King Baldwin
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King Baldwin

San Francisco, California, United States | SELF

San Francisco, California, United States | SELF
Band Alternative Rock


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"All Hail King Baldwin"

While heavily influenced by the European classical tradition, King Baldwin (Alexander Eccles, Theo Winston, Jonathan Eccles, and Gabe Turow) effortlessly manipulate rock and Afrobeat rhythms into music that somehow retains a pop sensibility. Eccentric and yet accessible, their newest EP, Castle of Love (available on Band Camp here), is simply sensational.


"Dubious Ranger "Weapon""

Dubious Ranger describes themselves as "throwing its everything-even-occasionally-the-kitchen-sink attitude at songs that recall dance-punk, acid-rock and prog - whether shoved into three perfect minutes of power-pop bliss or ten minutes of pretentious epic freakout." The album, an eclectic mix of rock, dance beats, perplexing and fascinating lyrics mixed with a distinct Bowie-meets-Pavement sound, will surely make an impact not only the band’s native Bay Area scene but nationally as well. - Today's Modern Pop

"Uneasy Truce at the Watering Hole (Four Stars)"

San Francisco's Dubious Ranger lead off their third album, Uneasy Truce at the Watering Hole, with the 11-minute "Gemini," a statement of purpose that segues from sound effects into an attractive pop/rock tune before devolving into musique concrète and then concluding with an extended keyboard-based prog rock passage à la Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Nothing on the album approaches the length of "Gemini," but it incorporates many of the disparate musical approaches found on the rest of the disc. Singer/lyricist/keyboardist Alexander Eccles seems to be at the creative center of Dubious Ranger, contributing free-associative nonsense words in the manner of acknowledged influences like Devo and Talking Heads, and he leads the arrangements with his classically influenced playing. But Dubious Ranger then take what he gives them and go off on their own, sometimes, as on "Ghost Ship," for instance, bordering on jam band excursions. Like their new wave/art rock antecedents, too, they also border on novelty music in the absurdist words ("Intermezzo #2" finds them repeating the phrase "social anxiety" over and over) and the showoffy eclecticism of the music. This is particularly true of Eccles, of course, as he sings with tongue in cheek and ranges across his keyboards, sometimes like a manic Billy Joel, sometimes ("Intermezzo #3") like new age pianist David Lanz. But Dubious Ranger manage to go just up to the edge of silliness without slipping over, which lets their audience in on the jokes in an engaging way. - All Music Guide

"The Dubious Ranger's Weapon"

The integration of humor and satire into music can be an incredibly complex process. By coming across as humorous or self-depreciatingly witty, an artist tends to imply a sort of nonchalant demeanor that can either benefit their music or prove to be the chief detriment that drags them down. Emotional depth can be presented in any form of art, but the stylistic diversity present within music causes the attempt to integrate humor to be more intricate and complex than usual. Musical humorists often look toward the direction of Frank Zappa for a proper influence, as he remains one of the few songwriters in history that was able to blend idiosyncratic humor and satire with a never-ending assortment of musical genres. Zappa was truly a musical chameleon who was able to reconfigure popular stylistic trends to make them compatible for his unique humor, whether it was scornful, satirical, or politically motivated. Nowadays, artists seem fearful of individualistic humor, dreading that it could be a detriment to their commercialized perception. Sure, we have groups like Flight of the Conchords, Tenacious D, and The Lonely Island cooking up some pretty hilarious stuff that also maintains musical relevancy, but the style of humor often seems so contrived and inseparable from one another. Zappa was a singular force in his heyday and he continues to be in his posthumous state, serving as an influence to those that have skill in both comedic and musical performance.

Apart from being arguably the most prolific songwriter of the past century, Zappa’s enduring legacy is indebted to a style of humor that remains interpretable, enthralling, and anything but generic. I enjoy a handful of comedy-pop groups like Flight of the Conchords, but their style of comedy seems more randomly selected than metaphorically interpretive. Despite their evident talents and deserving recognition, the success of a group like Flight of the Conchords appears to be more based in stylistic mockery and over-the-top deliveries. As a result, finding a band that maintains a generally consistent style with effective humorous additives is rare these days; modern technology makes it so easy to mock a style like electro-pop or glam-rock and throw a clichéd music video together. The reason for this, as stated before, all comes down to commercialized perception. Creating quality music is obvious to the success of this genre and all others, but treading waters within this tricky realm of comedy-music requires simultaneous lyrical wit, justified instrumentation, and a delivery that is unique enough to trigger laughter but not desperate enough to be deemed over-the-top. Despite a few rough edges, Dubious Ranger hearken back to the days of Zappa when interpretable comedy in music was not incorporated to make up for a lack of musical or lyrical ability, but rather as an indicator of the artist’s own personality.

Just by reading their self-imposed description, Dubious Ranger’s comedic side can be seen. They are – and I quote – “the sound of befuddled hipsters becoming Bowie-eyed party-commandos and dancing themselves to sleep while dreaming of a more perfect union between high-art, classical-virtuoso pretension and take-your-pants-off rock and/or roll.” Quite a mouthful I know, but the best thing about this wacky description is how surprisingly accurate it turned out to be. Lead vocalist and pianist Alexander Eccles had been labeled as a piano prodigy since his childhood, with his influences comprising mostly of classical and avant-garde composers. Although his leanings shifted a bit when his brother and bandmate, Jonathan, introduced him to David Bowie, one can still get a sense of Eccles’ classical influence in the band’s unpredictable song structures and the cohesive mannerisms between the vocals’ mood and backing instrumentation. There’s the “classical-virtuoso pretension” for you, with rock ‘n’ roll being infused by Bowie’s underlying influence and Eccles’ fascinating personality. Jonathan classifies his brother as “bonkers” but explains that he is one of the few honest songwriters out there. “In his mind, love really is a rendezvous with a waitress on a cargo ship full of ghosts,” he said, providing a preview of Eccles’ odd but immensely entertaining lyrical output. “You can say you’re confused, but don’t for a damn second accuse him of not being sincere.”

Confusion among listeners is imminent on Dubious Ranger’s third album, Uneasy Truce at the Watering Hole, but so is enjoyment. The San Francisco-based quartet shows their fascination with dance-punk, indie-pop, and glam-rock simultaneously, resulting in a style that is very odd but also aptly fulfilling. The uniqueness of their style is only appropriate when their satirical delivery is involved, as Eccles’ vocals tend to alternate pitches and lyrical focus on a whim over a flurry of his own intricate piano progressions and his brother’s swanky guitar riffs. The music video for “Weapon” features an assortment of backdrops from San Francisco to Hong Kong, and one can get a sense in the track itself of the musical dexterity involved. Brimming with enthusiasm and key-led hooks, “Weapon” is one of the group’s more accessible efforts but succeeds on several fronts with slick guitar use, frenzied vocals, and clever sampling. It would be easy to identify this one as power-pop, but the presentation is too lofty to be restricted by pop ideologies. “French Song” distinctively recalls Television, both in Eccles’ spot-on resemblance to Tom Verlaine and his brother’s impressively luminous guitar use.

The humorously metaphorical outlook on love in “Ghost Ship” masterfully juggles humor with romantic sentiments, accompanied by hazy organs and a great accompaniment (the latter is an aspect present on nearly every track; Jonathan Eccles really knows how to play). The ‘60s pop of “Idiot” and the haunting cabaret of “Frozen Places” show even more diversity on the album, especially in Eccles’ ardent vocal delivery of the latter. If any of these tracks are too straightforward for you though, then I would suggest “Gemini”, the 11-minute opener that opts to directly expose the group’s post-rock mannerisms and instrumental ability. Any of the four classically-influenced “Intermezzo” pieces also slide in neatly to the album’s tone, providing minute-long piano pieces in an effort to further separate the vast amount of ideas throughout the album. The multitude of ideas throughout the album may tend to confuse first-time listeners, but repeated listens will surely reward those that are skeptical of Dubious Ranger’s lofty ambitions. In my mind though, their ambition has been reflected perfectly on Uneasy Truce at the Watering Hole, an album that has enough highlights to compensate for all the vague ideas and metaphorical interpretation. After all, what else can you expect from a successful concept album? - Obscure Sound

"Dubious Ranger "Uneasy Truce at the Watering Hole""

This is a genre-hopping acid-trip of an album that goes all over the place, started by Alexander Eccles, with one foot in David Byrne-ville and the other in Ozomatli country. And throw in some classical interludes while you're at it. Highlights include "French Song" and "Shortcake" - Powerpopaholic

"Dubious Ranger: Uneasy Truce at the Watering Hole"

San Francisco's Dubious Ranger are back with their second album, Uneasy Truce at the Watering Hole. This fiersome foursome take a bite out of Indie Rock in their own way. Sounding anywhere from a jam band to an 80's pop act minus most of the electronics, Dubious Ranger keep you moving. I have a feeling there is much dancing going on at any one of their gigs. To do it playing instruments like the glockenspiel and pan flute, how can you not give them some attention?
The album starts with some catchy hand clapping followed by some catchy drum play. "Gemini", the first track, is suited for the Phish fans out there. They groove on it before finishing off with a freestyle melee of sounds. "French Song" brings to mind The Doors. Its not as heavy as The Doors, but primarily the vocals sound Jim Morrisonesque, simultaneously dropping the funk. "Paganini" brings to mind the early days of Billy Joel or Elton John. There is heavy piano play throughout, but on "Paganini" it kicks in in that 70's rock way. "Fizzle Out & Die" drops a Psychadelic Rock feel, but more on the mellow side. And naturally, "Frozen Pieces" has a hint of David Bowie back in the Ziggy Stardust days, not coincidentally a heavy influence of the band's. "The Proximity of Pipes" is easily the best song of the album. Of all the pieces, its probably the one that shows Dubious Ranger for who they are.
Interspersed throughout the album are four Intermezzos, heavily laden with "classical-like" piano play. They're a good listen, or a good chance to grab another drink, use the restroom, etc.
The album dropped back on April 21st through The Nothing Room. You can do them the favor of buying the album today. Unsure if you want to? Just listen to "Weapon", the 80's pop-like song. And as they say on the album, "to doldrums and delght." - Surviving the Golden Age

"Dubious Ranger - Uneasy Truce At The Watering Hole"

Uneasy Truce At The Watering Hole is the latest release from Dubious Ranger and what an interesting disc it is. What I found was a unique, if not eclectic collection of songs that are fun and full of energy and beg to be danced to.

There are many different influences here on this disc and I was remotely reminded of bands as varied as Depeche Mode and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones to even some REM. I guess the main reason that this disc is entertaining as hell is that it full of surprises. One minute I am listening to the song “Weapon” which has a remarkably upbeat groove to it, complete with a very retro sounding 80’s sort of electronic drum track, then the next minute I am listening to an instrumental classical sounding piano track entitled Intermezzo #1. A variety of musical styles awaits the listener throughout the remainder of the disc.

My favorite track on the disc by far is “Paganini,” which contains a great groove and all of the above-mentioned qualities as well some witty tongue and cheek lyrics that had me smirking all the way through.

At the end of the day, Uneasy Truce At The Watering Holes a disc that caught me off guard with its unique blending of genres, but it is absolutely a CD I would feel confident recommending it is infectious and fun, plain and simple. - Thrash Magazine

"Classical beginnings add to the mix of Dubious Ranger"

You could say that Alexander Eccles, the lead singer, songwriter and keyboardist for the Marin band Dubious Ranger, came to rock 'n' roll relatively late in life. He's only 27, but that's ancient when you consider that rock icons like Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison were already dead at his age.

Nonetheless, Eccles has his first CD with a full-blown rock quartet, Dubious Ranger's "Uneasy Truce at the Watering Hole," on the group's own label, the Nothing Room.

Reviewing the album, the East Bay Express shrugs, "They could've done worse."

A piano prodigy who grew up in Belvedere and studied classical music at the Branson School in Ross, Eccles didn't buy his first rock record until he was in his third year at Stanford, a

Audio: Dobious Ranger - Weapon

rudderless undergrad trying to figure out what to do with his life.

"I was having a pretty hard time," he recalls. "I was at a crossroads. I had generally avoided rock like the plague in high school. So I said, 'I'm gonna rebel. I'm gonna buy a rock CD!' I'd never done that before. When you're a classical musician, that's the extent of your rebellion. So I went out and bought 'Sea Change' by Beck, the feel-good album of the year."

It was safe, Eccles admits, but it was a start.

His younger brother, Jonathan, a guitarist for the local band Dr. Def and the Sexual Educators, took pity on him, introducing him to the art rock of David Bowie, the Velvet Underground and Radiohead.

"My little brother showed me the light," Eccles says.
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"He got the ball rolling, and I realized that I was really passionate about rock, too. I started writing some of my own music, but you couldn't even call it rock. It sounded like a classical pianist trying to write music that wasn't classical. It came off more Bach than Bowie. It was weird stuff."

While Eccles was beginning his rock education, his brother graduated from Branson and went on to get a master's degree from the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics at Stanford. Eccles begged him to help him record his songs.

"I don't even know how to use a toaster," he admits, "and Jonathan is a guru at music recording technology."

Working as a team, the brothers put out two CDs as a duo under the Dubious Ranger imprimatur. The first, "To Begin With, They're Very Tall," they described as "an album full of dark and brooding terror ballads." Their debut was followed by "Even These Things Tell Stories," which they advertised as "a Day-Glo pastiche of classical chops, proto-punk aesthetics and epic silliness."

Asked how they came up with Dubious Ranger as their band's name, Eccles says they found it scrawled on a drawing he'd done as a little kid.

"Jonathan said, 'That sounds really indie rock. We need to use that,'" Eccles remembers. "I didn't even know what indie rock was supposed to sound like. It's such a nebulous designation."

After graduating from Stanford, Eccles returned to Branson to teach his first love, classical music, and has been on the faculty for four years now.

"My last couple of years at Stanford I debated whether I wanted to have anything to do with rock music," he says. "In tandem with that, right around the time I graduated, people I knew on the Branson faculty asked, 'What are you going to do? Are you going into investment banking like everyone else?' And I said, 'Hell, no!' So they hired me full time."

The Eccles brothers were still making music, but longed for the sound of a full band. They found a made-to-order rhythm section in bassist Aaron Sankin and drummer Brendan Ahern, both 25-year-old Branson grads who had played with Jonathan in Dr. Def.

Sankin had just graduated from Rice University, and Ahern had finished his bachelor's degree at San Francisco State. As luck would have it, they were open to the idea of devoting themselves to a career in rock 'n' roll.

"We would practice in an empty classroom at Branson on weekends," Eccles says. "We played our first gig at Brainwash, a Laundromat in the city. It was a packed house, but then the place only holds 10 people."

Thrilled by their new rock band status, they recorded "Uneasy Truth" in John Vanderslice's Tiny Telephone Studio in San Francisco's Mission District, where successful indie bands like Death Cab for Cutie, Beulah, Okkervil River and Spoon had recorded.

"We had this talk while we were making the album," Eccles says. "We decided we wanted to make the band our job. We all eat, sleep and breathe music anyway. This is the kind of thing we can do 24/7. So we're very ready to make gigging and recording our full-time deal."

"Uneasy Truce" is a bizarre mix of pop-rock styles with complicated imagery and ideas in its lyrics. Describing a song called "Paganini," Eccles says, "This will sound really pretentious, but the lyric is equating classical Lydian virtuosity with the performative aspect of fascism. It's looking at how that affects masses of people."

Egghead pronouncements like that prompted the Confessions of a Music Addict blog to throw up its hands, saying, "If someone can tell me what the hell this band is thinking, I'll give you a virtual thumbs up."

Eccles songs are nothing, though, if not interesting, challenging, often amusing and always out there.

As his brother puts it: "Alexander's heart and soul are in every one of these songs, even if the lyrics seem weird and obscure. Just because he's completely bonkers, it doesn't mean he isn't being honest É You can say you're confused, but don't for a damn second accuse him of not being sincere." - Marin Independent Journal

"Dubious Ranger - Uneasy Truce At The Watering Hole"

It seems we should be impressed that opening track "Gemini" clocks in at eleven minutes, the last seven of which are a piano-based prog-rock instrumental. Well, it is impressive - primarily because it's incredibly ballsy. The same can be said for the next two songs (which careen from silly They Might Be Giants to sexy Duran Duran as if it were nothing) and likewise all sixty absurd minutes. - East Bay Express

"Uneasy Truce At The Watering Hole (4 Stars)"

Listening to San Francisco four-piece Dubious Ranger is a bit like watching an animation and trying to pick the voice actors. You can hear the various musical influences throughout, but it’s difficult to pin down exactly what they are. They describe themselves as a “union between high-art, classical-virtuoso pretension and take-your-pants-off rock and/or roll” and I think that’s the best way to describe this album. Guitarist, Jonathan Eccles seems to have an arsenal of styles at his disposal, from the cowboy disco of ‘Weapon’ to the jumpy jazz ballad of ‘French Song’. If you get the chance, have a listen. - 100 Word Reviews

"Uneasy Truce At The Watering Hole"

Combine a classical piano prodigy who’s just discovered and fallen in love with David Bowie in college, and three ex-members of a band called Dr. Def and the Sexual Educators, and you get Dubious Ranger. The San Francisco-based quartet plays an eccentric mixture of progressive jams and proto-punk songs with quirky lyrics that beg to be danced to.

Dubious Ranger is all over the board on their third album, Uneasy Truce at the Watering Hole, released on their own label, The Nothing Room. As a testament to their compositional abilities, the album kicks off with the 11-minute “Gemini,” which begins with a piano melody oddly reminiscent of the Charlie Brown theme song. Its infectious energy holds up for the rest of the song (and most of the rest of the album), even as the Phish-like pop song turns into a more mature classical piano-and-percussion song, and then finally a progressive fluttering piano jam. On a different note, the single “Weapon” is the catchiest song, with an ‘80s-era rhythm and sharp guitar riff, overall sounding a lot like Roxy Music’s “Love is the Drug.”

These two songs alone make the album a worthwhile listen, but the remainder of the 70 minutes is also strong. Due to their complexity, some songs take a bit longer to get into than others. Throughout the album, Alexander Eccles (the classical pianist and lead vocalist) sings with a subtle humor and tongue-in-cheek lyrics in the vein of the Talking Heads, but the weirdness fortunately complements the music rather than annoyingly overtaking it. A couple other highlights include “Frozen Places” and “The Proximity of Pipes,” both of which feature a strong glam-like melodic vocal line and entertaining flair. However, the four odd and short classical intermezzos seem to hinder the cohesiveness of the album, making it difficult to pinpoint any distinct trademark sound to tie everything together. Other than some of these moments, you might say Dubious Ranger revels in playfully contorting anything they can get their hands on, and doing it in an unconventional yet classy way, without losing the thrill of a first listen to Bowie. - Innocent Words


EP: King Baldwin (2010)

EP: Castle of Love (2010)

LP: Music For Unsafe Sex (2011)

Radio play: (107.7 The Bone)



King Baldwin, at its core, is a collaboration between two professional and classically-trained musicians: Alexander Eccles, a life-long classical pianist; and Gabe Turow, a percussionist who specializes in funk and Afrobeat. Their core group has evolved into a galaxy of session musicians; they are one of the tightest bands in the Bay Area. Turow's grooves blend with Eccles' melodic sensibility; the result is music that is moving, fun, and irresistible.

Their most recent album, "Music For Unsafe Sex", was recorded entirely at their home studio in Ocean Beach.