if insular subculture — doubtless one in which debates on “is [insert band name] really surf music?” find fertile soil.

Damn this guy's good

Storm Surge of Reverb: Surf & Instro Radio

The Madeira - Center of the Surf

Why? Because the universe commanded it!
A second live album within five years is a bit of a head scratcher, especially since it features many songs that were also on “Sonic cataclysm“.
But, as great as The Madeira’s studio albums are, they are, no spoilers revealed, an awesome live band– the kind that makes your body shake all over. If you can peel your eyes away from the intensity on stage, and scan the blank stares and drooling, agape mouths of your peers, you witness a band that inspires devotion.
Are you a fan of live albums? Some people dismiss them outright. I’m on the fence. In general, live albums do a poor job of translating a live band to your living room or earbuds. After Frampton Comes Alive, the double live album became de riguer, and a convenient way to fulfill your contract. Yet, so many shitty ones, and a few great ones... Cheap Trick at Budokan. The Yardbirds in New York City.
The question is, how do you capture all that flying debris and mayhem on two measly stereo tracks? Last year, the SG101 Con attracted Mark Linnett, a producer and engineer of renown. I don’t know the full story, but he offered to record the whole show. A sampler featuring almost all the bands will be released sometime later this year, and this document of of The Madeira’s set, “Center of the Surf” is out now.
Linnett made an amazing recording. It sounds loud, you feel it in your heart and colon, even when headphone listening.
The Madeira are a wet band- lots of reverb and delay, and the relentless tempos and pounding drums, the dimed Showmans. Speaking from my engineering experience, these are the ingredients of a sonic nightmare. How and where to find separation? The recipe is gets more complicated with the addition of an extra bassist and guitarist at the end of the set. The trick is to bring the attack of the individual instruments so the individual notes can be heard.
There’s only one case here (“The Argonaut”) where the drums play a tom or snare fill throughout and the guitar stays in the low register, that I can’t here the song coming through. I do love the reverb crashes and ray gun fire, though.
For the rest, the song shines through. And The Madeira have great songs, if they didn’t, all that bluster wouldn’t help them one bit. Lyrical and beautiful songs like “Ancient Winds”, “Into the Deep”, and “Undercurrents.” Powerful and hair-raising songs like “Journey to the Center of the Surf”, “Ricochet”, and “Leviathan”. Throw in a bunch of well selected covers, and this is a great snapshot of a band at it’s peak, in a live arena where they are completely cutting loose.
So, to sum it up– great songs, the best musicians, professional recording, beloved guests, and an adoring crowd. If you’re wondering what the best modern surf band sounded like live in 2017, Center of the Surf is for you.

LISTEN & BUY " S P I N - T H E - B O T T L E " NOW @ Bandcamp

Pool Boys Euro Tour Blog

INSTAGRAM
Frankie in Frankie & The Pool Boys
Lazarus Longfellow in The TomorrowMen
DJ Frankie Pool Boy on North Sea Surf Radio
Phayrentz in Pollo Del Mar

Wow, thank you VERY VERY MUCH, Ferenc!! I love it! Thanks for taking the time to write such a detailed review right as you were embarking on your Euro tour - I'm blown away you did!

Folks, in case you're wondering: yes, I did write a highly complimentary review of Frankie & the Pool Boys' new CD "Spin the Bottle" just a week ago, but I had no idea that Ferenc was writing a review of "Center of the Surf", and that it was going to be this positive! I swear there was NO quid pro quo! —

Ivan
The Madeira Official Website
The Madeira on Facebook
The Blair-Pongracic Band on Facebook
The Space Cossacks on Facebook
The Madeira Channel on YouTube

IvanP wrote:

Folks, in case you're wondering: yes, I did write a highly complimentary review of Frankie & the Pool Boys' new CD "Spin the Bottle" just a week ago, but I had no idea that Ferenc was writing a review of "Center of the Surf", and that it was going to be this positive! I swear there was NO quid pro quo!

I'm calling for a congressional probe. Smile

The artist formerly known as: Synchro

When Surf Guitar is outlawed only outlaws will play Surf Guitar.
My Guitar WebSite
Dead Thread

Collusion Wink

Jeff(bigtikidude)

The Madeira just got a FANTASTIC review of our "Center of the Surf" CD (Double Crown Records) by the long-running UK surf/instro zine Pipeline Instrumental Review!! A few highlights:

"It hits you right from the get-go with a dynamic, crashing, slashing performance of the exciting 'Journey to the Center of the Surf'... This album is not for the fainthearted. It is a blast all the way through to the storming finale of the Surf Coasters' 'Intruder'... It's impossible to select favourites from an album which peaks from the off and then rides a plateau to the end. The Madeira represent the finest evolution of [surf music], delivered with panache, feeling, and a love of '60s guitar instrumentals from both sides of the Atlantic. Heartily recommended, if you can take the excitement."

Wow! THANK YOU to Alan Taylor for these wonderful words!
Check out the whole thing:
image

Ivan
The Madeira Official Website
The Madeira on Facebook
The Blair-Pongracic Band on Facebook
The Space Cossacks on Facebook
The Madeira Channel on YouTube

Great review, and IMO, accurate. One reason I play Surf is to keep up my accuracy and precision. I see Surf as a perfect way to keep my technique up to snuff, and have some fun at the same time.

One thing I admire about The Madeira is that the entire band keeps its performance standards quite high. When I saw the Eagles in concert, 1978, they sounded exactly like their records, but with the added excitement of a live performance.

I see the Madeira the same way. This CD proves, beyond the very shadow of a doubt, that the Madeira are capable of delivering and do not rely upon piecemeal-recording and editing to get their sound.

The artist formerly known as: Synchro

When Surf Guitar is outlawed only outlaws will play Surf Guitar.
My Guitar WebSite
Dead Thread

That's extremely nice and a truly wonderful compliment, synchro, thank you very much!!

Ivan
The Madeira Official Website
The Madeira on Facebook
The Blair-Pongracic Band on Facebook
The Space Cossacks on Facebook
The Madeira Channel on YouTube

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