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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Magnetic Minds' Heavy Rock 'n' Roll

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Though the group only features two members, Milwaukee-based Magnetic Minds makes a whole lot of noise. Count the band, featuring Chris Ortiz on vocals and bass guitar and Tim Wick on drums, as one of a number of contemporary Milwaukee acts intent on bringing smart, aggressive rock 'n' roll back to the city. And the group's latest album, the self-released Audio Rorschach, recorded by the talented Shane Hochstetler at his Howl Street Recordings, provides more than enough quality material to warrant attention from those who welcome such trends.

Refreshingly, Audio Rorschach looks past the garage scene so influential in Milwaukee these days and instead anchors its sound in the underground metal scene of the late '80s/early '90s. Album opener “Believe” is a solid mid-tempo rocker that calls to mind the underappreciated Kyuss, while “Entire Sky” successfully channels Soundgarden for the new millennium.

“What we do is definitely rock 'n' roll,” Ortiz explains, “but we really want to absorb and release any kind of style that we can appreciate.”

This willingness to experiment with new sounds and influences can be heard in the epic “Fivefour,” a nearly nine-minute instrumental track that shows the band reaching out in a more math rock/metal direction (think of a heavier version of Pelican). The song sounds a bit out of place among the other tracks on Audio Rorschach, but it is by far the most captivating cut on the record. Ortiz notes that the band has started inviting a wide range of guest musicians to work with them as they begin work on post-Audio Rorschach material. One hopes that this process leads to material that picks up where “Fivefour” leaves off.

What comes through most clearly on the album's eight tracks is that Magnetic Minds is a labor of love for both band members. To Wick, Audio Rorschach “captures the emotion of a time when big change was happening personally for Chris [Ortiz],” the group's main songwriter, who was preparing for the birth of his first child as he worked on material for the album. “He really put his whole heart into these songs,” Wick emphasizes. The end result of this fortuitous timing is that, in the words of Wick, “the overall feel is a huge, powerful, positive vibe.” Audio Rorschach is definitely a summertime record, a fun album that would sound great blaring at high volume during an all-night backyard party.

Both Wick and Ortiz have done their time in countless Milwaukee bands, including Test-Site, Speedfreaks and El Gordo. Between the two of them, they have more than 20 years of experience playing music. Yet large-scale success has eluded the pair thus far. As Ortiz concludes, “We've been writing and playing music for a long time now, and at this point we've realized that we're lifers.” Here's hoping that Audio Rorschach brings these lifers the attention they deserve.

The album release show for
Audio Rorschach will take place 8 p.m. June 2 at Jose's Barber Extraordinaire. Space Collector opens. You can also hear Magnetic Minds live on WMSE on June 5 at 8 p.m.

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